Skip to main content

What Is Gua Sha and How Can It Help Your Skin?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

What Is Gua Sha?

It's a mouthful to say!

Gua sha (Gwah-shah) is an ancient practice intended to improve muscle and joint health, as well as blood flow and circulation. Small studies show this technique may improve flexibility and reduce back pain.

Despite its benefits for the musculoskeletal system, this age-old technique is also growing in popularity as a way to improve the appearance of the skin, particularly on the face.

Who isn't looking for a way to give their skin an eternal glow of youth? Some people use Gua sha to treat certain skin conditions, such as eczema or acne, but studies are looking at how it performs for specific skin conditions.

This gentle massage technique can add a lovely glow to your skin and help remove puffiness around the eyes. First, let's look at the history of this technique and how it came about, and then the benefits it offers.

The History of Gua Sha

The practice of Gua sha originated in China. It's based on normalizing the body's energy flow or qi. As such, Chinese medical practitioners have used it to treat various conditions by scraping the skin.

Although the success rate so far back is unknown, the subtle pressure techniques and massage that practitioners of Gua sha use increase the delivery of blood and oxygen to the face. But unlike other massage techniques, it's gentle and relaxing. People enjoy it as much for its stress relief benefits as the way it makes their skin look.

Scraping the Face

How can you get the benefits of Gua sha yourself? Gua sha practitioners use special tools to scrape the skin to increase blood flow. The pressure of the instruments against the skin stimulates the blood vessels, causing them to open up. It also helps remove fluid build-up in the face.

Some sources also point out that the pressure and scraping of the skin boost collagen production. Collagen is the protein that gives your skin its support structure and resistance to wrinkling. Loss and breakdown of collagen can cause the skin to sag and wrinkles to show up at strategic places on the face. However, studies are looking at whether Gua sha boosts collagen in the deeper layers of the skin.

Some dermatologists are skeptical of these claims. They question whether stimulating the superficial layers of the skin can affect the deeper skin layer called the dermis enough to boost collagen production. Yet they believe the Gua sha can temporarily make your skin look rosier and more youthful.

How Gua Sha Can Help Your Skin

Another way Gua sha may improve the appearance of the skin is by reducing fluid retention in the face. The theory is that the scraping motion stimulates lymph flow, releasing trapped fluids that cause facial swelling and bloating.

Some people refer to gua sha as a detox for the face. Because facial puffiness is most pronounced after awakening due to gravity, Gua sha scraping might best be performed in the morning.

Can You Get the Benefits of Gua Sha at Home?

You can buy special Gua sha instruments to do this technique at home. Some of the instruments are made of jade and other semiprecious stones. They have a smooth surface and are designed to apply gentle pressure when they glide along your skin.

You can buy rollers and tools with various edges, so you can adjust the contouring to the portion of the face you're targeting. The key is to stroke your face firmly in the direction that lymph flows and use a combination of short and long strokes. This enhances the lymph flow and fluid movement out of the face. Most people find the sensation relaxing.

Are There Risks?

There are some downsides too. Pressing too hard with the instrument could cause bruising or temporary skin indentations. You shouldn't participate in Gua sha if you're taking blood thinning medications since the risk of bruising will be higher. Also, avoid this technique for at least six weeks after surgery.

Because it involves rubbing or scraping the skin with a massage tool, tiny blood vessels known as capillaries near the surface of your skin can burst. The result can be skin bruising and minor bleeding. The bruising usually disappears within a few days.


Gua sha is a natural approach to improving the appearance of the skin. As a technique, there is evidence of benefits, but most research centers around Gua sha to treat back pain and improve flexibility.

However, many people swear by the benefits it has for the skin. You can draw your own conclusions by seeing how it works for you.