Tools & Treatments
Why We’re Totally Obsessed with Gua Sha
By Janell Hickman
How It Works
It’s magic! Just kidding. Actually, Gua Sha relies on the holistic Chinese approach that the body is interconnected. So, if you are having skin issues, your pancreas or liver function may be off. “The idea is that there are channels or meridians of energy that flow through the body. Illness is a result of a blockage of that energy,” explains Heyday Skincare Educator, Jeni Montoya.
Translated, “gua” means press or stroke, and “sha” refers to a rash or redness. This is because traditional Chinese therapists work hard and deep, often leaving skin bright red. For beauty benefits, you need a lighter touch on the face to help drain your lymph nodes.
Having a stagnant lymphatic drainage system can leave your face looking puffy or round, instead of firm and taut. It can also lead to pore congestion, breakouts, or simply dull, lackluster skin. Gua Sha also helps train your facial muscles—just like you’d work out your biceps, you want to give your skin the same oomph. Finally, the Gua Sha technique helps boost circulation, which is a vital part of skincare.
“It's actually something that a lot of people don't like to do at home as much as they should because they are scared of turning pink or red,” adds Montoya. “To most, redness is a signal that something is wrong. But in this instance, getting flushed refers to circulation, not inflammation.”
This increased blood flow helps bring in oxygen, which is key for creating new cells and giving you a more youthful, refreshed appearance. Post-treatment, you might also notice that the efficacy of your skincare products increases. According to Montoya, as blood vessels get closer to the skin they actually work to pull an ingredient further down. Consider it a little “cheat” to get your products to absorb deeper.
Lean on Gua Sha as an act of self-care. Carve out five minutes to indulge and focus on yourself without interruption.
Don’t Go Rogue
As tempting as it might be to make up your own technique, don’t. You can accidentally trap in toxins or waste, cause bruising, or cause unnecessary pain. Remember, your strokes should be firm but they shouldn’t hurt. Think of using the same pressure that you would with your hands, maybe even less to start. Videos, like our IGTV video featuring Heyday Skincare Educator, Alex Serron, can help you learn how to properly execute the technique without worry.
Remember, you always need some type of a lubricant, typically an oil or moisturizer to allow the Gua Sha tool to effortlessly glide across the skin. Without it, it’s possible to cause bruising, tugging, or broken capillaries.
Note: if you recently got fillers or botox, you should wait at least two weeks before practicing Gua Sha on yourself. This is because it typically takes up to 14 days for your fillers or Botox to “settle” into place. By performing Gua Sha too soon, you may cause your injection to spread beyond the intended area and minimize your results.
Acneic skin should also proceed with caution. Those with inflamed pimples at the surface (usually whiteheads) risk rupturing pustules above and beneath the surface. On the flip side, those with blackheads (and no inflammation) can benefit from Gua Sha since it can pull the congestion to the surface.
Jade Rollers & Gua Sha Tools Are Not The Same
While jade or rose quartz rollers are effective (and beautiful), unfortunately, they cannot be used to properly perform the Gua Sha technique. In short, they don’t have the ability to truly sculpt the face, carve cheekbones, lift the brows, etc. But, don’t discredit them altogether—jade rollers can reduce morning puffiness and help with deeper product penetration.
There’s a lot of hype about the benefits of different gemstones used for Gua Sha tools. You’ve probably seen options including jade, amethyst, black opal, or rose quartz. “Traditional Chinese medicine cites that certain stones represent specific things...that's where different stones come into play,” Montoya explains.
The one non-negotiable is that the Gua Sha stone you choose should be 100% smooth, so you don't run the risk of using something jagged that could harm your skin. Oh, and don’t listen to the internet about using spoons—you *know* you deserve better than that.
Must-Have Gua Sha Skincare Essentials
This At-Home Microdermabrasion Alternative
A standout for congested skin, this is an amazing skin prep before starting your Gua Sha ritual. It helps gently polish away dead skin cells, while offering other age-defying benefits including reducing fine lines, large pores, and age spots.
This Gentle Powder Exfoliant
Equally as effective (but a bit more gentle than the Ruby Crystal Microderm Exfoliator), this enzyme- and hydroxy acid-based powder tackles clogged pores by using the dual properties of both a physical and chemical exfoliant. Acne-prone skin will appreciate salicylic and lactic acids to help prevent future breakouts and brighten skin, respectively.
This Fast-Absorbing, Hydrating Serum
Dry skin will drink up this serum like a tall glass of water. We recommend using this post-treatment so your skin can truly soak up all of the hydrating Hyaluronic benefits.
This HA-Filled Daily Moisturizer
Help retain your skin’s moisture levels thanks to this plumping gel moisturizer. It works from the inside-out thanks to a blend of glycerin, pomegranate, and elderberry fruit extract. Pair it with your favorite oil for maximum benefits.
This Premier Facial Massage Oil
Montoya calls this one of her go-to products because of the nutrient-rich ingredients (think rosehip oil, pomegranate oil, and frankincense). Use this nourishing oil day or night to help reduce inflammation and encourage cell growth.
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