Facial Gua Sha

Facial Gua Sha

Botox and fillers are as common as your daily green juice in today’s world. While it is a relatively safe and great option, especially if being preventative, we might still not know all the long term effects, and it does buy into our society's obsession with pore-less, wrinkle-less faces, and skin. While, yes it totally okay to want that, our society has become insanely preoccupied with trying to go against life’s timelines and ways, and rather, putting things into us, rather than celebrating our lives and our bodies.

Either way, it is always great to have a non-invasive, natural, multi benefiting alternative.

Enter facial Gua Sha.

Nature’s botox. There is also facial cupping, face yoga, acupuncture, and micro-current treatments, but here we focus on facial Gua Sha, with some discussion, below, on the comparison of some of these other techniques.

In conversation with celebrity, internationally known, and respected facialist, Dr. Su-man Hsu.

Dr. Su-Man Hsu, Facialist, Skin Care Specialist

Dr. Su-Man Hsu, Facialist, Skin Care Specialist

Dr. Su-Man in action

Dr. Su-Man in action

What is it?

Gua Sha in general is a treatment originating in Traditional Chinese Medicine. A tool is used to scrape the skin in long strokes with firm pressure, creating minor bruising. This is known as "petechia or sha” explains Dr. Su-man.

Traditionally, Dr Su-man says, “practitioners believe that scraping the skin release the illness from blood and chi stagnation within the problem areas (tired, sore, stiff muscles) to stimulate new oxygenated blood flow to the areas, thus promoting metabolic cell repair, healing and recovery”.

Makes sense, since just by understanding the process, the relatively knowledgable person can intuitively see that it promotes lymphatic drainage, and circulation.

“Chi is energy that flows through the body. People believe that a person's chi must be balanced and flowing freely to ensure their health and wellbeing. When the chi is blocked, one might experience pain or tension in the muscles and joints and Gua Sha aims to move this blocked energy to relieve aches or stiffness” explain Dr. Su-man.

Can anyone relate? Sore muscles, stiff and tight, with aches.

Facial Gua Sha shares the same principle, but the technique is different, with short and long strokes, and a gentler pressure level to “avoid inflammation caused blood stasis”.


In simple words, it de-puffs, contours, and opens up stiff passageways in your body, specifically face.

Dr. Su-man also confirms that facial Gua Sha helps with:

  • Brighter complexion

  • Detoxification

  • Minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Enhance blood circulation.

  • Increase metabolic system.

  • Firm and healthy-looking skin.

Photo:    Mount Lai

Photo: Mount Lai

How? Why?

Through scraping the meridian channels:

  • Ensures no blockages and obstruction of chi/ blood flow

  • Bring blood and carry oxygen to the area of the skin that has been deprived so the tissues can be nourished.

  • Scraping with different strokes on the superficial fascia level will also enhance the performance of lymph glands and vessels.

    • Lymph is drained and blood is circulated which leads to brighter, healthier and smoother complexion.

What most Gua Sha tools look like.  Photo: The Coveteur

What most Gua Sha tools look like. Photo: The Coveteur

Is there a difference between the shapes, stones, sizes?

Dr. Su-man says “there are many different Gua Sha tools in the market, and it’s very much a personal choice if you choose one made out of stone, jade, wood. As long as it’s smooth and has a round surface, you can use it for Gua Sha as it’s the technique that makes a difference not the tools. Generally speaking, you need a smaller tool for smaller areas and a bigger tool for bigger areas. I guess every practitioner has their own preference”.

How does a Facial Gua Sha compare to: 

face massagers or a hand face massage?

Dr. Su-man says: As a facialist, hands-on massage can do lots more variation because hands are much more flexible and sensitive which allows you to create different massage moves. Facial Gua Sha can go deeper to the pressure point without working too hard on it.


Face cupping, and can it be done after one another?

Cupping and Gua Sha both bring the blood to skin surface. Cupping is pull with suction technique and Gua Sha is through push with friction method. I don’t believe people should do one thing after another as it’s too damaging to the skin and not necessary.


Face rollers?

“In my opinion, face rollers are pointless and just a marketing gimmick and lazy person’s tool” share Dr. Su-man. If you do have a face roller, fear not, when used cold, or in general can help de-puff, feel relaxing and/or promote minimal amounts of circulation

If you have to choose, keep an ice-roller at home for de-puffing, especially before an event, or makeup application, and Gua Sha tools for actual benefits of contouring, and health.


The Technique

Dr. Su-man reminds us that “Facial gua sha is different than treatment Gua Sha, it has to be much gentler and executed with care, strokes can be various but tend to be shorter. It’s never a back and forth repetitive scraping, more like a push and release technique with repetition”.

“Pressure depends on each individual’s need but always use more than enough oil or cream when performing Gua Sha facial to avoid too much friction caused skin damage”.

“Like massage, it’s good to drink warm water after Gua Sha”.


Tool Care

The tool uses oil and touches your skin. You would want to avoid bacteria and dirt build up on the tool. Especially if using with more than one person [even otherwise]. Dr Su-man advises “I wash and sterilize my tools before, between and after each client. Avoid Gua Sha facial if skin is broken, inflammation with rosacea , dermatitis or serious acne breakout , extremely thin skin with broken capillaries”.

For at home, definitely give it a wash to wash off any oil and or cream, dry, and store in a cloth bag or enclosed box.

Scarring and Red Marks

“One should not break the skin during the treatment, but there is a risk it could happen. Broken skin increases the possibility of infection, so one should always sterilize their tools between treatments”. highlights Dr. Su-man.

“I concentrate on the pressure points instead of scraping the skin. If you see any red mark or fresh scarring on the face, as I said earlier, keep your skin lubricated with oil or cream. This will allow… the tool across the skin more smoothly without causing damage”.


Tutorials and brands we love

Britta Studio offers great Gua Sha facials. Founder Britta Plug also posts tutorials every Tuesday under her brand’s page Wildling.

See Dr. Su-Man’s in action and her conversation on natural botox here, she provides facials in London, and at select W Spa’s as well as travels to the Middle East frequently.

Sandra Lanshin, TCM Professional’s Tutorial here and here - also offering Gua Sha based facials in Brooklyn, NY.

Mount Lai also sells Gua Sha tools and has a helpful tutorial.

Cover Photo: by Travis Seera 

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