A Guide to Gua Sha: The Skincare Science of an Ancient Practice

01/ The Ancient History Of Gua Sha

02/ The Skincare Science Of Gua Sha

03/ How To Use Gua Sha In Your Skincare Rituals


From skincare obsessives to green beauty gurus, Gua Sha (pronounced gwah-shah) has slowly but surely become the facial massage everyone is talking about.


With its roots in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the ancient technique involves gliding specifically carved crystal stones across the surface of the skin to rebalance energy flow, release toxins and move stagnant lymphatic fluid.


Although Gua Sha stones are traditionally used to harmonise full-body health with an intense and vigorous massage, when it comes to skincare the ancient massage takes a far gentler approach. With regular massage, Gua Sha lifts and sculpts the face, slows signs of ageing, and leaves the skin positively glowing.




The Ancient History of Gua Sha


Although it has recently gained popularity in western skincare, Gua Sha has been used for generations to promote healing and wellness. In fact, the massage dates as far back as the stone age and is widely believed to be the precursor to acupuncture.


Directly translated, ‘Gua’ means to scrape and ‘Sha’ refers to the redness that appears after each stroke. In traditional Chinese medicine, the therapeutic massage would be performed on the body, using long and hard strokes intended to bring blood to the surface of the skin.


The aim of the massage is to encourage blood flow, release toxins, and encourage healing by stimulating an immune response. However, the massage is also closely related to the flow of energy, or qi, along the body’s meridian pathways. It is believed that by massaging the skin, a person’s qi can be disrupted to release internal blockages and balance the wellness of the whole body.


Gua Sha massage has stood the test of time, and although some techniques have been adapted for modern skincare rituals, its core intention to encourage flow and balance in the body remains the same to this day. 



The Skincare Science of Gua Sha


While traditional Gua Sha focuses on the body, facial Gua Sha works to release tension held in the 42 individual muscles found in the face. Like a workout for your skin, Gua Sha massage enhances the effect of your regular skincare routine by invigorating and stimulating the natural processes of the skin cells.


When used correctly, regular Gua Sha massage supports the health of the skin to:


  • Smooth fine lines

  • Increase collagen production

  • Reduce puffiness

  • Contour and lift the face

  • Reduce scars and dark circles

  • Brighten and illuminate the skin


With every Gua Sha stroke, there are 3 main processes taking place within the skin. They all work in partnership to help to achieve these results.


Lymphatic Drainage


The lymphatic system is responsible for removing toxins and waste from the body, making it a key player in our health and wellbeing. The system is made up of tiny vein-like vessels which transport lymphatic fluid towards one of the 500-600 lymph nodes distributed throughout our body. The lymphatic system actually shares many similarities with the traditional Chinese understanding of meridians and energy flow in the body.


Unlike our circulatory systems which are actively pumped by the heart, the lymphatic system is passive - meaning it can easily become sluggish or stagnant when overwhelmed with toxins. This leads to fluid retention which can show as puffiness in our faces. Luckily, much of the lymphatic system sits close to the surface of the skin, so it can be manipulated and moved with Gua Sha massage.


By stimulating the lymphatic fluid just below the skin, Gua Sha encourages the fluid towards the lymph nodes where it can be filtered to release toxins from the body. The gentle massage helps support the system to easily flow around the body, therefore reducing any stagnation which can lead to puffiness. The result is often referred to as a natural facelift, revealing sculpted, lifted, and toned features.



Alongside the effects of lymphatic drainage, every Gua Sha stroke encourages blood to rush to the surface of the skin. This is known as the ‘Sha’ part of the massage, as the tool leaves behind a flushed, warm, and red glow that should disappear after a few moments.


Dr Arya Nielsen, from Icahn School of Medicine, found that microcirculation in skin tissue increases by up to 400% after a Gua Sha facial massage. This brings with it a huge boost of nutrients that kickstart the skin cells natural healing process. 


The highly oxygenated blood that rushes to the skin during a Gua Sha massage works to increase cell metabolism and helps the skin to shed dead skin cells that can lead to clogged pores and dull skin. The result is bright, healthy skin with a natural dewy glow.


Skin Cell Regeneration


Even gentle and carefully applied Gua Sha creates a very small and controlled micro-trauma to the skin. This triggers the skin into a healing and reparative process where nutrient-rich blood rushes to the area. In turn, skin cell renewal is increased to help reduce scars, discolouration, and increase the overall health of the skin (great for dark undereye circles or acne scars).


This skin cell regeneration also plays a big role in reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Alongside releasing any tension held in our muscles that can accelerate ageing, the increased blood flow helps to fill and smooth fine lines. Over time, regular massage can also increase collagen and elastin production by detoxifying, oxygenating, and supporting skin health. The result is firm, bouncy, and youthful-looking skin.



How To Use Gua Sha in Your Skincare Rituals


When it comes to your skincare ritual, Gua Sha should be gentle, calming, and relaxing.


Before starting your Gua Sha massage, apply a non-comedogenic seed oil to the face and neck to hydrate the skin and prevent the tool from pulling. Then use a gentle pressure to make long, sweeping strokes.


We recommend always starting your massage by circling the supraclavicular nodes found at the collar bone, then making slow, downward strokes along the neck. This helps open pathways to aid with lymphatic drainage and fluid release.


As a general rule, the tool should always be held at a 45-degree angle to maximise the contact between the crystal and your skin. This makes it easier to move stagnant lymphatic fluid away from the face.


A few other things to note: 


  • Try to avoid direct contact with open wounds or active pimples


  • Clean your Gua Sha with warm soapy water between each use


  • Finish every massage with a room temperature glass of water to help the body replenish and rehydrate


Every Gua Sha is uniquely carved to hug the contours of the face, with slightly different shapes for different areas of the skin. Most tools are versatile, so depending on the result you want to achieve, you can use different techniques, glides, and strokes to target different issues. We recommend consulting the instructions for your particular tool in order to get the most out of it.


Gua Sha may be an ancient massage, but it is still just as popular today as it was thousands of years ago. Inspired by generations of skincare wisdom and science, our own rose quartz Gua Sha tools have been hand-carved to hug the contours of the face for a deeply relaxing and meditative massage that combines skincare and self-care.


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