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This Easy At-Home Gua Sha Facial Gets Your Skin Glowing + Relieves a Headache Fast

And the affordable tools to use to reap the rewards

Gua sha, or the art of massaging your skin with a scraping motion using a specialized tool, has been used for centuries to help improve complexions around the world. And if you aren’t already incorporating it into your skincare routine, you may want to start — especially if you’re dealing with sagging skin or dullness. From addressing puffiness to increasing circulation to helping to alleviate the pressure of sinus headaches, the practice has a lot to offer. Read on to learn more about how to use gua sha tools for a relaxing, de-puffing massage.

What is gua sha?

Overshot of gua sha next to bottle of face oil

Done with a tool made of stainless steel, ceramic or crystal material like jade or quartz, gua sha is a particular type of massage done for the face and body. “The literal ‘gua sha’ Mandarin translation is “to scrape sand.’” explains Lin Chen, founder of ritual-based skincare line Pink Moon. “Gua sha tools have been used as a unique approach for holistic healing in China for 4,000 years. It has been traditionally used over the body to help aid in the movement of Qi, which is energy flow, to increase circulation and release tension.” And Nichelle Temple, founder of NYC’s Inderma Studio, adds that this energy is considered healing to the skin, myofascial and muscles, and the movement of it can enhance if you select a crystal tool.  

Related: The Key to a Smoother, Firmer, More Radiant Complexion for Pennies: A Face Massage

What are the benefits of doing gua sha?

What it’s best known for is helping to lift and de-puff skin, but it actually does so much more. “While its popularity in the U.S. and Europe is largely tied to its ability to sculpt the face, its healing capabilities extend far deeper!” insists Chen. “Gua sha is excellent for lymphatic drainage, addressing stagnant energy, promoting blood flow, soothing headaches, reducing inflammation, shortening acute illnesses like colds and flus and releasing tension from head to toe.”

Jamie Bacharach, a licensed Chinese Medicine Practitioner and medical acupuncturist at the Acupuncture Jerusalem Clinic, adds that you may see an improvement in the texture of your skin. That’s because “typically, the target areas where gua sha is being performed will see more nutrients and oxygen being delivered due to the increase in blood flow, and this promotes faster recovery.” Plus, this technique helps skin care work more effectively by prepping the skin for better absorption.  

How to DIY a gua sha massage

Chen’s general guidelines for a great gua sha session:

  1. Cleanse skin, as you always want to start with a clean face.
  2. Prep your skin with something emollient like a face oil or a balm. “You want to apply an oil that’s silky and doesn’t absorb right away or you might tug your skin,” explains Chen.
  3. Keep the stone as flat and close to the skin as possible. “Use a 15º angle so you don’t create unnecessary friction or tug your skin,” she says.
  4. Always use slow — and gentle — strokes on neck and face.
  5. If you have an active acne breakout, skip your face and just do the massage on the chest and neck. “This will help to increase circulation and decrease inflammation,” she notes.

For targeted massage techniques to use the tool on different areas of the face, keep scrolling.

How to use gua sha to chisel the jawline

Mature woman doing gua sha massage with gua sha tool in mirror

Holding the tool against your skin, gently scrape along your jawline, moving from the center out toward your ears. Then, Bacharach says, “place the notched edge of your gua sha tool under your chin and glide it along the jawline toward your ear — imagine that you’re sculpting along your jawline.” Do this on both sides of your face and finish by gently scraping along your neck toward the collarbone. 

How to use it to firm a crepey neck

Start with long strokes up from the collarbone and upward toward your chin, says Temple. Work the sides of your neck by starting in the center, then work the tool outward from there. “Don’t forget about the back of your neck,” she says. Do so by starting “at the bottom and work upwards towards the base of your skull.”

Related: Dermatologists Weigh In On the #1 Beauty Blindspot for Women: A Crepey Neck

How to use gua sha to lift droopy cheeks

Mature woman using gua sha on face

Holding the stone at a shallow angle, move slow and steady and use medium to light pressure. “Start at the center of the face and glide outward to hairline,” says Temple. She recommends giving the tool a “little jiggle” at the hairline periodically and swiping all that down towards the collarbone to finish.” 

