If it seems like the word gua sha is everywhere you look, it’s because it is. From Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop touting its benefits, to Miranda Kerr coming up with her own version of it in her Kora product line, or Emilia Clarke fessing up it’s her real superpower (and not her dragons), this now-famous tool has taken Hollywood by storm.
Which makes mere mortals like us wonder: what’s all the fuss about? Is it all hype, or does it deserve this global fandom? Spoiler alert: you’d want to read on because the short answer is: it’s the multi-tasking power tool you never knew your skincare routine needed.
What gua sha is (and what it isn’t)
When something manages to survive centuries of human innovation and intervention, it deserves a second, hard look. And look, we did. Rooted in a healing massage technique in ancient China, Gua Sha means the massaging or scraping of the skin (in Chinese, the word “Gua” literally translates into “scrape”). Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners tout the gua sha as medicinal on the inside as it is on the outside because it is said to help remove stagnant energy that such practitioners believe cause inflammation. We all know inflammation isn’t good for how we look, but who knew that internal energies have something to do with it?
Gua sha is essentially the tool used to conduct the therapeutic process associated with this healing massage technique. A gua sha facial, on the other hand, is a treatment that highlights the use of the tool to target specific outcomes combined with massage techniques grounded in the science of physiology. It may sound harsh - if you have visions of a literal stone just being rubbed on your face - but that couldn’t be further from the truth: one big reason for its fame is that it is one of the most relaxing and soothing yet therapeutic treatments.
Gua sha stones can come in different kinds, mainly varying in the type of stone used - such as jade and quartz - sizes, and shapes. But regardless of type, they share an important purpose: a gua sha needs to both glide properly on the surface of the skin and conform to the contour of the face or body. Yes, though what we see on Tiktok and Insta are largely about facials, the might gua sha is also usable and effective on the body. Just like with the facials, however, the right technique is equally, if not even more, important, with the tool itself, and can make or break your relationship with this treatment.
A jade roller is NOT technically a gua sha, but it has similar properties and is in the same family of tools designed for common goals. It is constructed differently, though, so some of the properties and benefits of gua sha use don't necessarily translate.
Benefits of using gua sha
From freeing your system of toxins your body cannot get rid of by itself to enhancing your facial structure, “A gua sha is a multi-tasker power tool,” says celebrity esthetician, licensed skincare professional, and foremost authority on CBD skincare Ildi Pekar. We consulted with skin care professionals and experts trained to give a genuine and proper gua sha facial (including some of our very own Mavens like Ildi and Lily Agosto below), and they’re unanimous in certifying the list of benefits below. The same caveats apply, however - only when using the right techniques and doing so consistently will you start to see these benefits:
Improves blood circulation. Reduces puffiness as the massage motions and stones “wake up” the cells and nerves underneath the skin, which then makes your skin glow and look brighter even after your first use of a gua sha
Relaxes facial muscles. Relieves tension and build-up in your skin. It can help relax tight facial muscles (this feels amazing!!) with the smoothest of ease as you glide the gua sha over the problem areas.
Accentuates your facial structure. The stone is designed with ridges to help carve out your cheekbones and jawline in tandem with the massage techniques. On any given day, you can spot on social media both celebrities and non-celebrities reaching for the gua sha right before a big event (confession: our team’s obsessed with contouring our cheekbones during our gua sha rituals and we swear it has made a difference!).
Aids in lymphatic drainage. Reduces fluid build-up that causes you to feel lethargic. It can reduce swelling and inflammation resulting from impurities in your body that cannot just be flushed out without your help. Lymphatic drainage massages - whether on the face or on the body - are more effective with a tool like gua sha aiding the motions and techniques.
In short, “Gua sha works on the inside, so you can glow and see the benefits on the outside,” emphasizes skin care professional and Reiki Master Lily Agosto, “which explains why women can claim they look younger and more vibrant.” In fact, it’s said to stave off botox because it prevents wrinkles from forming or worsening.
What to watch out for when using gua sha
Like with anything else, misuse and wrong techniques can not only deprive you of all the good things you’ve heard about, but they can also even do harm. Improper use of the tool can lead to facial bruising, skin discoloration of the skin, and toxins getting stuck where they shouldn’t be. Using the wrong pressure on the wrong parts can also cause soreness and irritation. Ildi also warns, “the gua sha itself is as delicate as it is strong. If you don’t care for the tool properly, you can say goodbye to many of the benefits listed here.” (One Maven pro tip from Ildi: NEVER put it in the freezer)
Getting it right the first time
When you get a gua sha facial from a spa, you’d hope that the professional doing the treatment on you is properly trained, just like with any service that’s designed to target hard issues. When you can, it’s advisable to be in expert hands when experiencing gua sha for the first time.
That said, with the right guidance, there are some components of a gua sha facial you can learn and do on your own at home, and that is great news. It’s an essential complement to getting gua sha facials with professionals because it helps achieve the consistency the treatment requires to be effective. From choosing the right tool to deciding on which products to pair a gua sha ritual with, with some extra care and attention, you can effectively add this to your existing skincare routine and give your skin a boost.
There’s no shortage of tutorials on YouTube, of course, which are convenient and available. That said, we’re partial to online masterclasses that are hosted by pros and experts for obvious reasons. Not only can they take the guesswork out of many questions about getting started - such as by designing their course with curated product kits that get sent straight to your door - they can also properly guide you through the actual techniques in live & interactive sessions, so you’ll know what you’re doing wrong, and how to get it right.
The possibilities are endless, and all you need to do is start. Gua sha doesn’t need to just be a buzzword on your social media feed - it can be the magical tool in your vanity waiting to unlock its wonders on your skin.
Puremaven is a platform offering beauty and wellness experiences powered by experts and professionals.
Ildi Pekar, a Maven on the platform, is a 20-year veteran of the skincare industry and the founder of I PEKAR skincare and wellness studio headquartered in Manhattan. On Puremaven, she holds The Lymphatic Drainage Facial Massage and The Gua Sha masterclasses (currently running a dads-only-exclusive) that both come with complete product kits.
Another Maven in Puremaven's network, Lily Agosto is the founder of Mindful Beauty & Wellness whose esthetician roots and Reiki Master training marry skin science and mindfulness in her treatments on Puremaven, including The Gua Sha Meditation Facial Massage masterclass.