Benefits of Gua Sha Facial Massage

by Dr. Amy Pelletier

Gua Sha facial massage is a hot new trend in the skin care world, but its roots are found within traditional Chinese medicine. The Gua Sha tool comes in many shapes and sizes, often made of jade. Stones are smooth with different shaped sides to contour the various structures of the body and face.

Few scientific studies have been done on Gua Sha, but of those available, body Gua Sha has been shown to increase local circulation, reduce pain, and enhance immunity. The pressure used for the body is firm, and can cause mild pain, followed by a temporarily redness, bruising, and warmth to the area being treated, similar to cupping or instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM).

Gua Sha on the face uses a much gentler pressure and a slower stroke than body Gua Sha, avoiding the appearance of redness and bruising. This form of facial massage is aimed at moving lymphatic fluid, relaxing facial muscles, reducing the appearance of puffiness, increasing brightness, and engaging the parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” system. The evidence for facial Gua Sha is largely seen through clinical experience since no major study has been done yet. By partnering your facial Gua Sha massage with body acupuncture your treatment can be further individualized to your unique health and skincare needs.

What can I expect at a Gua Sha facial appointment?

  • The practitioner will begin by assessing your skin and chat with you briefly about your overall health and skincare goals. They will use this information to determine the right Gua Sha and acupuncture protocols for you.
  • You will then rest on the acupuncture table while body acupuncture needles are inserted.
  • A facial oil or serum will be used to slightly lubricate the skin to allow for the right amount of tension and glide of the Gua Sha tool.
  • Beginning with your neck, the treatment will move up one side of your face, then the other, finishing with muscle release of your deep neck muscles.

What’s different about a Gua Sha facial compared to using a jade roller at home?

  • Most obviously, the addition of body acupuncture allows your practitioner to use a second modality in the treatment to further tailor it to your unique health goals.
  • One of the key features of Gua Sha massage is the tension created by gently pulling the smooth edge of the tool along your face, with the jade roller there is no tension established, just a smooth rolling pressure (also great, but not the same!).
  • There are a variety of Gua Sha facial massage patterns that can be used to target your skincare needs, whether it’s clearing congested and puffy skin, reducing fine lines, or releasing muscle tension.

Is Gua Sha going to give you the same results as botox, no, probably not, but that’s not the point of a Gua Sha facial either. With consistency, Gua Sha can offer smoothing and drainage, while also calming the body and mind—making it the perfect addition to a self-care routine this fall!

Book a Gua Sha facial this fall!

There are times when Gua Sha is either not right for you, or adjustments are needed to ensure it is safe and effective.

  • If you’re fighting an infection we don’t want to stimulate the lymphatic system, at the risk of making you feel worse. In this case, best to book once you’re feeling better.
  • Patients with a cancer diagnosis will require additional consent from their oncologist before having Gua Sha facial massage.
  • Acne outbreaks or facial inflammation don’t rule-out Gua Sha as a treatment, we just won’t go over the inflamed or broken skin with the Gua Sha tool.
  • Pregnant patients will have a few alterations in their protocol, but otherwise it is perfectly safe.
  • Anyone who has recently had botox or filler will likely be advised to delay their Gua Sha facial massage.

References

  • PMID: 21276190
  • PMID: 17905355