Gua Sha (pronounced gwa-shah) is a tool, or tools, used to scrape the skin to promote circulation. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) utilized Gua Sha tools thousands of years ago to increase blood circulation and heal the body. Today, the practice continues to evolve into a sought-after addition to people’s beauty regimen to tone and tighten skin. In this blog, we will explore the origins of Gua Sha, its benefits, and the tools and techniques used for this ancient skin practice.
What Is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is a traditional Eastern and Southeast Asian healing technique in which a smooth, credit-card-sized “board” is pressed along the body’s skin; however, in more recent years, it’s been adapted for the face and neck, as well. The idea behind Gua Sha is that light pressure releases fascial and muscular tension and moves sluggish lymph fluid to tone the face.
Originally, Gua Sha was used to release different aches and pains in the body. For example, in TCM, it was commonly used on the upper back to invigorate blood flow, release heat toxins, stimulate lymphatic drainage, activate various acupressure points of the body, and stimulate an immune response bringing beneficial cells to the area.
Gua Sha works by promoting blood circulation. When you scrape the skin gently on the face or body, you’re stimulating a certain meridian point, which corresponds to an organ in the body that’s responsible for your skin’s overall health. In turn, you’re sending a signal to your body that this area needs more circulation.
The Origins of Gua Sha
Pictured: Back-view illustration of Gua Sha treatment from Fangyi chuyan (A Modest Proposal for Epidemic Prevention) Source: Gua Sha Massage
With its origins in the treatment of abscesses in the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) of ancient China, Gua Sha has been a mainstay as a folk medicine since antiquity.
Theories of “sha” disease gradually developed based on the premise that a pathogen was to be cleared and dispersed from the body and this was combined with a scraping technique, initially involving a hemp rope rubbing method using water or sesame oil in the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 CE).
By the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 CE), the method of scraping had become more precise and expanded towards the entire body. A working framework for the treatment of sha was also developed at this time which enabled a wider application of scraping and included instructions for headaches, numbness of the face, and head shaking.
It was not until the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) that anything resembling the practice of cosmetic scraping appeared, which was in the form of jade rubbing to treat facial scars. Many of the ideas behind facial Gua Sha have been influenced by traditional Chinese cosmetology, which from the Warring States and Qin and Han Dynasties, came ideas of how the human body and skin color changes are directly related to changes in people’s temperament, age, health, and qi.
Ancient doctors rarely recorded the specific methods, time, and treatment of Gua Sha but in the 20th century with the work of Jiang Jingbo and later Lu Jiru, Gua Sha was reinvigorated and an adapted, modernized style of Gua Sha therapy was promoted.1
The Benefits of Gua Sha
Implementing Gua Sha into your self-care routine may offer these potential benefits:
Gua Sha May Help Reduce Inflammation and Puffiness
Similar to other types of massages, gliding a Gua Sha tool across your face or body can promote microcirculation in your soft tissues, aka blood flow in small blood vessels. This increase in blood flow might help physical symptoms of inflammation like puffiness and swelling.2 The practice may also help lymphatic drainage by moving fluid away from swollen areas.3
Gua Sha May Boost Your Skin’s Collagen Production
Every year, our skin produces 1% less collagen; collagen keeps our skin strong and elastic.. Giving yourself regular Gua Sha facials can help ramp up your skin’s collagen production, thereby reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.4
Gua Sha May Increase the Efficacy of Skincare Topicals
Gua Sha can increase the efficacy of the skincare you’re already using. If you apply your moisturizer or serum and then give yourself a massage, the Gua Sha tools helps push the product deeper into your skin. This can help your serum absorb better and allow you to experience the full benefits of the formula.
Gua Sha Can Alleviate Tech Neck and Other Pains
If you feel the aches and pains from uncomfortable work posture or constant scrolling, a Gua Sha body massage might help. In a small 2014 study involving 60 regular computer users with neck and shoulder pain, researchers found that Gua Sha helped reduce pain and improve range of motion.5 Individuals in a small 2011 study also reported that Gua Sha helped reduce neck pain when compared with people who used heating pads.6
Gua Sha Can Improve Headache and Migraine Symptoms
If you’re dealing with migraines or headaches, Gua Sha might help relieve pain and tension in your head and neck. A 2007 case study of a 72-year-old woman reported that Gua Sha helped relieve migraine symptoms over a 14-day period.7
Gua Sha Can Aid in Muscle Recovery
Gua Sha’s ability to promote blood circulation might also help move the buildup of lactic acid that accumulates from your workouts. In a small 2017 study involving 65 male weightlifters, people who had Gua Sha treatments reported that lifting weights was easier post-treatment. Researchers concluded that Gua Sha might also help speed up muscle recovery and be a potential alternative to other sports recovery methods.8
Gua Sha May Help Tourette Symptoms
Tourette syndrome is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes sudden involuntary movements or sounds. While Gua Sha is not a miracle cure, limited research shows it might help reduce symptoms when combined with other treatments.
A 2017 case study of a 33-year-old man found that a combination of Gua Sha and other therapies appeared to reduce his Tourette syndrome symptoms. 9
Gua Sha May Help Perimenopausal Symptoms
A small 2017 study involving 80 perimenopausal women found that people who had Gua Sha treatments for 8 weeks experienced fewer symptoms compared with the control group receiving only traditional therapy. 10
Gua Sha Tools
Some of the most common Gua Sha tool shapes are:
The Wand-Shaped Tool
Pictured: Wand Gua Sha tool Source: Eastern Currents
This long, slender tool has 2 pointy ends that are best to use for specific areas where you want to apply pressure and relieve tension in the body. These areas are primarily in the hands, feet, laterals, back, neck, and shoulders. The challenge with this shape is the limited maneuverability around the face and smaller areas of the body.
