Gua Sha for Beginners: How to Use the Chinese Facial Lymphatic Massage Technique
You may already be familiar with the beloved skincare tool of the crystal or jade roller, but have you heard of the gorgeous beauty benefits of using a Gua Sha? A traditional Chinese practice, the Gua Sha is an ancient technique that comes with a whole host of stimulating and soothing properties for your skin. In this article, we take a deeper dive into the world of the Gua Sha and find out exactly how this tool and technique can benefit you along with a step by step guide on how to get it right.
What Exactly is Gua Sha?
The Gua Sha tool is a flat stone (usually made from a semi-precious gem). You can find Gua Sha made from Rose Quartz, Jade, Obsidian, Amethyst and other such stones that bring their own unique healing properties too. It has sharpish edges and is used for massaging the face or scraping gently across the skin. The word Gua means to stroke or to press and the word Sha means redness. While its name may translate to something similar to ‘stroke red’, that doesn’t mean that this practice is as rough and as extreme as it sounds. In short, you use the Gua Sha tool to stimulate the skin and encourage healthy circulation and lymphatic drainage among other things. You could see a Gua Sha facial as a non-invasive gentle kind of acupuncture as it brings similar benefits without the need for needles.
The history of Gua Sha dates back to around 1368 and 1644 and was first recorded as used by the Ming Dynasty. Ancient enough, but the actual date is believed to be even older as far back as the palaeolithic era as records show that when people fell ill, stones and coins would be used to massage certain points in the body to stimulate healing and reduce side effects.
Main Benefits of Gua Sha
There are many benefits to using a Gua Sha to help heal and promote healthy skin and overall wellbeing. While the skin is certainly the major thing affected by the practice, we all know that health and well-being go beyond skin deep and that they have a knock-on effect across the whole of the body, along with the mind and the soul. We take a look at some of the major benefits that come from the facial massage practice of Gua Sha.
- Stimulates circulation - Healthy circulation leads to better healing, a brighter complexion, and a youthful glow as blood flows to where it is needed.
- Promotes lymphatic drainage - A sluggish lymphatic system can lead to swollen skin, puffiness, dullness, acne and other issues. Using the Gua Sha can encourage lymphatic drainage as the lymph system reacts well to muscle movement and massage.
- Reduces wrinkles and fine lines - As the Gua Sha works like a sculpting tool you can iron out wrinkles and fine lines along with bringing other anti-aging benefits to keep your skin supple and young.
- Decreases puffiness - By encouraging healthy circulation and a more even flow, you can reduce puffiness in the skin as fluid is removed.
- Get rid of dark circles - Better blood circulation will lead to fewer dark circles and a more even complexion.
- Brightens complexion - Lymphatic drainage, less fluid, more blood flow and fewer lines and dark circles - all of this shows up in a brighter, dewier, and younger-looking face.
- Sculpts facial features - As the Gua Sha scrapes and tones the skin, it can lead to more defined contours and shape.
- Helps acne and improves the appearance of acne scars - As the Gua Sha encourages circulation, it brings blood flow to the surface of the skin which can encourage new cell growth and cause acne scars to fade.
How to Choose the Right Gua Sha
There are different kinds of Gua Sha tools out there and finding the right one will depend on a few factors. For example, Gua Sha stones can be crafted from different healing crystals each of which brings its own benefits with them. Then there are also different styles and shapes - some come carved into a heart, others are square, and some even have teeth. One of the most important elements to consider when choosing your Gua Sha is picking a shape and stone that sits comfortably in your hand. Having a Gua Sha that doesn’t fit or hold quite right will make it tricky to perform the massage movements that give your skin all those healing benefits.
Gua Sha Materials
As mentioned, Gua Sha is normally carved from healing crystals and certain stones. Knowing how each stone weaves in its own healing elements can help you to decide which gem you want to form the base of your Gua Sha tool. Whether you want a higher emphasis on calming angry skin or if you are looking to keep the stress and tightness out of your face, these are the most popular kinds of Gua Sha materials you can choose.
Ever cooling, the green shades of Jade are known for their toxic purging touch. A Jade Gua Sha is a glorious massage tool that can effectively reduce signs of puffiness and is a dab hand at encouraging lymphatic drainage.
Pretty in pink, Rose Quartz comes with a whole host of soothing and healing benefits. This stone is all about lending love and is great for calming angry and reactive skin. The Rose Quartz Gua Sha can also help smooth out wrinkles thanks to its soothing energy and is good at boosting circulation too.
The protective mirror-like shades of midnight black Obsidian is a mood. This dark and dreamy gem mops up negativity which can lead to pure rejuvenation in the skin. It also helps strengthen muscle which leads to a more taut facial shape with less sag.
Get ready to be as relaxed as ever with the Amethyst stone. This gem knows how to sweep away the mental and physical signs of stress and promotes pure relaxation and better balance. As it cleanses negative energy, your face can unclench, your stress breakouts will be gone, and your skin will be a picture of a serene dream. Amethyst is also known for helping reduce migraines and encouraging healthy sleep patterns - get more from your massage therapy with this gem.
