If you’ve browed any beauty brand websites and social media accounts like TikTok and Instagram lately, chances are you’ve seen Gua sha terms and Gua sha tool tutorials pop up quite a bit.
Traditionally a vigorous ancient Chinese practice for energy flow and blood circulation (‘Gua’ means to stroke, scrape or press, and ‘Sha’ means redness), the original method involved using a smooth-edged, flat tool to scrape all over the body until the skin was red and rash-like.
The modern-day Gua sha trend, however, is a lot gentler, safer and mostly concentrated around the face, but it still comes with the same motivations and health benefits.
If you’ve always wondered if Gua sha would be right for you, read on for a beginners guide to Gua sha tool and technique dos and don’ts…
Why use a Gua sha tool?
Gua sha can be used all over the face and body, helping to alleviate pain associated with the neck and back, and reducing the symptoms of chronic conditions liver inflammation, headaches and migraines and even menopause.
The actions involved with using a Gua sha tool opens drainage channels and encourages lymphatic flow, releasing tissue tension and tightness to smooth out the targeted area and tighten the skin. It can sculpt facial muscles like the jawline and cheekbones by training them to lift and sit higher, and help produce and boost collagen to keep your skin looking young.
Over time it can soften fine lines and wrinkles, brighten a dull complexion, decrease puffiness and eye bags, diminish dark circles, improve hydration and even reduce flare-ups. It will also help the skin expel dirt, sebum and oil build up more frequently.
There are up to 10 different types of Gua sha tool, and each shape has a specific purpose:
1. Concave (aka Dolphin shaped) - ideal to use on wider areas of your body and for a deep massage. It sculps the neck, shoulder and spine and is great for bulky, thicker areas of flesh, like the glutes and thighs.
2. Double Curved (aka ‘S’ shaped) - promotes blood circulation under the eyes, cheeks and cheekbones. Also good for your hands, feet, back, neck and shoulders.
3. Cleft – small and resembles bears ears. It’s best designed for use around the jaw.
4. Comb Teeth - stimulates fine lines and wrinkles. It is used from the chin to the cheeks, temples, and forehead to target lines and wrinkles, but can also be used to massage the scalp.
5. Pointed Convex Edge (aka Wing or Fin shaped) - the dents on the bottom are good for working the brows, chin and jaw.
6. Long Bar - follows the contours of your face and body to boost circulation. It’s ideal for large areas like the back, thighs, calves and hamstrings. It’s large and robust, so you need both hands to use it.
7. Spoon – good for sculpting the face and massaging the shoulders, soles and palms.
8. Fish - great for small areas to relieve cramps in the calves and release tension in the back and shoulders. Can reduce pain in the inner and upper thighs too.
9. Crescent – very versatile but mostly suitable for use on small muscles in the arms, legs, neck and shoulders.
10. Wave - mainly for professional use. Designed to aid better grip and scrapping, with multiple sides featuring different applications.
Precious and Mythical Materials
Although it can come in plastic, wood or stainless-steel varieties, the most common and popular types of Gua sha tools are made from gem stones. Not only do they look beautiful, they each come with their own physically and emotionally soothing properties and powers.
Amethyst is believed to ward off negative energy and stress as it emits negative ions. It can help release muscular tension in the jaw and temples and is the best option for shrinking pores and preventing bacteria, making it perfect for acne-prone skin.
Bian Stone is an ancient tool that played an important role in Chinese medicine. Legend has it that when a rogue meteor struck the side of a mountain, the explosion created a special combination of stone and minerals with healing powers. When used on the body, it’s said to emit an ultrasound frequency that helps improve blood circulation, balance energy and have an anti-ageing effect.
(Our Bian Stone Gua sha tool is in the shop now!)
Black Obsidian contains the most potent energies, being created out of volcanic lava. It’s responsible for repairing and strengthening muscle tissue, aids in increasing the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin C & D, and leaves the skin feeling rejuvenated. In Feng Shui, it is thought to clear obstacles and negative thoughts.
Clear Quartz, although not commonly used in Gua sha, is dubbed the 'master healer'. It’s known to attract positive energy and soothe and tone all skin types, including sensitive skin. It’s more popular cousin, Rose Quartz, is considered an 'emotional healer' and the stone of compassion and all things love-related. It’s touted as being the best Gua sha tool for detoxing, lifting and softening fine lines and wrinkles, as well as draining toxins.
Jade is the stone of “eternal youth” and is used a lot in Gua sha to reduce puffiness and fluid retention and encouraging the facial muscles to firm and lift over time. It’s also associated with protecting against negative energy, anxiety, fatigue and physical pain.
A general tip – if you’re after an ultra-cooling and soothing effect on the skin, no matter what it’s made of, keep your Gua sha tool in the fridge between use!
How to use a Gua sha tool
Before you start a Gua sha session, you need to wash and dry your hands and face thoroughly and prep your skin. Use something that has a light slip to ensure the stone doesn't grip as its glides. We recommend our Renew Nutrient Oil or Beauty Balm.
Next, make sure you’re holding the tool firmly and in the right way (the curved part should hug the curves of your skin and the flat part should rest on your skin). Always hold your Gua sha tool at a 45° angle, and remember - downward strokes to relief tension, upward strokes to lift and sculpt!
Then, it takes just 6 steps to give your face, neck and décolletage a full lymphatic treatment and toning ritual. Remember light pressure is key for lymphatic results.
Apply a light oil for some glide and perhaps place a towel over sink for a soft landing should tool slip from fingers.
Step 1: Using the longest side of your tool, start at your collarbone and glide just underneath the bone towards armpit gently. Wiggle tool at shoulder to activate lymphatic nodes for better drainage results. Repeat motion x6-10.
Step 2: Starting at the base of your neck, just underneath ear, stroke down neck along SCM, slowly towards clavicle. This works this lymphatic line, unclogging any stagnant fluid. Repeat motion x6-10, on both sides of neck.
Step 3: Using the knuckle edge of stone, start from the centre of the chin and go in an outwards motion along the jawline with the tool facing towards your earlobe. Repeat x6, and on both sides.
Step 4: Using the longest side of your Gua sha tool, start just above the mouth and to the side of the nose and drag the tool upwards, following the contours of your cheekbones, towards your hairline. Complete movement with a wiggle motion for added tension release This will help define your cheekbones and open up the sinuses. Add a deep belly breathe to this will also assist lymphatic drainage results. Repeat x6-10, and on both sides.
Step 5: Very gently and with minimal pressure, start at your inner eye and sweep across the under-eye area ending up at your temple, wiggle at hair line for added tension release. Repeat x6-10 motion under both eyes.
Step 6: Start from the middle of your forehead and slowly glide tool toward the ends of your brows then to hairline. This assists to reduce any upper lid fluid retention while helping to life eye brow. Repeat x6-10 motion.
What not to do
As with any health and beauty treatments, it can take time to master it, and doing the wrong technique can damage your skin. To avoid overdoing it or irritation, you should Gua sha once a week to begin with, then once you get better at it, aim for 2-3 times per week or when you feel you need it.
Don’t use a Gua sha tool if you take blood thinners or have a clotting disorder, and don’t use one if you have a rash, raised blemishes, broken skin or sunburn.
Too much pressure can bruise, cut or burn the skin. Light, feather-like strokes is all it takes each time and on any part of the body to get the desired result. And never push the skin, always pull it!
If you’re still not 100% sure you’ve got the hang of it, send us a message and we’ll answer your Gua sha queries.