Countless Women Swear by Gua Sha – But What Is It?

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Photo: Courtesy of @KorayaFay

So you’ve flicked through your Instagram feed recently, come across a celebrity scraping a stone tool across her face, and asked, “What is going on?” And you’re not alone.

Although it might seem a little strange at first glance, using a tool made of stone, quartz, bone, or even – wait for it – buffalo horn to massage your skin can do wonders for your complexion, from firming and lifting to cooling, soothing, reducing muscular tension, and promoting lymphatic drainage. Bye-bye puffiness. But while this trend might seem like a new thing, it’s actually been around for centuries and hails back to ancient China. It also has a name: gua sha. But what exactly is it?

gua sha tools
Photo: Courtesy of @TheHayouMethod

“Gua sha is a traditional Chinese detoxifying treatment. ‘Gua’ means scraping, and ‘sha’ means toxin,” explains Dr. Maria Ridao Alonso, a specialist in traditional Chinese medicine and Medical Director at Dubai Herbal & Treatment Centre. “Gua sha is a detoxifying treatment based on traditional Chinese medicine. The treatment scrapes internal toxins and pushes them from the internal meridian to the external skin. This is performed with a tool, which can be a piece of jade, a buffalo horn, a spoon, or even a coin, but jade and buffalo horn is comparatively better.”

Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan – not surprise there – but so are Miranda Kerr (who actually created her own gua sha tool for her beauty line Kora Organics), Karlie Kloss, and Selena Gomez. And if it helps, Beyoncé’s makeup artist Sir John uses gua sha to prep the popstar’s skin before makeup. Case closed.


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Studies show that gua sha causes a fourfold increase in microcirculation, which is why it’s amazing for boosting collagen production, improving skin tone, combating pigmentation, and giving skin back its natural glow. Not to mention it feels wonderfully cooling and soothing, and works from the inside out by helping to eliminate toxins and relax muscles – in turn helping you relax. Try it before bedtime to help you slip into a peaceful slumber.

Alternatively, you can reach for your gua sha tool first thing in the morning to combat puffiness and swollen eyes. “When you have puffiness, it’s due to inflammation and congestion, and cold releases puffiness,” explains expert facialist Nataliya Robinson. “When you do gua sha, you’re using a stone that’s cold in nature, so incorporating cold stones and gua sha is great for reducing puffiness and aiding lymphatic drainage.”

As for her top tip for tackling puffy peepers? Place your gua sha tool of choice under your eyes and use it to gently stretch the skin as you brush down towards your ear. You can even keep it in the fridge for an extra cooling boost!


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Gua sha also couldn’t be easier to master. Simply take your chosen tool – be it rose quartz, jade, or horn – and use it to gently scrape, pull, and massage the skin in an upwards motion. This can be done on your entire face, even around the delicate eye area, and your neck and décolletage. In fact, there are no areas that gua sha doesn’t work its magic on – and you can buy larger tools for body massaging, too. You can use your cooling tool alone or to massage in your oil or cream of choice for a double threat to dull skin.

Although the benefits seem endless, gua sha – like anything else – can have its downsides. As Dr. Alonso says, “Gua sha can create distinctive red or purple bruises, known as sha [the Chinese word for toxin]. The bruises usually take a few days or a week to heal, and can be tender while healing. Otherwise, the treatment does not have any serious side effects.” Just be gentle, and you’re good to go – starting with our picks below.

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