Ancient China is credited with many beauty secrets; the famous qi gong (energy) exercise that opens your lungs to improve circulation, a selection of herbal remedies which can improve skin clarity and elasticity, and the extraordinary use of facial tools that can stimulate and invigorate the skin (17). Of many facial tools used in traditional Chinese medicine, one of the most popular is the gua sha tool. Loosely translated as “scraping the skin,” gua sha is said to stimulate microcirculation of the soft tissue and increase circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluids. It is thought to help improve overall skin health, reduce puffiness in the face, and soften wrinkles for a glowing complexion (8). Are these claims backed by scientific evidence? If yes, how exactly do you use a gua sha tool and where can you get one? Read on to find out!
Benefits Of Guasha, According To Science
A common misconception is that Gua Sha is primarily a facial technique. In reality, it is a part of the larger practice of gua sha therapy, a full-body therapy used to treat a variety of ailments such as pain, digestive issues, and muscle tension.
According to ancient Chinese medicine, gua sha helps to break up stagnation of qi (energy) and blood within the body, allowing it to flow more freely (3).
The earliest scientific articles about Gua Sha date back to the 1970s, when researchers began discovering the practice. Most of these articles were written in a negative tone, but since then the view of gua sha has improved as research evolved.
Below are the scientifically-supported benefits of gua sha:
Reduce Inflammatory Symptoms
Research has found that Gua Sha can reduce inflammation in both acute and chronic pain conditions, such as osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia (18).
In one case study of a man experiencing liver inflammation due to hepatitis B, regular Gua Sha treatments significantly reduced inflammation and improved his overall wellbeing (10).
While more research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms of Gua Sha, it is clear that this practice can reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Gua Sha can also improve circulation and increase blood flow to the area. This is especially beneficial for conditions like muscle tension, as increased blood flow can help reduce pain and improve mobility.
In a study examining the impacts of Gua Sha on microcirculation (the circulation of blood in small vessels), researchers found that Gua Sha can reduce stasis (blood stagnation) and increase microcirculation (15).
The same study also noted that Gua Sha can reduce myalgia (pain caused by muscle tension). Further research is needed to better understand this effect (15).
Improve Lymphatic Drainage
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and organs that are responsible for draining toxins from the body. Poor lymphatic drainage can lead to swelling and accumulation of toxins, resulting in fatigue and other health issues (2).
Gua Sha is thought to stimulate the lymphatic system, helping to reduce swelling and improve detoxification. It does so by creating a massage-like effect on the lymph nodes, which encourages them to open up and release fluids (16).
Relax Muscle Tension & Improve Range Of Motion
Our muscles are made up of small fibers that can become tight and inflexible due to exercise, stress, or injury. When our muscles are tight, that can lead to pain and difficulty with movement.
Gua Sha has been found to be an effective therapy for muscle tension and restricted range of motion.
In one study, 48 participants experiencing chronic neck pain received Gua Sha treatments over a four-week period, resulting in an improvement of neck pain and improved range of motion. The control group used heat pads for the same time period and experienced a less significant improvement in neck pain (5).
Alleviate Migraine Symptoms
Migraines are a form of chronic headaches, often accompanied by other symptoms like nausea and sensitivity to light and noise (13).
Gua Sha can be used as a treatment for migraines, thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation and muscle tension.
In one study, a subject experiencing chronic migraines received Gua Sha treatments over a 14-day period and experienced a significant reduction in migraine frequency and intensity (1).
Alleviate Perimenopause/Menopause Symptoms
The transition to menopause is known as perimenopause. During this time, women often experience a variety of symptoms, from hot flashes to fatigue and even depression (12).
Gua Sha has been found to be an effective treatment for many perimenopause and menopause symptoms (7).
In one study, women experienced a decrease in hot flashes, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia after receiving 15-minute Gua Sha treatments alongside psychotherapy over an 8-week period (6).
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Gua Sha Facials: The Benefits
Gua Sha facials are becoming increasingly popular as a way to reduce wrinkles, improve skin tone and elasticity, and even brighten the complexion. This treatment is similar to massage in that it involves using gentle pressure to stimulate the underlying muscles of the face.
