What is Face Gua Sha?

By Francesca Canzano-Franklin, Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Thai Medicine

What exactly is facial Gua Sha? Long before Gua Sha became a fashionable tool, it was an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The goal of the treatment is to enhance blood flow to the skin and the effectiveness of gua sha comes from the way it stimulates the deeper layers of skin. Also known as cao gio, coining, scraping, and spooning, is an ancient practice for energy flow and blood circulation and indeed an essential part of traditional Chinese medicine.


Besides the benefits to the body, which include reducing pain and getting rid of toxins, the technique is also used as a natural face-lift and Asian women have used it to effectively fight the signs of aging since ancient times.

The term Gua Sha consists of two Chinese words: Gua, meaning to rub or scrape, and Sha, a type of stagnant energy that causes excess heat to build within the body. Taken together, the term Gua Sha means the act of rubbing the skin to remove an energy blockage. Gua Sha is used in traditional Chinese medicine theory for bringing heat to the skin surface; the Gua Sha technique will help release any blocked energy and heat.

A stone made of either bian, jade or rose quartz, is 'scraped' on the skin with short or long strokes to either stimulate microcirculation and increase blood flow, or to drain excess lymph. While performing self-care Gua Sha, we always start at the neck area for optimal lymphatic drainage and move upwards. The gua sha board should be held at a 15-degree angle (almost flat against the skin), and should be gently glided along the skin using sweeping, upward strokes. Each motion should be repeated three to five times. Next, start from the center of your chin and sweep the gua sha tool across the jawline until you reach your ear. Repeat three to five times on each side.

Starting at the crease beside your nose, sweep outwards across your cheek until you reach your ear. Repeat three to five times on each side. 

We recommend to use gentle motions around the under-eyes region. Because the under-eye area is the most sensitive spot, it’s important to apply super-light pressure, gliding the gua sha board from the inner corner of the eye to the temple. Repeat three to five times on each side, then repeat these steps in the same manner across your brow bone. Once you reach your forehead, sweep in an upwards motion from the eyebrows to the hairline. Repeat three to five times on each side.

As you gently scrape the skin during a gua sha session, the layers under the outer skin are stimulated, and micro-circulation is improved. Toxins are released and cleared away, and the overall effect is a clearer complexion, better skin tone and a radiant glow.

With repeated treatments, both professional and at home self-care, Gua Sha can facilitate the drainage of lymphatic fluid from the face and neck, combat the formation of bags and dark circles under the eyes, firming up muscles of the face and neck by toning and sculpting them and reduces wrinkles. Gua Sha also assists in reducing acne and rosacea.  

A WORD OF CAUTION. There is so much more to Gua Sha than its simple act of scraping and of dragging a pretty stone across your face; Gua Sha is applied in accordance with the meridians and energy channels of the body. Gua Sha also isn’t something you can learn from watching an online video! If you are in doubt, always ask your practitioner about their qualifications and experience.

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