If you follow TikTok or Instagram, you have probably seen someone demonstrating facial gua sha with a small, flat tool on their face. You may be wondering if it is something you should try.
Gua means “scrape” and sha means “petechiae” (tiny, flat red, purple spots) in Chinese. The practice began as a full-body treatment, not just a facial technique. The key point was to scrape the skin to invigorate blood flow, release heat-toxins, stimulate lymphatic drainage and bring helpful cells to the area by stimulating an immune response.
The earliest gua sha tool predates acupuncture in the Stone Age. According to traditional Chinese medicine, qi energy flows through the body. Some believe that stagnant qi is a possible root of inflammation. Rubbing the skin’s surface is thought to help break up this energy, reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Eventually gua sha went from full body scraping to facial massage. It is particularly helpful for facial lymphatic drainage because facial muscles are not moved as often as the full body. The intentional movements of a facial massage help move the lymph through the system and result in a more toned and sculpted appearance.
At first, it can be a bit painful. But the more you practice, the less painful it gets because the inflammation is reduced. Research shows that gua sha has been used to reduce migraine pain, lessen the symptoms of perimenopause, reduce inflammatory symptoms and reduce anxiety.
The most important thing about practicing gua sha at home is to follow directions for the tool. Experts do not recommend making your own technique to avoid hurting yourself.
It is important to operate slow, upward and outward movements only and press lightly by gliding over facial oil, not dry skin.
Also, do not neglect your neck. Use upward movements and remember to massage the base of the skull.
The frequency you perform gua sha depends on how firmly you use the tool. The deeper and stronger the pressure, the more visible the appearance of red marks. These can take a few days to resolve. Firm gua sha should be done no more than once a week, experts recommend.
However, light gua sha can be performed every few days. Use your own judgment based on your body and its reactions.
For the best technique, see a licensed practitioner at least until you feel confident on your own. And if you’re feeling adventurous, experts recommend combining gua sha with acupuncture for the ultimate treatment and healing.