What is Gua Sha?

Written by Michelle Rostamian — July 26, 2020

What is Gua Sha?

Between soap brows and facial yoga, we’ve seen our fair share of viral beauty trends. But the latest buzzy skincare tool to have caught the attention of Instagrammers and skincare pros alike is actually a centuries-old Chinese practice that us beauty buffs are just catching wind of. Enter the Gua Sha tool: a flat, smooth, and undeniably eye-catching gemstone that poses a slew of skin-loving benefits when massaged onto the skin. If you’re struggling with skin that’s lost its elasticity (and is equal parts puffy and dull), you may have found the answer to your skincare woes in a Gua Sha massage. It’s the facial tool without the fluff—no batteries or trips to the facialist required. Just a few minutes, a couple of times a week (and clean hands, of course) is all that’s needed to reap the benefits. We’re diving deep into the world of Gua Sha below. To learn all about the beauty benefits of this powerful healing tool—plus how to use it on yourself—keep scrolling.


The Origins of Gua Sha

Social media attention aside, Gua Sha stones have an impressive track record of being an effective facial treatment that dates back thousands of years. While the Instagram-worthy stones we know today are lauded as a way to massage the skin, help with lymphatic drainage, and soften fine lines, the Gua Sha tool was actually an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine to alleviate pain thousands of years ago. The term Gua Sha, which refers to “scraping” or “coining,” comes from the idea that the tool quite literally “scrapes off” chronic pain and the illnesses associated with it. The practice has also been touted among practitioners for restoring energy and offering balance. Now, in the United States, it's become an increasingly popular massage technique that even rivals Botox. Fun fact: for many Chinese generations, Gua Sha is an umbrella term that refers to any household tool that’s able to scrape the skin (think: coins, tin lids, and even knuckles).


How to Use a Gua Sha Stone

As with most beauty tools, it’s important to use them properly to avoid doing more harm than good. Because Gua Sha stones are meant to scrape the surface of the skin, you should be mindful of your technique during the facial massage. The main thing to keep in mind when using a Gua Sha stone? Maintaining a light touch. As for the stone itself, it features curves, points, and rounded edges—this is so that it’s able to fit each curvature of the face. To begin, the skin will need to have some sort of slip, so apply a light layer of serum pre-massaging. Then, use an upward, outward motion to glide the tool across the skin, starting at the neck and moving up toward the jawline and mouth area. Move your way up to the cheeks, under eyes, eyebrows, and forehead, always ensuring the Gua Sha stone is flat against the skin. As the grand finale, complete the massage by working down the neck to help drain out built-up toxins.


Different Gua Sha facial massage stones in rose quartz and green jade


Benefits of Gua Sha Massages

A Gua Sha massage is brimming with skincare benefits. Our top five, below.


1. Helps with lymphatic drainage

One of the biggest benefits of using a Gua Sha tool is that it helps flush out lymph fluid. Sound foreign? Let’s back up. A little lesson in body function: unlike our cardiovascular system (which relies on the heart to pump blood), our lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump. Instead, it relies on our facial movements (aka massaging) to circulate the fluid and act as a stand-in pump. This means that whether you’ve consumed a little too much salt or struggle with allergies, stimulating blood flow can help “drain out” puff-inducing waste that’s hidden underneath the skin. The result? Skin that looks radiant, fresh, and most of all, less puffy.


2. Smooths out fine lines

While your wrinkles won’t disappear overnight (we’ll let you know when we find a permanent solution for that), Gua Sha diehards have boasted about the practice’s ability to iron out fine lines, wrinkles, and saggy skin over time and with consistent practice. Plus, because proper use of a Gua Sha requires friction, skin is reaping all of the nourishing benefits of a serum in addition to the beauty benefits of the massage itself.

To reap next-level Gua Sha results, add in SiO Beauty’s Cryo System, which consists of a pro-level cold therapy massage tool and a skin-boosting serum. On its own, the tool/serum duo helps to even out the skin tone, minimize redness, and reduce the look of enlarged pores and puffiness. But by using it with Gua Sha massage techniques, skin is left looking the best it can possibly be—that is, hydrated, lifted, and able to absorb other skincare products effectively thanks to the Cryodrop’s diamagnetic technology.



3. Reduces inflammation

Struggle with breakouts, whiteheads, and inflammation? You’ve come to the right corner of beauty tools. While initial Gua Sha massaging can cause a breakout or two (don’t fret, this is normal), the stone can help prevent breakouts from rearing their head (as well as any dark spots they often leave behind as a parting gift). After the skin goes through its detoxification process from the Gua Sha—that is, getting worse before it gets better—you’ll notice a clearer, more even-toned complexion. PSA: most experts agree to avoid massaging inflamed areas of the skin, as this can cause further irritation and have adverse side effects.


4. Reduces tension

Our backs aren’t the only places holding tension. Turns out certain areas above the shoulders are prone to stress, too (namely the jaw, face, and neck). Stimulating circulation with a Gua Sha tool can alleviate pain associated with migraines and neck knots. At this point, you may be wondering how Gua Sha differs from a jade roller. While jade rollers, like Gua Sha stones, help with muscle relaxation and lymphatic drainage, a Gua Sha tool features various contours and are meant to be used with heavier pressure to evoke more of a massage than a quick roll-over (think of it like a Swedish massage versus a rubdown). Best part? Especially true if you adopt this practice regularly, you’ll notice you’ll be more inclined to relax your facial muscles during natural settings—yep, that means no more raised eyebrows while blow-drying your hair.


5. Alleviates stress

We all know what a good self-care routine can do for our wellbeing (just think how good you feel post-face masks). A Gua Sha facial tool can be a restorative practice for many, as it offers some serious stress relief after a particularly long day. East Asian medicine tells us that a balanced chi or qi (aka the energy that flows throughout the body) is the key to overall health. With that, they believe that scraping the skin and rubbing off lifeless energy helps with healing, flow, and the reduction of inflammation. And, depending on what experience you’re trying to evoke, you have options when it comes to your Gua Sha tool’s material. Jade, the most common material, has ultra-balancing benefits while rose quartz is more calming and said to be able to widen the heart chakra. Then there’s green aventurine, which is meant to evoke happiness, and bian stone, a heavier material that offers maximum stress relief.



For those new to using a Gua Sha stone, it can look intimidating and rather, shall we say, aggressive. And while the technique of using any massage tool has a bit of a learning curve, if done properly (and consistently) the beauty benefits are aplenty. If certain topical treatments or over-the-counter products aren’t cutting it, incorporating a DIY Gua Sha massage into your routine may work wonders.

Gua sha