“Does gua sha work?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I get as a beauty journalist.
The process of gently scraping your skin to improve blood flow and create a more contoured complexion has gone viral on all social media channels with stunning before and after photos created when it is used on just one half of the face.
The process is hailed for its ability to firm and shape and has even been praised for its anti-aging benefits. More than anything, though, it’s a very relaxing and holistic wellness practice that can easily be incorporated into your skin care routine and performed at home—as well as by skin care professionals. It’s de-stressing for the muscles, boosts your mental health and has skincare benefits too – what’s not to love?
We called on Ada Ooi, TCM practitioner and founder of 001 Skincare and Mimi Luzon, Skin Care Specialist and Celebrity Facialist to decode the traditional healing practice.
What is it?
Ooi explains that it is a “traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves scraping the skin using a stone or tool with smooth edges. It works on both Chinese meridian points and stimulates the lymphatic drainage system to promote blood circulation, increase skin oxygen levels, move blood and qi [energy] to regulate body systems, improve nutrient transformation and transport, while moving toxins and stagnant elements to be processed as waste.”
What are the benefits of gua sha?
“It promotes blood and qi circulation, increases the number of white blood cells to boost immunity, releases stagnation and tension”, reveals Ooi.
Luzon adds, “By performing gua sha on the face, you can reduce puffiness and help shape and tighten the skin, leading to an overall more youthful and plump appearance. It also helps improve the effectiveness of your facial oils and serums as it helps them to be absorbed by the skin, which means you can get more out of your products in the long run.”
What do you need for gua sha?
The first and most obvious purchase is for one of the designated smooth curb stones mentioned above, but Luzon also suggests including “A moisturizing and nourishing facial oil or serum, which is the key to a good facial massage.”
What are you doing?
Ooni breaks it down:
You need to work with freshly cleansed skin to ensure you don’t push dirt or pollution into the skin, as this can cause irritation and breakouts.
After cleansing, apply a facial oil or serum to release – the gua sha will also help your skin care products absorb better.
For gua sha, you will use a smooth-edged stone or tool to perform the scraping. Start by placing the gua sha tool at the masseter (jaw chewing muscle), apply medium pressure and massage in circular motions, I describe this as ‘grinding the fascia’ to release all the tension from eating, talking and unconscious grinding.
Do this at least five times.
Place the gua sha tool in the middle of the chin, slide upwards to the front of the ears and wiggle to stimulate the triple warmer meridian. The points here are nerve related, so it can really help to relax the face for proper alignment, then bring it down to the side of the neck and end at the collarbone for drainage.
Do this at least five times.
Luzon emphasizes that you should use a gliding motion “gently up and out” throughout the process. She also recommends “stroking in a downward motion towards the lymph nodes to drain fluid and using short strokes in one direction. If you want to reduce swelling, work lightly and then more firmly to relax the muscles.” Don’t forget the pan! “Work the tool in small horizontal strokes across the brow bone to lift it, or hold and press upwards between the brows to release tension.”
Does it work?
Quite simply, “Yes!”, explains Luzon. “Massaging the face for just five minutes a day is a great way to incorporate self-care, which is very important for reducing stress and helping healthy skin. As it helps stimulate lymphatic drainage, it can be very effective in shaping the face .”
Ooni agrees: “Gua sha can dissolve muscle tension and promote drainage of unwanted stagnant fluids, which helps reduce swelling, and provides a lighter feeling and appearance.”
Shop the best tools for gua sha below
FaceGym Multi-Sculpt High-Performance Gua Sha
Run this tool along the contours of your face to bring the FaceGym experience into your own home. The London and New York-based salon is changing the facial game by offering a workout for the muscles, rather than a traditional lotion and potion-based treatment.
This is one of the sets that the brand uses with six edges for the ultimate multitasker. By adding to your skincare routine, you can lift, contour, release tension, release blockages, aid in drainage and even tackle fine lines and wrinkles. Store in the fridge and the stainless steel construction will be a gift for calming and relaxing.
Buy Now £45.00, Net-A-Porter
Odacite Gua Sha Blue Sodalite Beauty Tool
When the likes of bad skin, sleepless nights and indigestion get you down, the ritual of this gua sha treatment is here to help calm your anxiety. This tool is designed to stimulate the skin with massaging movements and smoothing and anti-wrinkle effects. The curved side allows it to glide onto the skin without tugging, especially when combined with facial oil or serum. The blue sodalite stone is all about peace, balance and calm, so your worries and anxieties will melt away with each swipe of the stone.
