Here's Why You Should Add Gua Sha To Your Skincare Routine Immediately
I am always on the hunt for the best in beauty.
I’ll admit this was not always the case; I, like many people, didn’t pay too much attention to my skin in my 20s. Aside from dealing with my never-ending adult acne and slathering on sunscreen, my skincare routine was pretty minimal. That all changed when I turned 30. I don’t know whether it was the fact that I was acutely aware of the fact that I was getting “older” or that there was indeed a shift in my skin. Either way, I noticed a difference.
While I can finally say my adult acne is a thing of the past, my lack of a skincare routine in the past decade-plus did come back to haunt me. Over the last three or so years, taking care of my skin has become a passion. Or maybe an obsession? But I digress. I am willing to try pretty much anything—as long as it is natural and cruelty-free, of course.
That brings me to this assignment: take the new beauty technique on the block, gua sha, for a spin.
Maybe you have heard of it? If not, think of it as your jade roller’s bestie. Gua sha has been touted to decrease puffiness, increase jawline and cheekbone definition, and relax facial muscles—need I say more?
So I embarked on a two-week gua sha wormhole. Here is everything you need to know.
What is a gua sha?
Depending on the dialect, gua sha can be translated to mean "red rice," "scraping red," or "scraped sand." While it is somewhat new to the Western beauty scene, the technique dates back to 220 CE, first documented in a classical Chinese medicine text called the Shan Han Lun. Gua sha was first developed by practitioners to obtain “sha,” or the redness that encourages the skin the heal itself.
Originally a full-body treatment, gua sha has since been adapted into facial therapy, which is the most common use for it today. The scraping, which in the past could be quite aggressive— some practitioners used a coin—has evolved into a gentler technique that involves gliding versus harsh scraping that is gentler in the skin.
Benefits of using gua sha
While the method has been toned down for modern-day practices, the impressive results are still there. Gua sha carries the following benefits:
- Stimulates circulation in the skin
- Helps to increase the production of collagen
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Releases muscle tightness in the face and neck
- Decreases puffiness and inflammation
- Helps to diminish dark circles
- Temporarily tightens skin
- Brightens complexion
- Sculpts facial muscles
Gua sha versus jade roller
Since many of us already have experience with the beloved jade roller, you may be wondering what the differences are and if you really do need both.
The biggest difference between a jade roller and a gua sha is that a gua sha is mainly used as a facial tissue release massage, whereas a jade roller is more useful as a lymphatic drainage massage.
Gua sha is essentially foam rolling, but for your face. The gua sha tool is designed the way it is because fascia—the connective tissue holding everything in place, from skin to bones to muscles—is multidirectional. In order to properly release muscle tightness, you need a tool with different edges and angles, something that a jade roller doesn’t offer.
The process of doing gua sha is also extremely relaxing because you are slowly releasing the tension in your face. Just as you use a foam roller on your tight body muscles, the gua sha tool works to create blood flow and break up the fascia, which brings muscle relief and relaxation.
How to use the gua sha tool
Step 1: Start by cleansing and toning
It is best if you perform the gua sha technique on clean skin. Start with a cleanser to remove dirt, oil, and makeup. If a toner is part of your routine, apply it directly after cleansing.
Additionally, make sure your hands and the tool itself are clean. To clean the gua sha, you can use your normal face wash.
Step 2: Apply a facial oil
To assist in easy tool gliding, apply a generous amount of face oil to your face, neck, and chest. Oil will be best, but you can also use a cream or water-based lotion if you prefer.
I apply oil one section at a time as I work my way to each area. Otherwise, I found that the oil was mostly absorbed as I worked my way around.
Step 3: Perform gua sha
Now, grab your gua sha tool and hold it at a 30- to 45-degree angle, and gently pull (known as scraping) the tool across your skin. For best results, all movements should be upward and follow the lymphatic flow. Repeat each movement five times before moving on to the next area.
While everyone prefers a different order of sections, here are the recommended areas to include:
- Back of neck: If you are flexible enough—or can pull in a friend—start your routine at the back base of your neck. Utilize the grooved or “V” side of the gua sha, placing the edges on either side of the spine. Gently pull the tool upwards towards the base of the skull, pausing right at the base since this is a wonderful acupressure point.
- Sides of neck: Next, move onto the sides of your next. You can even start at the top of your shoulders if you prefer. Again using the “V” grooves, glide the tool along the tops of your shoulders, up the side of your neck, stopping and pausing again right at the base of the skull.
- Front of neck: Be particularly gentle as this area is more sensitive for most. Starting right above your collar bone, gently glide up the front of the neck and under the chin.
- Jawline: Continuing to use the “V” grooves, glide the jade across your jawline. Stop right at the hairline and hold for a few sections on the acupressure spot.
- Cheek: Break your cheek into two sections: below the cheekbone, and at the cheekbone. Start below the cheekbone, at the corner of your mouth, with the curved edge of the jade. Work upwards in a sweeping motion along your cheek, gently pushing right underneath your bone. Once you finish your five glides, move onto your actual cheekbone. Here, switch to the “V” side, moving it across the bone and stopping at the hairline, another acupressure point.
