Need an instant glow up? Give gua sha a try. A full-body massage technique used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve pain and help get stagnant energy moving through the body to promote healing, gua sha involves vigorously scraping the skin with a smooth, flat tool—often made from stones like jade, rose quartz or obsidian—using firm upward strokes. The visage-friendly version uses the same principles but with a much gentler touch.
Practitioners (and fans) list de-puffing, lifting and sculpting the contours of the face, as well as clearer skin, among its many benefits. “Facial gua sha can reduce muscle tension and encourage temporary blood flow to the skin, instantly giving it a plump and dewy appearance,” says Vancouver-based dermatologist Dr. Monica Li, adding that the results are immediate but temporary.
Canadian-born, Paris-based licensed acupuncturist and facial-rejuvenation specialist Elaine Ng Huntzinger shares a step-by-step guide to a relaxing gua sha facial.
1. Pick your tool
Gua sha tools come in a variety of shapes, some with deeper grooves or softer curves—choose whatever style feels best to you. Huntzinger notes that different stones have different properties: Jade is said to be balancing, while obsidian is used for healing and protection.
2. Get slick
Apply moisturizer to clean skin and follow with a hydrating mist or face oil. “It’s important to have some slip so that the tool can glide over your skin without pulling,” says Huntzinger. To avoid irritating the skin, always use short strokes in just one direction, without dragging the tool back and forth on the skin.
3. Perfect your technique
Holding the tool at a 45-degree angle and using your other hand to keep skin taut, apply light to medium pressure to glide it from the middle of the face toward the hairline. Huntzinger likes to use the notched end of the tool to massage the fullest parts of the face and the flat end to work on areas where skin is thinner.
Work in zones—always from the neck up—repeating each movement five times. See below to learn the movements.
Huntzinger likes to start at the back of the neck to release tension, working the tool in upward strokes and moving toward the front of the body.
Jaw and cheeks
Using the notched edge of the tool, follow the jawline from the centre of the chin to the ear and, from there, gently pull the tool in a downward stroke toward the collarbone. Work around the mouth and, starting at the bridge of the nose, follow the cheekbone to the hairline. When you reach the front of the earlobe, wiggle the tool to help release tension.
Sweep the smallest tip of the tool across the under-eye area, moving from the inner corner to the hairline. Repeat the movement on the brows, following the line of the eyebrow out to the temple in a lifting motion.
Position the long curved edge of the tool on the forehead and work in upward strokes.
Shop our favourite gua sha tools from Asian-owned brands below.
This gua sha tool by Canadian brand Métange is made of obsidian, a stone formed from molten volcanic lava that’s traditionally used for healing, protection and absorbing negative energy.
Obsidian gua sha tool, $59, metangebeauty.com
Said to relieve stress and cleanse negative energies, an amethyst stone is the perfect pick for a relaxing experience.
Amethyst gua sha tool, $50, sephora.com