How to use it to diminish undereye bags

“Undereye skin is quite sensitive so please be gentle,” cautions Temple. Hold your inner undereye taut near your nose with your middle finger. Starting at that nose area, swipe the tool out under your eye and all the way up to temple. Repeat three times. “Now move that middle finger to directly under your pupil at middle of your eye. Use the same swipe out to temple, slow and featherlight,” she says. Then, press down with the middle finger at the outer eye area and do three more swipes to the temple. “Add a final flush of the eye area with your jiggle move down to the temple.”

How to use gua sha for sinus relief

“Apply a small amount of oil around the sinus area, [then] start in the center of your forehead, and work your gua sha tool down and outward toward your temples,” says Temple. Move downward on your nose and push outward toward your ears. Repeat for several strokes. Continue to do this down the sides of your nose and out toward your ear lobes. Finish off by scraping outward along the jawline.

How to use it to alleviate headaches

Hold the skin of the forehead  taut with one hand, and use the other to hold the tool applying light-medium pressure. Drag the tool along skin at the eyebrow and lift up with the stone ending at the hairline, says Temple. Repeat five times. Next, slide the tool to the middle of brow and again swipe up to the hairline and repeat. Then, hold skin taut at the middle of the forehead and repeatedly swipe out towards temple. Temple says to finish by giving “your face a little jiggle-jiggle to stimulate the lymph nodes lining the face, and gently swipe all the way down to [the] collarbone.” 

To see and in-depth gua sha facial routine, watch the below tutorial from @TinaEngeo on YouTube.

When to perform a gua sha massage 

“Do it daily, both a.m. and p.m., or just once a day,” says Chen. She adds, “diving yourself a gua sha facial is an easy way to take time to love your skin and to relax. It takes just five minutes of your day.” She recommends a morning session to reduce puffiness in the cheeks and undereye area, and a night session to promote relaxation for more restful sleep.  

The best gua sha tools

If you’re ready to reap the rewards of gua sha, read on to see our favorite tools to try.

Best gua sha tool for beginners

Pink Moon Rose Quartz Gua Sha Facial Tool
Pink Moon

Pink Moon Rose Quartz Gua Sha Facial Tool (Buy from Pink Moon, $38)

You don’t have to be a beginner to love Chen’s gua sha tool, but it’s so user-friendly that it’s especially good for anyone just starting out. Featuring natural rose quartz and a cute heart shape, this gua sha tool comes with an easy-to-follow instruction card. And the included pink velvet pouch makes it easy to stash in your bag on-the-go. 

Most versatile gua sha tool

Hana Emi Gua Sha Facial Set
Hana Emi/Amazon

Hana Emi Gua Sha Facial Set (Buy from Amazon, $26.99)

Made of bianstone, “this set is versatile, with four different stones and sizes that give you different massages and sensations,” says Bacharach. This allows you to tailor your massage. What’s more, she says, the ergonomic designs allows you to hold it easily and it’s great for use on the face and body.

Best gua sha comb

Geiserailie Jade Combs

Geiserailie Jade Combs (Buy from Amazon, $9.99)

 “I like to have a good gua sha comb on hand and this jade comb from Geiserailie is a great option,” says Bacharach. “A gua sha comb has multiple edges, which provides options when massaging the face.” Plus, it can also be used on the scalp to encourage blood flow! And at two pieces for under $10, it’s a steal!

Best multi-tasking gua sha tool

THERATEMS Natural Gua Sha Tool 

THERATEMS Natural Gua Sha Tool (Buy from Amazon, $39.99)

This single tool has eight different massage capabilities, explains Bacharach. “Each section is designed to specifically target certain areas on your face for much better results.”

Best gua sha tool for acne-prone skin

Sacheu Stainless Steel Non-Porous Gua Sha

Sacheu Stainless Steel Non-Porous Gua Sha (Buy from Ulta, $32)

Temple calls this “a nice starter tool.” Made of non-porous stainless steel, this option is anti-bacterial, so it’s particularly good if you are prone to breakouts. Best of all, the stainless steel is super durable and feels cooling against skin.

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