The main benefit of Gua Sha facials is that it can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It does this by stimulating collagen production, which helps skin retain its elasticity and firmness.
Additionally, Gua Sha has been found to improve circulation to the face, resulting in a brighter complexion.
Are There Side Effects To Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is generally considered a safe and gentle treatment, though it may cause some minor side effects. These include bruising, redness, swelling, and soreness at the site of the treatment (9). These side effects should subside within a few days after treatment.
People who have certain medical conditions, as well as pregnant women, should always speak to their doctor before trying Gua Sha. Additionally, Gua Sha should not be performed on areas of the body that are bruised or inflamed.
How To Perform Gua Sha Facial
The beauty of Gua Sha facials is that they are simple to perform. Here is a breakdown of the steps:
- Begin by cleansing your face and applying a facial oil or serum.
- Place your Gua Sha tool against your skin and press gently but firmly, using short strokes along the massage lines of the muscles on the face (forehead, cheeks, and jawline). Take care to use gentle pressure and avoid using your fingernails.
- Move the tool in an upward motion, lifting away from your face as you go. Use your other hand to pull the skin taut so that you can get a better massage.
- Repeat this process until you have worked all areas of your face. Don’t forget to use the tool on your neck as well. How long you spend on each area is up to you, but most people recommend at least two minutes in each spot.
- Rinse off any oil or serum residue with warm water and enjoy the benefits of your facial massage!
- You can leave the oils or serums on your face overnight if you like. Moisturizing after your Gua Sha facial is always a good idea.
What To Do After Your Gua Sha Facial Treatment
Once you have completed your facial massage, it’s important to take the time to properly care for your skin. Applying a moisturizer or serum will help to lock in the benefits from your Gua Sha treatment (14).
Additionally, consider using a cooling mask or face cloth to reduce any redness and inflammation.
Finally, be sure to drink plenty of water after your Gua Sha facial massage to help flush out toxins and boost skin hydration (4).
How Often Should You Perform A Gua Sha Facial?
For optimal results, it’s recommended to perform a Gua Sha facial 2-3 times a week. The frequency can vary depending on individual needs, but it’s important to give your skin time to rest in between treatments.
You should increase the frequency of your Gua Sha treatments if you:
- Started slow and are looking for more intense results
- Experience lesser redness and irritation after a facial, this is a sign that your skin is adjusting to the treatment
On the other hand, you should decrease the frequency of your Gua Sha treatments if you:
- Experience excessive irritation or redness after a treatment
- Have sensitive skin
- Experience soreness or bruising after a treatment
Gua Sha Facial Mistakes To Avoid
When performed incorrectly, Gua Sha facials can cause damage to your skin. To ensure you are getting the most out of your treatment and avoiding any potential harm, here are a few mistakes to avoid:
- Using too much pressure or stroking too quickly: Remember to use gentle, short strokes and never press too hard on the face.
- Skipping the facial oil or serum: This helps ensure that your skin glides easily with the tool and reduces friction.
- Not being mindful of your skin type: Always use the gentlest strokes possible to avoid redness and bruising, particularly on sensitive skin.
- Not applying skincare after Gua Sha: Applying a nourishing facial serum or moisturizer post-Gua Sha helps ensure that your skin remains hydrated, balanced and glowing.
- Not sanitizing the tool: Be sure to clean your Gua Sha tool before and after each use with a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser or rubbing alcohol.
- Using a jagged stone: This could cause serious damage to your skin. Always opt for a smooth stone that won’t cause irritation or breakouts.
- Starting with too much pressure: Start slowly and gradually build up pressure as your skin gets used to the movements.
- Not moisturizing after Gua Sha: Moisturizing helps seal in benefits from your skincare products and protect skin against environmental aggressors, so be sure to moisturize post-Gua Sha session.
- Not changing the direction of your strokes: Varying the direction prevents skin from becoming used to a single movement and encourages lymphatic drainage. Every few strokes, turn your Gua Sha tool over slightly.
