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  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Does gua sha actually work? Everything you need to know about it

Here is what we know about gua sha, its potential benefits, and how to do it yourself.

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Curology Team
Jul 03, 2020 · 6 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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  3. > Does gua sha actually work? Everything you need to know about it

The heart-shaped stones made from rose quartz or jade are undeniably beautiful, but does gua sha really work to sculpt, smooth, and enhance your natural features? In short, the answer is complicated. 

Gua sha facials may seem like a new trend as they take over TikTok (along with dermaplaning) in North America and Europe, but the practice has been around for a long time—many practitioners of traditional East Asian medicine say since ancient times.¹ 

Even though your dermatologist probably won’t prescribe you a gua sha stone any time soon, this traditional skincare practice may have some positive effects that are yet to be well-understood by modern westernized medicine.

What is gua sha exactly?

Gua sha is a facial massage technique that involves gently scraping the skin’s surface with a smooth, edged tool or stone, like jade or rose quartz. Gua sha isn’t a new wellness trend—it has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, with its first recorded use in 1337 AD.² Cultures outside of China (like Ancient Greece) have also practiced skin scraping as a medicinal technique. Skin scraping might sound painful, but it really just refers to the strokes you use with the tool, and it’s meant to be relaxing. The benefits people attribute to gua sha range from fading fine lines to face sculpting. 

Gua sha facials have only recently caught on in the West, mostly due to viral social media videos of people sharing their results from using the massage technique.

Gua sha face massage with jade stone

What tools can be used for gua sha?

Gua sha is traditionally done using a jade or rose quartz tool, but what’s key is the facial massage. The material and the exact type of tool are up to your personal preference, whatever feels best on your skin. What really matters is that your tool is twofold: choose something that is smooth and has no chips or sharp edges that could potentially irritate or cut your skin, and keep it clean.

What are the benefits of gua sha?

We think gua sha can be a great relaxation and stress-relief technique, but we’re skeptical of the hype and lack of scientific studies to back it up as it relates to skincare. There isn’t any current medical evidence that gua sha has benefits for the skin (e.g. improving fine lines), but some research points to the potential benefits of the gua sha massage technique—not just for the face but the whole body. Here’s what we do know:

Face sculpting

Those who love their gua sha facials say they help with puffiness and inflammation while providing a face-lifting effect (again, there’s no scientific evidence to actually support this). That said, if you’ve tried everything to de-puff your under eyes, there’s no harm in trying gua sha to see if it works for you. As far as experts are concerned, gua sha is likely not an effective face-sculpting technique.

Instead, one of the best ways to deal with puffy eye bags is to make some lifestyle changes. For starters: limit your salt intake, sleep more, and get any allergies under control.

Muscle tension

For many people, doing gua sha feels good—and that’s a real benefit, even if it’s hard to quantify. Most people feel great after any type of massage, even if a doctor didn’t prescribe it. One study found that gua sha therapy promoted muscle recovery in those who routinely lifted weights.³ While not totally proven, some studies suggest that head massages help with migraines,⁴ so a post–gua sha glow might come from deep relaxation in your facial muscles. 

Blood flow

Similar to other massage techniques, gua sha is meant to help promote blood circulation to ease the soreness of your muscles.⁵

Pain relief

One of the more fascinating studies found a correlation between gua sha back massage and pain relief—but it’s not known why. According to the study, “There is an unidentified pain-relieving biomechanism associated with gua sha.”⁶

We’re looking forward to future credible studies. But until then, if you’ve got an achy back, feel free to book that gua sha massage—it can’t hurt.

How to use a gua sha tool

Gua sha is easy to try on your face at home. There’s an abundance of online tutorials showing the steps for giving yourself a gua sha facial massage if you’re a visual learner, but here are a few steps to start off your massage. Make sure your movements are in one direction, that you move smoothly, and you’re conscious of the amount of pressure you apply (be firm but don’t overdo it!).

  1. Cleanse your face. Use your favorite cleanser to remove any sweat, oil, dead skin cells, and makeup before you start.

  2. Apply face oil. Find your favorite soothing face oil, and apply it to give smooth skin for the tool to glide on easily. If you are prone to clogged pores or breakouts, we recommend avoiding coconut oil.

  3. Move the tool, starting in the center of your face out. Apply gentle pressure; if you press too hard, you could pop some blood vessels. Move from the nose to your cheekbones, then from your chin to your jawline, then on your neck in a smooth upward motion.

  4. Continue for about 10 minutes.

How to gua sha

This isn’t the only way to use gua sha; there are also techniques that are supposedly intended to help with lymphatic drainage (again, no scientific evidence supports this yet), or you might find a slightly altered routine works best for you.

Does gua sha hurt?

Gua sha should feel relaxing, so if it’s done properly, it should feel painless. Make sure you’re using facial oil to move the tool easily, and apply pressure that feels right to you. Many people love gua sha because it’s relaxing, so any pain or discomfort is a sign that you might be using too much pressure or not adding enough slip.

So, what’s the takeaway? 

Full disclosure: Curology has always been dermatologist-led, so we believe in skincare that’s backed by medical research and nothing less. That said, those who practice traditional Chinese medicine or integrative medicine may have a totally different opinion on gua sha based on their own experiences and research methods.

At the end of the day, when it comes to self-care, what you do for your body is up to you! If you love gua sha as part of your skincare routine and it helps you relax, there’s no reason to stop. The best thing to do is to draw your own conclusions based on your research. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably already doing that—kudos to you!

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FAQs

What is gua sha exactly?

Gua sha is a facial massage technique that involves gently scraping the skin’s surface with a smooth, edged tool or stone, like jade or rose quartz. The benefits people attribute to gua sha range from fading fine lines to face sculpting.

What tools can be used for gua sha?

Gua sha is traditionally done using a jade or rose quartz tool, but what’s key is the facial massage. What really matters is that your tool is twofold: choose something that is smooth and has no chips or sharp edges that could potentially irritate or cut your skin, and keep it clean.

What are the benefits of gua sha?

We think gua sha can be a great relaxation and stress-relief technique, but we’re skeptical of the hype and lack of scientific studies to back it up as it relates to skincare.

• • •

P.S. We did the research so you don’t have to:

  1. Daijie Chen, Xiuping Qian, Brief History Of Bacteria, A: The Everlasting Game Between Humans And Bacteria, gua sha and acupuncture. (2017).

  2. Daijie Chen, Xiuping Qian, Brief History Of Bacteria, A: The Everlasting Game Between Humans And Bacteria, gua sha and acupuncture. (2017).

  3. Wang Xingze, et al. Effects of Gua Sha therapy on weightlifting training: a randomized trial.  Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. (2019,  August 15).

  4. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Massage Therapy: What You Need to Know, (n.d.).

  5. Mayo Clinic, Why Gua Sha Might Be Good For You (2021).

  6. Nielsen, A., et al.,The effect of Gua Sha treatment on the microcirculation of surface tissue: a pilot study in healthy subjects. Explore, (2007).

This article was originally published on July 03, 2020, and updated on May 05, 2022.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Allison Buckley Avatar

Allison Buckley, NP-C

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