GUA SHA FACIAL MASSAGE: SEPARATING MYTH FROM THE FACT
By Maarya Shaikh
By now we’ve all seen those exquisite jade rollers and curved quartz stones all over Instagram. While they look like a luxurious addition to any skincare routine, what exactly are they good for? And is there any scientific evidence to support the claims?
Gua Sha is an ancient Chinese medicinal practice that was developed to treat muscle pain. It is an acupressure technique involving a deep tissue massage, typically around the neck and back, using scraping motions with a rounded stone. While it has been used by athletes and performers to heal their sore muscles, in recent years it’s blown up in the skincare community. True Gua Sha treatment goes so deep that the skin actually becomes bruised, but the facial massage is way gentler in comparison.
I’ve seen a lot of skincare gurus claim that the stones and jade rollers are an essential step in their skincare routine, citing its cooling effect on the skin and that it helps their skin absorb serums better. Some even swear it helps them sculpt their face and make it appear slimmer.
So is there any truth to the claims, or are influencers just talking us into buying some pretty crystals? We looked at what current research says about Gua Sha facial massage to separate myth from fact.
What it probably does
Done correctly, the Gua Sha technique can provide deep stimulation and promote blood circulation to the face. This is probably why users report a noticeable “lifted” feeling afterward. It can give a nice flush to the face and help wake up a tired complexion.
Since Gua Sha was originally intended to treat tight and stiff muscles, it makes sense that people consistently report that the facial massage helps to relax their tensed facial muscles, especially around the forehead and jaw area. If you’re someone whose stress manifests as a clenched jaw or throbbing headaches near your temples, you may find it to be an effective stress reliever.
Cools the skin
The cooling properties of the stones can help reduce puffiness and inflammation, especially if you refrigerate your tools beforehand. Just be careful taking it out of the fridge so you don’t crack it!
Promote lymph drainage
The lymphatic system is our body’s way of clearing away waste and toxins via lymph fluid. Gently scraping with the curved stones has been shown to promote drainage of lymph. This is believed to contribute to the subtle de-puffing effect in the face overall. The difference might be more noticeable in the morning, as our face tends to look puffier when we wake up.
What it does NOT do
Slim or sculpt your face
Some people claim that regularly Gua Sha makes their cheekbones and jawline look sharper and more prominent. However, there is no consistent evidence that this technique can achieve permanent results, as it can’t rearrange your bone structure or fat distribution. So lower your expectations and take this one with a pinch of salt! And count yourself lucky if it does do the trick for you.
Though promoting blood circulation to the face sounds promising, there are no studies done to test whether Gua Sha has a noticeable effect on the skin’s aging process. This claim would be difficult to prove as most skincare disciples’ routines would (hopefully!) already include sun protection, hydration and retinol products, all of which are proven ways to delay aging.
While it feels good to roll over your serum with a jade roller — and some claim that it helps to absorb better— there’s no evidence that it treats acne in any way. In fact, real stones are often porous or have minuscule cracks which can house bacteria. So enjoy the ritual, but be sure to disinfect your tools regularly.
Gua Sha facial massage can be a lovely addition to your morning routine, as it also aids in better absorption of your skincare ingredients. It will help to have realistic expectations on what it can achieve. Even if you won’t get a magically contoured face, it is still a great practice that relieves tension and makes you feel good — and who doesn’t look better when they feel good?