Exploring gua sha: Tradition, tools, truths in skincare

TOOLS. Smooth-edged gua sha tools are utilized to delicately scrape the skin across the neck, jawline, cheeks and forehead.
TOOLS. Smooth-edged gua sha tools are utilized to delicately scrape the skin across the neck, jawline, cheeks and forehead.

Over the years, the beauty industry has taught many methods to take skincare to the next level. Although confusing at times, skincare is not something one learns without proper research and consultation with professionals. However, the internet is free and has introduced many tools, such as face rollers, that are said to improve blood circulation and, hence, result in a better face contour.

EFFECT. Gua sha tools gently glide along the face, employing upward strokes for a soothing effect.
EFFECT. Gua sha tools gently glide along the face, employing upward strokes for a soothing effect.

If this rings a bell already, one might have heard of gua sha.

Gua sha is an ancient healing practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, where the skin is scraped with a smooth-edged tool to encourage blood circulation and facilitate the body’s natural healing processes.

The term “gua sha” originates from two Chinese words: “gua,” signifying scraping or rubbing, and “sha,” known as “Petechiae” indicating the characteristic red, raised rash that emerges on the skin post-scraping. Employed for centuries in Chinese medicine, gua sha is a holistic approach aimed at addressing a range of health concerns.

ALTERNATIVE. Gua sha serves as an alternative therapy aimed at enhancing circulation.
ALTERNATIVE. Gua sha serves as an alternative therapy aimed at enhancing circulation.

Basics of gua sha

“It is a traditional Chinese practice where you use a coin or other metal object to scrape against the skin with the purpose of really increasing the circulation to the muscles, and there is good data to support that this is effective. You increase microcirculation fourfold compared to a sham procedure and the downside effects of this is that it can decrease myalgias, which are like muscle soreness,” said Dr. Abby Waldman, Yale trained, Harvard board certified Dermatologist in Boston, MA in a TikTok post.

They often endure the challenges of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders and tension headaches, and are considering the potential benefits of techniques like gua sha. Dr. Waldman has mentioned that while there may be advantages, individuals should be aware of the likelihood of noticeable bruising, especially linear bruising on the face.

Typically, gua sha is applied to various areas of the body, including the back, neck, arms and legs which really results in light to noticeable bruising. Interestingly, a milder adaptation of the technique as a facial treatment as mentioned above is gaining popularity on the internet.

Among the favored instruments for gua sha are jade rollers or small, flat pebbles crafted from materials like obsidian, rose quartz or wood. The key is ensuring a smooth edge to prevent skin damage during use. Importantly, these tools are not one-size-fits-all; they are designed to adapt to different parts of the body for effective and safe application.


Nate Javier, a Filipino content creator, has shared insights she gained from a professional regarding gua sha techniques. According to her, the flat side of the tool is recommended for use on the face and neck, while the round side is suitable for the forehead, and the round tip is designed for the delicate eye area.

Utilizing the smaller tip for gua sha maneuvering, she suggests hooking the index finger for a controlled grip. Applying a light moisturizer beforehand helps prevent friction, and it’s advised not to exert excessive pressure. Starting from the neck, the technique involves strokes into the jaw, moving out and up towards the jaw and hairline. The appearance of some redness, known as “sha,” is expected, indicating the desired draining of fluids to reduce swelling.

Certainly, it’s important to cleanse both hands and the gua sha tool before starting the routine. Apply your chosen oil and consistently use the flat side, beginning with a gentle massage. To achieve optimal results, experts suggest incorporating gua sha into one’s routine three to four times a week.


According to dermatologist Toral Vaidya through a TikTok post, there are studies showing that gua sha can be beneficial for the skin. In particular, gua sha has been found to improve microcirculation in the skin. This refers to blood flow in the teeny tiny vessels in our skin called the capillaries. Gua sha has also been shown to improve inflammation and relieve pain.

In the same app, dermatologist Dr. Bea Chan, said that it promotes better lymphatic drainage which means reduces puffiness in the face. Next it also reduces tension on facial muscles. She also said that it promotes better absorption of serums or moisturizers.

Some people who also do the practice feel that beyond the physical benefits they get, it also offers a relaxing way to free up mental stress as they do the strokes.

“To date there isn’t any concrete data that shows gua sha produces collagen or it tightens facial muscles. However by improving microcirculation and improving lymphatic drainage this may be why the face can look slightly more sculpted after gua sha. It’s important to know that the effects of gua sha are temporary so you need to keep practicing this technique to see the benefits,” said Vaidya.

The internet has a tendency to blow up things out of its proportions, and gua sha is one such method that has garnered attention for its long-standing use and perceived benefits over centuries. However, it’s essential to note that not all claims associated with gua sha have been substantiated by medical practitioners. Some assertions, such as its effectiveness in facial contouring, lifting, and reducing double chins, have been debunked by medical professionals.

“You probably don’t want to hear this but gua sha does not produce permanent effects. I personally use gua sha and it’s an ancient Chinese treatment which helps to stimulate circulation, it helps to temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines, it helps temporarily shape your facial muscles and it also helps to relieve tension in your face. However, if you are expecting it to give a true lift of the jawline or lift your eyebrow permanently, that is not going to happen,” Dr. Catherine Chang, board-certified plastic surgeon.

While gua sha may offer certain benefits, it’s crucial to approach its potential effects with a balanced perspective and rely on evidence-based information when evaluating its claims. And this is the best thing about skin care because ultimately, this continual process of discovery and understanding contributes to the enjoyment of skincare, allowing individuals to tailor their routines based on a combination of scientific insights and personal experiences.


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