How to Use a Gua Sha Scraper to Level Up Your Self-Care Routine

After being in a socially-isolating pandemic for over a year, many of us are left feeling drained and mentally exhausted. 

In an attempt to undo the pandemic’s nasty psychological effects, we’re doing as much as possible to take care of ourselves—setting boundaries while working from home, spending more time with family and pets, and using valuable free time to explore new hobbies—so that we don’t completely lose our marbles. We’re looking deeper into ourselves and finding the things that actually make us feel good, within reason and moderation. (Netflix and ice cream being the two exceptions, of course.) Gua Sha may be one of those things.

Self-Care in a World of Consumerism

The examples mentioned above are all actionable things that relate to the concept of “self-care.” But what about the version of self-care we see on social media? You know, the one used superfluously in brand campaigns, listed as a benefit in product descriptions, and included as a consumer lifestyle aspiration? Frankly, it's amorphous and just vague enough to be applied to almost anything we do. And who doesn’t want to believe they’re combatting self-care simply by clicking on an influencer’s sponsored post for a jewelry brand? It’s easy and makes us feel like we’re doing something beneficial for our future selves.

Women, stressed, working in cafe

As a result of this cultural phenomenon, we took a deep dive into the art of gua sha—a facial and body massage method with historical roots in China—and its potential for meaningful self-care.

A concept as important as self-care deserves deeper introspection and more meaningful action (on our parts, too): What does it mean to take care of yourself—body and mind? What is something we can do in our day to day lives that will make us feel better (and possibly even look better)? 

The history of Gua Sha

You may have seen or heard of the gua sha tool roaming around social media and even recommended to you by friends. 

What is Gua Sha?

It’s a smooth, shiny scraper with rounded edges that, at first, looks like a shiny and oddly-shaped stone solely serving a decorative purpose. In actuality, it’s been around for centuries as a useful tool in caring for oneself. As the art of gua sha becomes more and more popular, it’s important to be mindful of its history, its cultural significance and how to properly use it as a tool for your body. This is so you also get the most out of it, too!

Is Gua Sha legit?

Absolutely. In short, the practice of gua sha was discovered in Ancient China as a type of full-body therapy and healing method. It follows the flow of meridians in the body, or the life force paths that make up qi energy. In Chinese philosophy, qi is present as the vital energy that exists in all living things. Over the years, it has been refined as practice in therapy, medicine and skincare. Today, it  is widely utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been praised by beauty practitioners around the world for its many body and mind benefits. 

Gua Sha stone being held in open hands

Benefits of Gua Sha: More than Skin Deep

While gua sha has been praised for the noticeable improvement it can make on your skin, there are several other benefits to enjoy that go beyond the surface of your skin.

Tension Relief

If you struggle with carrying lots of tension in your face and neck, gua sha might be the perfect solution to help alleviate this physical manifestation of stress. By applying deep pressure to targeted areas where you hold a lot of tension - like your jaw and forehead - you release built-up muscular tension and allow your face to relax. Like a jade roller, it’s a calming yoga practice for your face.

All-Natural Detox

The manual movements of applied pressure also stimulate the lymphatic system, which contains a liquid that carries proteins, salts, and other substances throughout the body. It’s basically a way to keep the “motion of the ocean” going so that there aren’t any build ups or blockages in any one area. The result is a less puffy face, as the liquid moves out of the face and neck.

Brighter, Clearer Complexion

Okay, maybe the glow-up potential is real here. When you start clearing the skin of toxins, you’re attacking things like blackheads and breakouts. Additionally, it stimulates blood flow and oxygen to the skin which could mean good news for getting rid of fine lines, decreasing hyperpigmentation, and improving skin elasticity. 

A “Mind” Lift

Beyond some of the incredible physical benefits of this ancient practice, there is a deeper advantage you can get from this: a mind detox. It’s common to feel more energized, concentrated, and “renewed” after performing gua sha on yourself or getting a gua sha facial. You’re doing something good for yourself and your brain knows it.

Drawing of face with lines moving away from face-center to show the direction to move gua sha stone

How to Use a Gua Sha Scraper

To get the most out of your gua sha scraper, you should know how to properly use it. Follow our step-by-step instructions for a satisfying facial, neck and shoulder massage.

    1. Apply water or oil to your skin. Apply some water or your favorite oil to wherever you plan on using your gua sha (head, neck, shoulders, etc.). We recommend something high in antioxidants like Marula Oil. Never apply to your bare skin, as that will cause unnecessary stretching and pulling. If you apply oil as a last step in your skincare routine gua sha helps lock them in.
    2. Start with your neck and shoulders and work your way up. Hold the tool flat to your neck and move in downwards motions to promote lymphatic drainage. Make your way along the sides of your neck and the back. Don’t be afraid to work your shoulders and back as well, as you’ll quickly notice the release in tension that it brings.
    3. Apply light pressure and stroke upwards along your jaw and cheeks. This is great for folks who struggle with TMJ or are chronic jaw-tensers.
    4. Press tool flat against under eyes. This will help drain fluids in your eye bags and give you a less puffy look. Because the skin is sensitive to any pulling in this area, be wary of stroking the stone under your eyes.
    5. Stroke horizontally along the forehead. Taking each side of the forehead at a time, start in the middle and stroke outwards. Bring it into your brow bone and pull downwards for an intense middle-of-the-face massage. You’ll likely be “ooh-ing” and “ah-ing” uncontrollably at this point, as the sensation is enough to make anyone reach a state of total tranquility. Additionally, this can provide great relief for chronic migraine and head pain sufferers.
    6. Enjoy the post-gua sha benefits. Feel like a new person thanks to your revitalizing self-care gua sha facial.

Self-care means something different to everyone–and in such a tense period, trying something new can be an exciting stress-reliever. We think gua sha massages are worth giving a chance, especially given the great results people have had with it. You may find yourself less tense, with a clearer and glowing complexion, and even feeling more awake. Try it out!

Keep reading: Everything You Need to Know About Jade Rolling (& What NOT to do)