Gua sha has existed for many years and, because its results are basically magic, it’s not going away anytime soon.
From lasers to needle to lights to scary-looking gadgets you can’t even name, it seems like anything that’s all the rage in skincare these days requires a combination of batteries, plugs or a licensed technician. We’re truly living in the technology age of self-care and while innovations are undoubtedly exciting, sometimes all we really want and need is something simple and proven. Something that doesn’t require a lot of fancy bells and whistles. Something a little old-fashioned, if you will.
So it’s really no surprise that the ancient practice of gua sha has been dominating the self-care game recently. I’m sure you’ve seen it on social media: a glowy-skinned woman gently but purposefully dragging a crystal tool over her chest, neck and face. Maybe a before-and-after photo of a puffy face miraculously transformed into something that’s all defined cheekbones and a jawline. Or even the scary-looking-but-not-actually-scary-or-painful “bruising” that can be left behind after some serious scraping. The bottom line is that gua sha has been around for a seriously long time and by all accounts — and because its results are basically magic — I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. Time to get on board.
So, what is gua sha?
Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that literally means “scraping.” When done correctly, a practitioner uses a flat, handheld tool (usually made of crystal) to apply varying degrees of pressure as they rake the tool across the skin, stimulating the lymphatic system and increasing blood flow. That vigorous, pressure-filled back-and-forth motion breaks up stagnation in the body (and also what causes the redness you might have seen on Instagram), and should really be left to the professionals.
Luckily, facial gua sha is a lot gentler and far more DIY-friendly, though the concept is the same: using a gua sha tool to stimulate blood flow, drain stagnant lymph and remove toxins via targeted movements. Regular gua sha will also release tension, tone muscles and firm and sculpt skin, almost like exercise for your face. That combination of muscle toning and de-puffing? Hello, cheekbones and defined jaw line.
Can I do it to myself?
You can! Though it’s going to take some practice, video tutorials by a real pro (and an in-person workshop if you can find one) can prove very helpful. (Many amazing holistic aestheticians are incorporating gua sha into their facials these days and have incredible Instagram and Youtube videos that can help you learn the correct strokes, pressure and placement for your at-home gua sha practice.)
Some basics to remember:
- You’ll need to apply a layer of mist/serum/oil to create “slip” so the tool doesn’t drag against your skin.
- Always pull up with the tool — never push.
- Utilize both hands, one to pull the tool, one to support the skin on areas of the face like the cheeks and under the eye.
- Keep the tool at a 15-45-degree angle to maximize the contact between the tool and your skin.
- Go slow! Make sure you’re breathing deeply during your gua sha practice and really pay attention to the sensation of what’s happening beneath your skin.
- Don’t skip your neck. This is where all the gunk from your lymph nodes settles so gua sha on your neck helps to drain it.
- Stay consistent! Even if it’s a few extra minutes, a nightly routine will work wonders
What tools do I need?
When it comes to tools, all you’ll need is a facial oil or serum you love and the flat gua sha scraper of your choice made from rose quartz or jade. Take the time to find a tool that’s authentically quartz or jade and not plastic dyed to look like crystal — the dyes could irritate your skin. The tools come in a few different shapes depending on what area of the body they’re meant for but, for at-home purposes, look for one that has a few different edges. Skin Gym’s Gua Sha Crystal Beauty Tool has four distinct edges, all for different areas of the face: a flat side for larger, broader areas (neck, chest), a u-edge to hug boney structures (jaw, cheek), a small edge for small spaces (along the nose, corners of the eyes), and a ridged side to activate circulation on flat surfaces (cheeks, forehead, neck, chest).