Gua Sha Shapes
Stones can come in natural shapes and styles but some Gua Sha shapes will have an impact on how you use them against the skin. These are the different shapes you can expect from your Gua Sha tool and how each shape can help different sections of the skin.
The curve of the heart shape is a good match for those wider parts of the body like the thighs, the shoulder and the glutes. Spiritually it also brings the promise of participating in love and self-care for the body.
The double-curved wing shape is good for targeting smaller ideas like the forehead, the chin, and even the hands. It is easy to hold and has the whisper of giving lift to certain parts of the body.
The square shape is solid and grounded and therefore good for parts of the face that share that energy - like the jawline and the brows. Linked to the eyes and the mouth, it also helps us to stay grounded in our expressions.
The teeth edged Gua Sha is good for ironing out those wrinkles and fine lines. With a softer sided edged and a sharper edge, it’s also a reflection of embracing all the different sides of ourselves.
How to Use Gua Sha
The Gua Sha technique is believed to unblock and restore your flow of energy so knowing how to wield your tool in a way that is beautifully beneficial to your body sets you out on the right track. Knowing the fundamentals of the method can help you to tweak it to meet your own skincare demands. Even beyond the basics of gentle pressure and even strokes, it also helps to know the ins and outs of caring for your beauty tools along with how often to indulge in the practice.
How Often Should You Perform Gua Sha
It is recommended that when you first start working with the Gua Sha tool and technique you only do it once a week. You don't want to overwhelm your body and your skin as this could lead to a breakout or flare. Once your skin is comfortable with the treatment, you can even take this up to three times a week. Pick a time of day that suits your schedule best. Morning massages are great for clearing the puffiness of sleep and any fluid build-up from lying down. Morning treatments also wake you up and bring a dose of deep invigorating energy. Using the Gua Sha treatment in the evening can help prepare your body and your skin for rest and relaxation. It can clear any negative energy of the day and deliver a much-needed detox.
How To Store and Clean Your Tool
Be sure to give your Gua Sha tool the love and attention it gifts your skin and overall well-being. It’s truly important to cleanse your Gua Sha stone thoroughly after use to stop any bacteria build up in its tracks. You can do this with soapy water using a delicate or sensitive cleanser. Always be sure to thoroughly dry your stone too. If you want to bring a cooling touch to your tool you can also store it in the fridge that extra soothing properties.
Gua Sha: Step-By-Step Guide
Using your Gua Sha tool is simple with this step by step guide.
- First, be sure to properly cleanse your stone and your hands so you are working with purity from the start.
- You also want to cleanse and tone your face in accordance with your usual skincare routine.
- Use your favorite skin serum or facial oil on your face or body so that the tool can glide easily wherever it is pressed.
- Get a comfortable grip on your face massager tool and hold it at an angle so that you slide it effortlessly across your skin’s contours and facial features. Follow the lymphatic flow if you are wanting to remove fluid build-up.
- When massaging (as outlined below) you should repeat each movement or sequence 3-5 times to see the benefits.
- Use an upward slide for the throat, neck, and back. Be sure to avoid too much pressure around the neck area as this could add to the discomfort.
- When massaging the jaw, work from the center and move out towards the ear. Repeat on both sides.
- If you want to bring natural plumpness to your lips, pass the stone across your lips several times.
- Flush your cheeks with health by starting at the nose before gliding towards your eyes all while following the natural curve of your cheekbones. Move down and repeat before moving over to the center of your chin and repeating once more.
- To decrease under-eye circles and puffiness, slide the Gua Sha tool from the eyes corner out towards the temple - remember to be gentle around the eye area as it’s a delicate place. Turning to the brow, you should work from the center out - gliding the stone across with gentle pressure.
- Finally, at the forehead, you should work from the center out, breaking it down into sections and pulling the softest edge of the stone up towards the hairline.
- Once you have given your face the attention it deserves, you can finish your skincare cleansing routine by adding moisturizer or a dab of face oil and any other finishing techniques that help you feel fabulous.
- Don’t forget to thoroughly wash your Gua Sha tool after you are done.
There may be some potential side effects for those who aren’t used to working with the Gua Sha stone. For example, it’s common for the skin to react by leaving red or purple looking marks or bruises on the skin. These should fade within a few days. You may also experience broken capillaries if you have these close to the skin surface. The act of Gua Sha shouldn’t be too painful although light bruising can be natural on parts of the body after use. We don’t recommend using Gua Sha tools or treatments on broken or wounded skin.
As a skincare approach that has been around for centuries, it’s no wonder that Gua Sha is starting to turn heads again. A non-invasive practice that calls on natural tools and simple techniques are always going to be a winner in our books - especially one that also weaves in the healing magic of crystals. You may see instant results from your Gua Sha practice but to keep your face flushed and feeling fine, you should incorporate this technique into your weekly routine.
Will you be trying the traditional Chinese medicine technique of Gua Sha? Share your experience and top tips with us.