Buy Now £40.00, Space NK
Hayo’u Clear Quartz Beauty Restorer gua sha tool
With its clean design, you may find this tool at risk of disappearing to the side of the bathroom sink, but it’s a small and powerful addition to your skincare routine that allows you to incorporate the ancient ritual.
The soothing practice of sweeping across your skin encourages nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s surface—and it only takes a minute. Use the curved edge to press the acupressure points on the face, while the flat edge will even out skin tone and help with lymphatic drainage.
Buy Now £42.00, Selfridges
Skin Gym Cryo stainless steel heart gua sha
Take facial massage to new heights with this stainless steel tool that comes in a handy heart shape for always facial contouring – whether big or small. This is another option that will give every part of your face a thorough review, whether it’s the jawline, chin, forehead, cheek, under eye or brow that needs a muscle release. Relax and refresh with extra cooling and soothing benefits if stored in the fridge.
Buy Now £38.00, Selfridges
Psychic Sisters Gua Sha Facial Wand in Amethyst
Calm and soothe tired skin with just a few swipes of this amethyst-based tool. From the experts at Psychic Sisters, this tool has been purified with sage to maximize the healing and balancing properties of this type of facial massage. Use all over, including the neck to increase circulation and reduce swelling.
Buy Now £24.95, Beauty Bay
MZ SKIN Gua Sha
Promote brighter and lifted skin with this tool that comes as part of the range at MZ SKIN. The label was founded by celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Maryam Zamani to bring the clinic experience to your own home. Made from rose quartz, it should encourage better circulation, reduce hangovers and release toxins, while providing a well-being boost from the ritual itself.
Buy Now £40.00, Liberty London
ESPA Rose Quartz Gua Sha Tool
Just a few swipes with the rose quartz tool from ESPA is the ultimate self-care experience. Use on each part of the face to encourage nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s surface which you then send down the neck to cleanse the lymph. Recreating the ancient beauty ritual has a lifting, contouring and relaxing effect, while soothing, tightening and reducing puffiness.
Buy Now £40.00, ESPA
The White Company White Jade Gua Sha
The ancient Chinese massage therapy of gua sha has benefits for the skin as well as creating a mindful ritual that will encourage you to feel beautiful on the outside. From The White Company, this tool is handcrafted from natural white jade quartz with a heart-shaped design that can reach all the different contours of the face.
Buy Now £20.00, The White Company
Wild Source Rose Quartz Gua Sha
The combination of gentle and deeper strokes will do wonders for releasing muscle tension as well as kick-starting lymphatic drainage. Incorporate this rose quartz gua sha tool from Wild Source into your regular skincare routine and you’ll feel the benefits of facial stress – whether it’s caused by furrowed brows, jowl grinding or tension headaches – as your stresses melt away.
Shop now, Liberty London
Lanshin Intro Gua Sha Tool – Nephrite Jade
If you’re just starting out on your gua sha journey, this tool may be just what you’re looking for to find the basics. It uses a dark green nephrite jade stone to revitalize the skin and combat skin tightness.
Buy Now £60.00, Net-A-Porter
Angela Caglia Rose Quartz Gua Sha
Rose quartz is said to encourage healing and loving energy, so it makes sense that it is a common material used for gua sha. It is placed in the center of this stone from celebrity esthetician Angela Caglia (“Hollywood Glow Girl” as she is known). Replicate the facial massage treatment at her New York and LA spas with this sculpting tool that counteracts the visible signs of aging by increasing blood circulation, toning and smoothing.
Buy Now £46.00, Net-A-Porter
001 Skincare MicroSculptor No.3
The founder of 001 Skincare, Ada Ooi explains, “The MicroSculptor No.3 is fabulous for face and body massage. It is designed to fit precisely with each facial contour to perform both a stimulating and relaxing massage over the face, neck, jawline and décolleté.
It’s larger than most of the other gua sha tools on the list, so you can use around the face as well as the body to maximize the lifting, toning and circulation boost it provides from head to toe.
The ergonomically shaped design is made from Chinese medicine favorite Bian Stone from Shan Dong and infused with 40 minerals that can be used cool or lightly heated for all the benefits of brightening, detoxifying, reducing dark circles and fighting puffiness.
Buy Now £48,75,001 Skincare