How to use a gua sha and find the stone best suited to you
Acclaimed facialist Su-Man Hsu shares everything you need to know about how to use a gua sha
LED face masks and electronic skin massagers have their benefits, but sometimes the best skincare results come from the most deceptively simple tools. Case in point, the gua sha, an architectural stone used in traditional Chinese medicine to transform the appearance of skin through gentle massage.
Facialist Su-Man Hsu has been using the gua sha for years to achieve her famous ‘facelift in an hour’. Hsu grew up in rural Taiwan, where she began experimenting with natural skincare formulations and non-invasive techniques. She has since channelled those methods into practices in London and Paris, where she has amassed a legion of devoted clients (the seemingly ageless actress Juliette Binoche is among them).
Below, Hsu answers common questions about the gua sha and the fundamentals of how to use one.
Gua sha: the basics
Wallpaper*: What are the benefits of gua sha?
Su-Man Hsu: ‘Gua’ means scraping and ‘sha’ means bruises or petechiae. It literally means ‘to scrape away the pain’ – medically, it can be used to alleviate muscle pain, for example. Within a facial, a rather different application, gua sha can be used to promote blood circulation and dredge the meridian (natural energy) channel, and in general the technique used is much gentler than for medical applications.
A gua sha facial stimulates vital energy points around the face to release toxins, whilst reducing sagging skin or any discoloration. It also eliminates any stagnation of chi, tones up the facial muscles and minimises the appearance of pores and fine lines. In general, it gives a brighter, healthier-looking complexion.
W*: What are the different types of gua sha tools?
SMH: There are many different shapes of gua sha tools and they all aim to do the same thing. Generally speaking, smaller shapes are for smaller areas, for example around the eyes and mouth. Bigger shapes are for bigger areas, like the cheeks, forehead and other body parts. Small pointed round shapes are great for pressure points. However, one can be creative with the tool and it also depends on your preference.
W*: Are there different benefits for each stone type (jade, rose quartz, nephrite, etc)?
SMH: I know for marketing reasons they are all made to sound amazing, but I’m sorry to say that there are no additional benefits to using a diamond-encrusted tool! It’s really all about the knowledge of how to use it correctly.
W*: Should a gua sha be used every day? And do you recommend using it in the morning or evening?
SMH: Yes, you can incorporate your gua sha into your daily routine. Either in the morning or the evening works fine as long as you take the appropriate time to do it. I always do my facial gua sha in the morning, as it is a fantastic way to reduce puffiness and wake up your facial muscles at the beginning of the day.
However, to prevent damaging your skin, you should only scrape each area 5-10 times – definitely don’t scrape the skin more than 15 times if you do it every day, as it can overstimulate the skin and cause inflammation. For example, the skin around the eye is very thin so I would only scrape it every three days.
W*: Any other tips to get the best results?
SMH: It is important to make sure the pressure is firm enough whilst also having a gentle approach. It’s about a quality treatment not focused on quantity.
W*: Is there anything about using a gua sha that people often don’t know but should?
SMH: You shouldn’t do it too often if you have sensitive skin or if you suffer from rosacea, as it can lead to redness when not done properly.
W*: Should a gua sha be used with any product?
SMH: Yes, you need to have extra moisture in order to do long, short, press, or circular motions. Whichever strokes you use, you need to make sure your skin has enough oil or cream to allow you to perform the technique. I recommend my Cleansing Gel/Oil cleanser for this as it glides onto your skin, in order to avoid overstimulating the tissue with the strokes.
How to use a gua sha
First, apply a moisturiser or oil to the skin.
Forehead: take your supporting hand to one side of the forehead and hold. With the other hand, take the flat side of the gua sha and run it along the forehead to the hairline. Give the gua sha a small wiggle to encourage lymphatic drainage. Repeat on the opposite side.
Eyebrows: if using a gua sha with a heart-shaped edge, take that side to the top of the nose and rub along the eyebrow line to the temple. Give a small wiggle and repeat on the opposite side.
Under eyes: hold the nose with your supporting hand and rub one of the curved edges underneath the eye line to the temple. Wiggle the gua sha as before and then repeat on the opposite side.
The cheekbone: place your supporting hand above the mouth. Take the flat side of the gua sha so that it covers the length of the cheek and rub upward towards the ear. Then give a gentle wiggle back and forth before repeating on the other side.
The jawline: place your supporting hand in the centre of the cheek. Take the two-pronged side of the gua sha and angle the centre of your chin into the curve of the gua sha so that there is a prong on either side of the jawline. Rub along the jaw to the end of the ear. Give the gua sha a small wiggle and repeat on the other side.
The neck: place your supporting hand on the collarbone. Take the long curved side of the gua sha and rub upward to the jawline. Give a small wiggle and repeat along the rest of the neck.
You can find a video of this process on Hsu’s Instagram, @sumanskincare.
Finding the best gua sha for you
Pencil gua sha
While a big gua sha can be used for the face and body, says Hsu, ‘pencil size is ideal for pressure points and the heart shape is good for targeting around the eyes, mouths, and face too’.
Her own Pencil, is a pointed tool that can be pressed against pressure points – temples, the corners of eyes, the ends of lips, for example – to ‘stimulate vital energy points along the face’ and release toxins.
Body comb gua sha
This Jade Body Comb by Hayo’u is a gua sha designed for head-to-toe usage. The comb can be brushed along the scalp for a calming head massage, or rubbed along the arms, torso, and legs to soothe aching muscles, target cellulite, combat water retention, and tighten loose skin.
This gua sha is particularly well-suited to those experiencing computer-related neck and shoulder tension. Gently rub the body comb up and down the neck, shoulders and upper back for instant relief without leaving your desk.
The investment gua sha
Brooklyn-based Lanshin is New York’s centre for all things gua sha. The spa and store offer the best gua sha facials in the city and sells its own patented gua sha tools for you to recreate the practice at home.
We recommend the brand’s Pro Gua Sha tool, designed by its founder Sandra Lanshin Chiu (an acupuncturist, herbalist and expert in facial gua sha and Chinese medicine-based skincare). Made out of precious black nephrite jade, this is a professional-level tool that is worth the investment.
Multi-purpose gua sha
The Fasha tool of Dubai-based brand Shiffa is a gua sha-like instrument made of white crystal. It features different sides for a variety of uses. The comb side can be used on the body or face for intensive massage, the pointed edge can be applied to pressure points, the curved side can be used along the jaw and neck, while the circular edge can be used under eyes, along cheekbones or other more expansive areas of the face.