At Goldfaden MD, we’re all about safe and natural facial treatments. But here’s the thing—if we’re going to fit any new products or techniques into our beauty routines, they have to actually work. If it’s not efficacious, we’re just not interested.
We created our Needleless Line Smoothing Concentrate for exactly that reason—we wanted to see fine lines and wrinkles diminish by the time we woke up in the morning. Yes, our obsession with the Needleless Line Smoothing Concentrate is real, and we’ve been actively searching for a non-invasive treatment that works as well as our formula and is also safe for skin.
And then we stumbled across gua sha facial massage, and our complexions were changed (and lifted. And toned.) forever.
What is Gua Sha?
Gua sha (pronounce gwah-shah) is a popular therapeutic technique used in Eastern Asia to encourage blood flow and healthy chi energy, decrease muscle pain and inflammation, and treat tension in the body. Traditional gua sha is performed all over the body, much like a massage. In Eastern Medicine therapies, it’s believed that stagnant chi (or energy) is usually the root cause of chronic illness or disease.
Gua sha naturally encourages healthy blood flow to the body—which is why it’s so helpful for treating inflammation—and moves the chi throughout the meridians. Meridians are the energetic life force paths all over the body that act as a mainstay of Traditional Chinese medicine and are used as a guide for everything from acupuncture to acupressure to gua sha.
If you do a quick Google image search, you’ll be confronted with images of bright red backs, ripe with bruising and striations. Don’t be scared! It looks intense—borderline masochistic, perhaps?—but gua sha is actually wonderful for skin, muscles, and fascia. Enough pressure is applied during a full-body session to result in light bruising, which is part of the reason gua sha is so healing for soft tissues.
Much like getting a deep tissue massage, gua sha encourages movement in the lymph system to encourage detoxification and improve blood flow to muscles and tendons. As soon as the lymph fluid is stimulated through massage, the body can begin to detoxify itself. If you’re the one receiving a treatment, you’ll notice that any water retention or bloat totally vanishes after a treatment. When the lymph begins to move, it carries with it lingering toxins and extra water that’s holding on for dear life in your body. Gua sha also can help to break down scar tissue and stagnant connective tissue to improve mobility and flexibility in joints.
In recent years, facial gua sha has become incredibly popular as a beauty treatment. Anecdotally, it’s been said to improve nearly every skin condition—from hormonal acne to sagging jowls. Facial gua sha is significantly lighter in pressure than a full-body treatment, so don’t expect to see bruising or even light marks on your skin. However, you’ll likely experience instant lifting, toning, and brightening after getting a gua sha facial or trying the technique out on yourself (yep, you can totally do this one at home!).
Keep scrolling for the low down on how gua sha works, who uses it now, and exactly how to perform gua sha on yourself.
How does gua sha work?
Gua Sha Massage
The biggest difference between a massage and a gua sha treatment is the gua sha tool. Typically made of jade or rose quartz, a gua sha tool is about the size of a credit card and can be held in one hand. The tool itself has smooth edges on all sides and is about a quarter of an inch thick.
To use it, your practitioner will hold the tool at a 15-degree angle to your skin with one edge gently resting on the area to be worked on. Using long, fluid strokes, the practitioner applies pressure and drags the gua sha tool along the appropriate meridians (or muscle knots) to stimulate the chi and break up muscle tension and adhesions.
Usually, a practitioner will go over the same area a few times. You’ll notice as they begin to work through the fascia, the area around the muscle immediately begins to release and relax. It’s really important that your practitioner moves the lymph all the way through your body to the end of the meridians—you don’t want to get that nastiness stuck anywhere! And if you’re the one enjoying the treatment, remember to drink tons of water the day after your appointment—you’re going to need it.
Gua Sha Facials
Gua sha facials aren’t all that different from the massage treatment—both use the same tool and technique. But, facials require a much lighter touch because pressing too hard can damage skin. Plus, our facial muscles don’t usually have the same scar tissue or adhesions as say, your quad or calf muscles, which go through a lot more wear and tear. With the face, we’re more concerned with moving and draining the lymph fluid; stagnant lymph causes puffiness, bloating, dark circles, sallow skin, wrinkles, and pimples. And because it’s a very light massage, you might even notice that gua sha eases any tension that you might be holding in your forehead, jaw, and eyebrows. Just remember that it’s not necessary to apply heavy pressure, and in fact, if you’re pressing too hard you won’t be targeting the lymphatic material.
Lymph lives just below the skin, and is so sensitive that it won’t respond to roughness! When it moves through the body in a healthy way, our puffiness diminishes. We get our natural, youthful glow back because our bodies are naturally detoxifying themselves. And the improved circulation helps flush toxins and revitalizes the look of skin.
What to Expect After a Gua Sha Facial
After a gua sha facial, you’ll likely see instant results. Your brows and cheeks will look more lifted, and cheekbones will be more defined as excessive lymphatic fluid drains from the face. Skin will look brighter because of increased blood flow. And because you need to use a facial oil or emollient lotion whenever you gua sha, your complexion will be hydrated, too!
Where to Get a Gua Sha Facial
Gua sha treatments are typically performed by trained professionals. When it comes to full-body massage, practitioners are usually certified in the technique and also have their massage license. Estheticians and facialists also must go through a training to learn how to properly use the gua sha tool on the sensitive facial skin.
It’s safe to try giving yourself a gua sha facial treatment at home, as long as you’re not pressing too hard. If you see redness on your face, you’ve gone too far! A little goes a long way with this stuff. And trust, you don’t want bruise lines on your face—it’s not a good look.
How to Do Gua Sha at home
Gua Sha Facial Tools
To give yourself a gua sha facial you’ll need a gua sha tool, facial oil, and about five minutes of free time. We also recommend grabbing a towel, just in case! When purchasing a gua sha tool, make sure you get one that’s made of real stone like jade, rose quartz, or brian stone. Beware of super-cheap versions on Amazon—they might be made with dyed acrylic, which is bad for the planet and bad for your skin health! Also, the real things look very cute on Instagram. Really important to up your self-care ‘gram game.
- Before you get started, wash your face thoroughly. No make-up, no nothing. You want to be barefaced, babe! We recommend double-cleansing with the Pure Start Gentle Detoxing Facial cleanser to remove any dirt or grunginess from the day, and then following up with the Detox Clarifying Wash to give pores the clean sweep.
- Apply a few drops of Fleuressence Native Botanical Cell Oil to the skin. This golden elixir contains Kalahari oil, Mongongo oil, Rosehip seed oil and Baobab oil to boost skin’s natural radiance, improve tone, and fade scars. You want the gua sha tool to gently glide against the skin, so don’t be shy about using a little more oil than usual.
- Hold the gua sha tool at a 15-degree angle against skin; it should almost be flush against the face. In one fluid motion, sweep the tool from its initial starting point all the way down the next to the collarbone. Follow these pathways three to five times each:
– From the middle of the under the chin to the earlobe. Repeat on both sides.
– From the middle of the ridge of the chin (follow your jawline) to the earlobe. Repeat on both sides.
– From the lower edge of the nostril up to the middle of the ear. Repeat on both sides.
– From the inside of the eye, lightly draw the gua sha tool to the temple. Repeat on both sides.
– From the inside of the eyebrow, follow the brow bone to the temple. Repeat on both sides.
– From the middle of the forehead to the hairline. Repeat on both sides.
– From the hairline, sweep all the way down, around the back of the ears, down the sides of the neck to the collarbones. Repeat on both sides.
When you’re done, you should notice an instantaneous difference in your skin! Gua sha massage acts like a natural mini facelift—and it feels really amazing.