Gua sha is an ancient Chinese medicine technique that dates back thousands of years, and though it’s recently made its way into the mainstream beauty scene, many newfound gua sha fans probably don’t know much about the origins of the practice. To learn more about the technique, the history, and the best Gua Sha tools to use, The Zoe Report spoke with Ada Ooi, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, in-demand celebrity facialist, and founder of 001 Skincare. Ooi, who designs her own gua sha tools, advises picking one made from authentic natural materials, not resin or glass dyed with crystal patterns. Why? “It is believed that as you are massaging the natural stones/crystals onto your skin, it can absorb energy from your body and re-emit energy for therapeutic purposes. Crystals and stones in Chinese Medicine have a strong representation for absorbing life-supporting essence from the sky and the earth,” Ooi explains. Still, Ooi says that you should choose a tool that suits your preferences in terms of the color, pattern, touch, weight, or temperature, to name just a few considerations — and you’ll find three great options, just ahead. But before you get to picking out a new gua sha tool, how about a quick history lesson?
The History Of Gua Sha
According to Ooi, Gua Sha, which was originally called Bian Stone Therapy, dates back to the Stone Age. Archeologists have found pieces of stone and matching drawings carved in China that have conveyed the belief that “Chinese inhabitants have been scraping certain parts of the body with their hands or stones” since these prehistoric times. “This is further verified by discovering a tomb from over 70,000 years ago with stones carved in tablet and needle shapes,” Ooi says, which were used medically to “treat any discomfort or diseases.”
Ooi explains that “Gradually, the term Bian was replaced as different types of stone techniques were developed,” and notes that “the Gua Sha technique was found to be the oldest technique.” Over the centuries, Gua Sha gradually developed into other techniques, such as acupuncture and cupping. “Throughout the Chinese dynasties there are many medical records of how Gua Sha treatments were administered,” Ooi says. In the Tang Dynasty, doctors used stones and the roots of the plant Xuan Ma to scrape patients’ skin, while in the Ming Dynasty, some doctors would use hot water and a linen fabric produced by Xuan Ma. Ooi says that in the Qing Dynasty, “Gua Sha was documented in more structured details from a medical perspective,” and that, during this period, copper coins or cotton and linen fabrics dipped in sesame oil were used to scrape skin. In the present day, Ooi says that studies have shown that 10 minutes of Gua Sha “can cause at least fourfold increase in microcirculation,” and is now used for purposes related to aesthetics, the musculoskeletal system, mental health, and general wellbeing.
How To Practice Gua Sha
If all of this has you further convinced about the benefits of gua sha, here’s how to practice the technique at home, according to Ooi.
- First, “Breathe with the tool: Hold your gua sha tool within your two palms on your lower abdomen. Take deep breathes and visualize breathing into the core to create a synergy with the tools while regulating your breathing.”
- Then, for the welcoming ceremony, “Hold the tool firmly in your palm, place [it] in the middle line of your chest, and start scraping outwards on your chest to the top of your shoulder, then move downwards along the middle line of your inner arm to your palm. You will be able to loosen a tight chest, and open up the heart and lungs meridian. This will calm the spirit and facilitate the transformation of oxygen into nutrients for essential bodily function. Repeat three times, then repeat on the other side.”
And here’s how to use Gua Sha for more specific benefits:
- For chin and jowls drainage: “Anchor the tool in the middle of your chin, gently scrape upwards to the front of ears, press and wiggle, then go to the back of the ears and glide downwards to the neck and end at the collar bone. Press and wiggle there. This wakes up and facilitates lymphatic drainage. Repeat three times.”
- For your cheeks: “Place the tool on the side of [your] mouth and move upwards to the front of [your] ears, and press and wiggle there. This lifts and stimulates the nervous system.”
- For masseter relief: “Bring your tool to side of your face on the masseter (chewing muscle), using medium pressure to loosen this area where it suffers from consistent pressure and tension from chewing, talking, and grinding.”
- To refine your pores: “Place your tool next to your nose and scrap outwards to refine pores and depuff skin.”
- For forehead release: “Scrape from top of eyebrows to the hairline.”
Now that you’re informed on Gua Sha 101, scroll on to shop three of the best Gua Sha tools for skin-scraping at home.
1. The Best Rose Quartz Gua Sha Tool
As Ooi pointed out, you should choose a tool made of a natural material that appeals to you on both an aesthetic and functional level. While she says that the shape you choose “depends on what you want to achieve with your massage,” she suggests starting out with a palm-sized tool, as they’re versatile enough to be used on both your face and body. If your preferred stone is rose quartz, this is the Gua Sha tool for you. It’s made of 100% rose quartz and has a scalloped edge on one side, with smooth edges on the others.
2. The Best Jade Gua Sha Tool
If you prefer jade, go with this Gua Sha tool from Asian-owned brand Mount Lai. The brand promises that they only use authentic, natural stones — not glass or other materials that have been artificially dyed. This one has smooth edges on every side, with a V-shaped curve on one side that’s ideal for scraping your jawline.
3. The Best Blue Sodalite Gua Sha Tool
This Gua Sha tool from Odacité is handmade from beautiful blue sodalite, a stone that the brand says, “Encourages harmony and restores peace and inner tranquility, releasing fears and tensions.” The brand also has a guide that explains how to use each part of the tool, which you can find here.
Ooi says it’s not mandatory to use “a slipping agent” when practicing Gua Sha, but she recommends it, because otherwise, your dry skin may limit your movements. She suggests starting out with a face oil or oil-based serum, though notes that “moving on, you can experiment with moisturizer or serum.”
Though you could use your Gua Sha tool with any face oil of your preference, this virgin olive oil from DHC is a foolproof choose. Certified organic and rich in antioxidants, it leaves behind a gorgeous glow without feeling overly greasy. Just be sure to use a tiny amount, as a little goes a long way.
Ada Oi, a London-based facialist, TCM practitioner, and skin/wellness expert.