- Under eye: Stimulating the skin underneath your eye is extremely helpful for collagen building and reducing dark circles, but you must be extra careful with this delicate skin. Start just under the inside corner of the eye, sweeping the gua sha underneath the eye and then slightly upwards towards the temple. Use only very light pressure.
- Brows: Start along the inside edge of the brow, sweeping across the brow bone.
- Forehead: Start at the center, between the brows, and divide your forehead into three sections: middle, left, and right. For the middle section, start right above the bridge of the nose, gliding along the forehead to the top of the temple. For the sides, start just above the brow angle at a 45-degree angle towards the temple.
- Lips: Gua sha can have a wonderful plumping effect on the lips. Glide back and forth over the lips a few times to increase blood flow.
How often should you gua sha?
You can reap the benefits of gua sha by performing it just a few times per week at first since you will want to get used to the technique and pay attention to your skin’s reaction. As you become more comfortable wielding your tool and your skin gets used to the treatment, you can easily bump it up to become a daily part of your routine.
My gua sha experience
Now that you know everything that there is to know about this ancient technique, you are probably wondering: but does it actually work?
In the quest for beauty and a well-researched article, I set out to test the gua sha method for two weeks and document my results. I ran to my local Ulta store and picked up this Gua Sha Jade Tool to start the experiment, I pored over countless articles and YouTube videos to learn more about this technique and how to properly use my new jade friend.
I determined that my best bet to commit to a daily practice would be do to it right after my morning shower. I started on my shoulders and neck as was recommended by the pros. I used an organic body oil, spritzing a generous amount onto my shoulders. As I gently glided the “V” side of the jade across my shoulders and neck, I could instantly feel the similarities between this and my treasured foam roller. The jaded points dug into my muscles with just enough pressure.
As I worked up to my face, I grabbed my Sea Buckthorn Fruit Oil, a personal favorite. I started on my jawline and was astonished to discover a large number of knots in the small muscles of my jaw. I was warned that people who clench their jaw when tense or grind their teeth—both of which I am guilty of—would likely feel the tension here while performing gua sha, and boy, did I! Slowly, I performed five strokes on each side of my jaw, pausing for a few seconds on my temple each time to feel the release from the acupressure points.
Moving onto each new area, I felt the stress melting from my muscles, although nothing was in need quite like my jawline. My second favorite point was the spot right above the bridge of my nose—I read that this area is one of our key acupressure points and it felt particularly relaxing to glide the jade across it and onto my forehead.
I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxed my face felt after just one session and knew immediately I would keep it up. After all, I knew that tension in my face would someday lead to wrinkles, so I was delighted that this might help keep them at bay.
I started looking forward to my daily gua sha, and around day five I really started to see some changes. While grabbing my oil on day five, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and literally stopped in my tracks. Were those my cheekbones shining through? Could it be? Maybe it was all in my head, but my once almost undefined cheekbones were suddenly more defined.
As the days went by, I also noticed that the knots and tension in my neck and face were diminishing day after day. My skin was looking less inflamed, and my complexion was certainly brighter. At around day ten, I became a true believer. My face was more relaxed, my skin was glowing, and my cheekbones and jawline continued to be way more defined. It is safe to say gua sha will remain in my skincare routine from now on.
Best oils to use with gua sha
While any face oil will do, I recommend the following products to really amp up your gua sha game.
This serum harnesses the power of Japan’s best-kept skincare secret: rice bran oil. Designed to brighten your skin, it also contains naturally derived hemp seed, neem, sunflower seed, sage, and lemon oils. Plus, it hydrates your skin without leaving you greasy—so you can glow big.
This sustainably formulated face oil leaves your skin feeling invigorated, hydrated, and extra dewy. The blend of moringa seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and grapeseed oil delivers tons of fatty acids that work to plump and moisturize the skin. The algae, watermelon, and bilberry bring a dose of antioxidants, too.
This oil works particularly well for those with sensitive skin thanks to the almighty oats. Oats have wonderful soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, and the oil found in oats has a healthy amount of fatty acids to help strengthen the lipid barrier. Furthermore, the sea buckthorn oil is great at calming inflamed skin.
This face oil is amazing for parched skin, leaving you ultra-hydrated without the greasy feel that many oils leave behind. Rosehip oil has a range of skin benefits, including brightening your complexion and fading hyperpigmentation.
This oil contains a high concentration of rare palmitoleic acid (omega 7) to protect the skin from damage due to dryness. It also offers other fatty acids like palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linolenic acid, and linoleic acid, as well as antioxidants like tocopherol (vitamin E), carotenoids, and lycopene that all help to protect the skin from free radical damage and to maintain the skin’s normal barrier function.
I absolutely love incorporating gua sha into my daily routine, and I think you will too. This is one ancient technique that’s gained contemporary popularity for a very good reason. Give it a whirl today!
Please note: A product appearing in our blog is not an official Kinder Beauty endorsement. While every product we feature in an article is cruelty-free and vegan, these products do not necessarily meet all of our strict brand standards for curation in one of our boxes.
Jackie Lutze has been writing about cruelty-free beauty for years and loves finding the best vegan products to help readers build their ultimate beauty routine.
Get our Kinder Beauty Box