- Not taking breaks in between sessions: Give your skin time to absorb the benefits of Gua Sha and rest in between sessions. Overdoing it can cause redness, irritation and breakouts.
These are some of the most common mistakes to avoid when using a Gua Sha tool on your face. By following these tips, you’ll be sure to get the best results from your facial massage routine.
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How To Choose The Best Gua Sha Facial Tool
Gua Sha facial tools vary greatly in size, shape, and material. When choosing a tool for a Gua Sha facial treatment, it is essential to consider these factors:
Gua Sha tools come in a variety of sizes, so it is important to consider which tool will best fit your facial contours. A smaller tool may be better for working on facial areas with more delicate skin, such as the under-eye area.
Conversely, a larger tool may be better for working on broader areas of the face, such as the forehead and cheeks.
Gua Sha tools are typically made from jade, rose quartz, or other types of stone. It is essential to consider which type of material you would prefer before selecting a Gua Sha facial tool.
For example, jade is a cool stone and can provide a calming effect on the skin during treatment, while rose quartz is considered to have healing properties . Be careful not to select a tool that is too harsh for your skin, as it could cause friction and irritation.
You’ll need some skill to differentiate between original or fake jade/stone tools. The price can be an indication of the authenticity, but also consider whether it’s too light or has any cracks or chips.
Other factors to consider include the way it feels in your hand, as well as the smoothness of the edges and surface. Ideally, look for a Gua Sha tool that is smooth and comfortable to hold.
Gua Sha facial tools come in various shapes, such as spoon-shaped or curved. If you are unsure of which shape will work best for your facial needs, it is recommended to choose a multi-purpose tool that can provide a range of shapes.
A multi-purpose tool is also more cost-effective and can be used for a variety of Gua Sha treatments.
Finally, always check to make sure that you have a tool specifically designed for Gua Sha facial treatments. Tools made for other types of massage, such as back massages, may be too large or too abrasive for the delicate skin on your face and can cause irritation or damage.
The Bottom Line
Gua Sha facial treatments can be an effective way to reduce facial puffiness, wrinkles and redness. To get the best results, it is important to choose the right Gua Sha facial tool for your needs and take care to avoid common mistakes.
With the proper technique and a quality tool, you can enjoy the benefits of a Gua Sha facial treatment in the comfort of your own home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- [Gua Sha for migraine in inpatient withdrawal therapy of headache due to medication overuse] (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Anatomy, Lymphatic System (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A survey on the prevalence and utilization characteristics of gua sha in the Hong Kong community (2015, sciencedirect.com)
- Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effectiveness of traditional Chinese “gua sha” therapy in patients with chronic neck pain: a randomized controlled trial (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of Gua sha therapy on perimenopausal syndrome: a randomized controlled trial (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Gua Sha therapy on perimenopausal syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (2018, sciencedirect.com)
- Exploring scraping therapy: Contemporary views on an ancient healing – A review (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Gua‐sha, Jade Roller, and Facial Massage: Are there benefits within dermatology? (2022, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Guasha-induced hepatoprotection in chronic active hepatitis B: A case study (2011, sciencedirect.com)
- Inflammation–Nature’s Way to Efficiently Respond to All Types of Challenges: Implications for Understanding and Managing “the Epidemic” of Chronic Diseases (2018, frontiersin.org)
- Menopause: Overview (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Migraine Headache (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Moisturizers: reality and the skin benefits (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Effect of Gua Sha Treatment on the Microcirculation of Surface Tissue: A Pilot Study in Healthy Subjects (2017, sciencedirect.com)
- THE EFFECTS OF THE GUA SHA TECHNIQUE (WESTERN VIEW) ON THE RECUPERATION OF FLEXIBILITY OF THE POSTERIOR CHAIN IN PARKINSON (2016, idpublications.org)
- The rise of the cosmetic industry in ancient China: Insights from a 2700‐year‐old face cream (2021, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Using Guasha to treat musculoskeletal pain: A systematic review of controlled clinical trials (2010, biomedcentral.com)