If you’re interested in adding this tool to your regime, check out the LEOSENSE Gua Sha Bian Stone Wand Tool.
Pictured: Dolphin Gua Sha tool Source: DH Gate
This tool shape is one of the most popular and commonly purchased Gua Sha tools available on the market. It’s easy to hold due to its small size and is perfect for contouring different areas of the face including the jawline, nose bridge, chin, and under-eye area.
While the heart-shaped tool is great for the face, neck, and hands, it might be less effective to use in other parts of the body as its edges are not long enough to hold onto, and therefore less workable for applying firmer pressure.
If you’re interested in adding this tool to your regime, check out the MEEKU Gua Sha Stainless Steel Dolphin Tool.
The Spoon Tool
Pictured: Spoon Gua Sha tool Source: Amazon
A Gua Sha spoon is a sculpting tool that helps you target acupressure points along your face and neck to gently release any muscle tension. Its spoon-like shape helps to target smaller areas as well as harder-to-reach areas like those around the nose and eyes.
If you’re interested in adding this tool to your regime, check out the Top Sewing Gua Sha 100% Jade Spoon Tool.
The Comb Tool
Pictured: Comb Gua Sha tool Source: Amazon
This shape is exactly what it sounds like: a Gua Sha scraper equipped with comb-like prongs. On one side of this tool, you have the classic curved edge, perfect for a facial treatment. On the opposite side, the stone is shaped into a comb so you can give your scalp a nice, deep massage.
If you’re interested in adding this tool to your regime, check out the FORUHEALTH Gua Sha Jade Comb Tool.
Gua Sha Materials
Here’s a look at the most common materials used in Gua Sha:
- Rose quartz is one of the most popular stones for Gua Sha tools. It’s said to be the stone of compassion, love, and emotional healing. Likewise, it supposedly has calming properties, which makes it ideal for people with sensitive skin and those who suffer from acne, rosacea, or other skin issues. According to some, rose quartz is also the best material for reducing signs of aging. In addition, as a healing stone, it’s used to drain toxins and negativity from the body.
- Jade is a widely-used stone in the world of Gua Sha. Jade is known for its cooling effect, as well as its ability to balance the body and our inner energies. Similarly, some people claim that it helps relax the nervous system. If you’re looking for a tool that will reduce facial puffiness, jade might be your best bet. Plus, it’s known to promote lymphatic function.
- The Bian stone is also lauded for its healing properties. It’s an ancient stone with a wide range of uses, and one of those happens to be Gua Sha. According to certain studies, the Bian stone may help regulate blood pressure. Also, when used in a full-body Gua Sha treatment, it’s ideal for treating lower back pain.
- Amethyst may help reduce stress and negative energy. Like jade, amethyst is perfect for cooling down the skin. Moreover, some people claim that it fights bacteria and targets the pores.
- Clear Quartz is among the rarest of these materials. It’s often referred to as a “master healer.” Many fans believe that it balances the mind, body, and spirit, providing a feeling of calm and clarity. Clear quartz is great for all skin types.
DIY Gua Sha
Once you choose the perfect shape and material, you can start using your Gua Sha tool every day or at least two to three times a week. To prevent any rashes or irritation when doing a Gua Sha massage, make sure to always use a facial oil first.
After using your Gua Sha tool, be sure to clean it with soap and warm water.
Facial Gua Sha: A Step-by-Step Guide
Always begin with your neck to release tension and assist with lymph drainage. Repeat each step three to five times. For a more detailed look at this technique, you can check out this video.
- Hold the skin at the base of your neck with your hand that isn’t holding the tool. Using the divot in your tool, use upward strokes, and glide up the cervical spine (the middle of your neck) from the base of your neck to the base of the skull and give it a wiggle.
- Turn your Gua Sha tool to use the long flat edg. Gently glide down the side of your neck next to your shoulder. Hold your skin taut a few inches down from where you are gliding the Gua Sha.
- Repeat on the other side of your neck.
- Using the divot on your tool, glide up from the center of your collarbone to your chin. Use feather-light pressure.
- Choose the side of your face you would like to work on first. Use the divot of the tool to go from the middle of your chin towards the ear along the jawline.
- Use the long side of your Gua Sha and hook the tool under the cheekbone drawing out and up towards the ear.
- Using light pressure, slowly sweep from the side of your nose, under the eye, out towards the temple
- Next, using lighter pressure, going along the brow bone, use the long side of the tool to sweep from the center of the forehead to the temples.
- Starting at the space between the eyebrows, stroke up to your hairline. Move over to the right eyebrow and repeat.
- Finally, you can scrape from the center of your forehead towards the earlobe and down to your collarbone using a downward motion to help flush your lymphatic system.
The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil Is Perfect For Gua Sha
The golden rule of Gua Sha is to always apply facial oil before using your stone. You need enough slip so that the tool can easily glide across the contours of your face — without it, you can pull or tug at your delicate skin.
The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil is a high-vibrational facial oil that will compliment your Gua Sha routine perfectly. This exceptional formula is a powerful skin treatment fusing clean plant nutrients rich in antioxidant, adaptogenic, rejuvenating, and moisturizing properties.
Just a few drops incorporated into your own Gua Sha ritual can help visibly recharge skin to appear calm and balanced, radiating with a gorgeous natural glow.
You can shop the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil here.