With technology today, beauty gadgets promising sculpted cheekbones and reduced fine lines run the gamut from your high-tech toning devices to ice globes for your face to at-home light therapy. Every time you blink, the beauty industry is constantly churning out something new and improved. But there's one tool that dates back centuries and still remains a classic today: the gua sha tool. The stone does much more beyond just adding a pretty element to your skincare lineup.
What does the historic beauty practice entail? "It's a facial using the methods and theory of gua sha — scraping the skin with a smooth object like a coin until redness is observed," Dr. Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, M.D, a board certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, tells TZR. The derm says it's also known as "coining," as a smooth coin can be used to stroke the skin with redness as an endpoint.
You've probably seen the stone aimlessly browsing through websites like Sephora and Credo, but it isn't new by any means. Gua sha dates back all the way to the Paleolithic Age. "The procedure is rooted in Eastern medicine to treat problems related to pain, inflammation and issues related to blood stasis," Dr. Bae says.
Dr. Amanda Doyle, a dermatologist M.D., FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Russak Dermatology in New York, says people used to rely on spoons and other kitchen appliances that are smooth to do the actual treatment itself. Today, many forms of the gua sha facial are available. "Some of them have combs, others are more flat or rounded," Nichelle Temple, an esthetician and founder of Inderma Studio (which performs gua sha facials) in New York, tells TZR. She says the comb shapes kind of work like acupuncture as far as hitting all those points, without bruising the face. And if you believe in the power of a crystal, you can search them out that way. "Jade is for prosperity and good look, and rose quartz would be for welcoming and self-love," she notes.
"Gua sha facial helps to promote lymphatic drainage," Temple notes. "It works to instantly reduce wrinkles and fine lines, and lift the eyelids, neck, and chin." Plus, she sees a huge difference in under-eye puffiness. And Dr. Bae says the immediate noticeable effects of using a gua sha tool are some swelling with all the skin manipulation, which could be interpreted as lifting, smoothing, and tightening. "Furthermore, any tension in the facial muscles used for expression may be relieved; therefore relaxing some of these points of tension, which may theoretically and temporarily improve the appearance of any furrows or contracted muscles," she says. But, Dr. Bae notes that there is currently no clinical trial data to support any claims. However, studies do show that it in fact improves the microcirculation in the area treated.
You can use a gua sha tool on both your face and body. However, Temple advises leaving the body to the pros, as bruising can occur. For the face, the esthetician says to start from the neck. "You really want to help to open up those channels along the spine. From there, work your way around the side of the neck and across the décolletage, and then you can start with your upward motions moving throughout the face," Temple explains. For best results, use the tool in upward motions, not downwards. She says you always want to do one side at a time, periodically swiping the tool down alongside the neck to help with the draining motions. "That's something I think is missed quite a bit, people will just show techniques on the face. Which is fine, but you can really see a 60% enhancement just from doing the neck and décolletage properly on the face."
For the jaw, swipe the tool upwards following the angle of your muscle all the way back to until your ear, and then give yourself a massage by wiggling the tool back and forth. When using the tool on your cheek, use the flat edge to pull the tool outward toward your ear while slightly angling it upward. Again, once you reach your ear, massage it by wiggling. And for the forehead, swipe the tool upwards until you reach your hairline, and then massage. Repeat all the different motions at least five times.
The more you use the tool, the more lifting you'll see, according to Temple. "Someone could go three to five times a week," she says. "It really only takes five minutes." For beginners, she recommends starting with every other day and working yourself up.
Gua sha is a universal tool as it works on all skin types, with the exception of sensitive, acne-prone skin. "I would caution those with sensitive skin as the procedure involves scraping the skin with a blunt object which may cause bruising, redness, and potentially post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and erythema," Dr. Bae says. If you do have an active blemish, Temple says to make sure you don't go over it as it'll spread the bacteria. However, you can go around the surrounding area to help clear the face out.
It's important to do the practice in the morning versus at night. "I'd recommend doing it in the morning because when we sleep at night and we’re completely flat, the blood flow evens out and extra fluid tends to accumulate on our faces and under our eyes," Dr. Doyle notes. She says in the morning when extra fluid is most built up, a gua sha tool can provide manual assistance to drain the build up in the areas. Temple agrees that morning (or afternoon) practice is much better than doing it before bed. "It's really important to drink a lot of water or tea, you just want to help the body flush out the lymphatic system."
Temple recommends a gua sha facial after your skincare routine. "You don't want the stone sliding all over the face, but you need a little bit of slick to do the movements," the esthetician explains. "I like it with oil in that stage of the skincare routine, which is usually at the end."
Ready to experience the magic of a gua sha facial? If you don't own the tool, see seven options to shop from, below.
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