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Expert tips for using the ancient Chinese practice to help with common beauty concerns.
Gua Sha, the ancient Chinese skincare practice, can help with common issues like forehead lines, puffy eyes, and TMJ. / Photograph by Adeline Koh.
If you’ve scrolled TikTok recently, you’ve probably seen a ton of folks rubbing their faces with funky-shaped stones. And if you’ve subsequently wondered what the heck they’re doing, well, they’re giving their skin ultimate TLC through Gua Sha.
Gua Sha (刮痧) is a centuries-old Chinese practice that refers to a type of scraping using the flat edge of the tool. In traditional Chinese medicine, performing Gua Sha can help release stagnant energy, improve circulation and boost overall health.
To help you get started with Gua Sha and make sure you’re doing it correctly, find a how-to guide below so you can start incorporating the ancient practice into your at-home skincare routine.
To start, you only need a few simple tools:
Now that you’ve gotten your tools ready, you’re ready to start the Gua Sha practice! Starting with cleansed skin, dispense a pea-sized amount of cleansing oil into your palms and then massage all over your face, neck and décolletage.
To work on the facial issues you want to treat, pick and choose which moves below you’ll perform with your Gua Sha tool. Practice each move about three to five times in a single session. A session can last anywhere from five minutes to 45 minutes depending on your speed and style. If you’re a beginner, start with a 10-minute session four to five times per week. You should be able to see a difference in terms of decreased puffiness and a sculpted appearance almost immediately.
One of the biggest things to remember when starting out is to be very gentle with the Gua Sha tool on your face, and use less pressure than you might think you need. (Lighter is safer, and goes a long way!)
Below, tips (and videos!) on how to perform Gua Sha to help with forehead lines, under-eye bags, puffy eyes, and TMJ.
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Forehead 11 lines are caused by repeatedly moving your muscles to create the same facial expression, which, over time, results in decreased elasticity and collagen.
To help improve forehead 11 lines, use the edge of your Gua Sha tool to slowly work on the edges of the lines until the adhesions start breaking up. Then, move your tool upward toward your scalp to drain any toxins and fluids released by the first step.
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In Chinese medicine, puffiness indicates stagnant energy — as in, energy has gotten “stuck” in your system, resulting in excessive bloating in certain areas. (Many people often see this manifest under their eyes.) You can drain this stuck energy through Gua Sha.
Lightly and gently scrape over your puffy under-eye area, directing the fluid towards your lymph nodes. Glide the tool over your eyebrows to work out tension there, and then drain all the fluid with an upward movement towards your scalp.
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Gua Sha can be effectively used to treat more than cosmetic issues, including TMJ pain (tension in your mouth and jaw). Working on it this way can also offer neck and shoulder relief — double win!
Holding your Gua Sha tool at a 60-degree angle to your skin, glide upward from your chin to your ear. Wiggle at the side of your ear where you feel tension. You can also use the edge of your tool to work out the tension in your masseter muscle (the chewing muscle) more deeply. Finish with a lymphatic drainage movement to clear excess fluids and toxins.
Adeline Koh, Ph.D. is a former English professor and founder and owner of Sabbatical Beauty, a small batch Asian beauty brand that she created in 2016 while on academic sabbatical. Sabbatical Beauty focuses on botanical-forward, highly effective natural formulations, feminist and social justice principles, and empowering people of all shades to love the skin they are in.
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