Loads of skincare and wellness trends first popularized in Asian countries are taking over the US market, often through TikTok and Instagram, where influencers flaunt their morning (and evening) routines. Whether slugging or Gua Sha, these Western skincare experts are co-opting Asian techniques without crediting their places of origin.
To truly understand (and benefit from) Gua Sha, a facial massaging process that calls for scraping the skin with an edge tool, experts say, you must be trained in the technique, ideally from someone accredited in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's a powerful tool, but only when used correctly, and a few quick TikTok videos from thin-faced influencers does not count as studying.
Instead, trust an expert to show you the ropes, whether it be as a studio or online, because while plenty use Gua Sha for its cosmetic benefits, it's often done with internal health front of mind. Accupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medician practitioner Sandra Chiu, L.Ac, offers office hours through her site, Lanshin, which serves as a hub for both tools and tutorials. She's in-demand, but she broke down a few of the most common questions for us.
Gua Sha, According to an Expert: Sandra Chiu, L.Ac.
Sandra Chiu L.Ac. is an acupuncturist, herbalist and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner with nearly two decades of experience. She's also the founder of Lanshin, a hub for Gua Sha learners and experts alike. Her site sells Gua Sha stones, oils and other accessories, and hosts lessons, produces tutorials and regiments treatment plans.
Where Does Gua Sha Come From?
Gua Sha is a traditional Chinese medical (abbreviated TCM) practice that goes back centuries. It was used to treat pain, and even illnesses as serious as cholera. Today, Gua Sha remains an important modality that TCM practitioners use to treat pain and boost immune function.
What Is Gua Sha? What Is a Gua Sha Stone?
Gua Sha involves using a Gua Sha tool to stroke or 'scrape' tight, tense or pathological areas of the body to break down and remove blood stagnation in those areas. This in turn improves the circulation of blood, fluids and qi (energy). Modern research also shows that it strengthens the immune system and has anti-inflammatory effects.
Facial Gua Sha is an extension of that practice, however they differ slightly in application and results. While Gua Sha is more aggressive, facial Gua Sha uses a much slower speed and softer touch.
Is There a Right Way to Do Gua Sha?
For medical Gua Sha, seek a trained and licensed TCM professional, don’t do this at home. For facial Gua Sha, the best way to learn is to get line training or watch tutorials by TCM professionals. (Like Lanshin, on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok.)
There are many tutorials online by estheticians or beauty influencers, but since they are not formally trained in Gua Sha as a Chinese medical practice one cannot be sure that the information or training received is accurate, or safe.
How Often Should You Gua Sha?
Medical Gua Sha for treating pain, illness or internal disorder should only ever be done by a trained and licensed professional. I do not recommend practicing this form of Gua Sha, which can produce a characteristic spotty redness on the skin when done by a layperson at home.
Facial Gua Sha is a much gentler method of Gua Sha that is safe to be practiced at home with proper direction or guidance by a licensed Acupuncturist. (Acupuncturists are trained in all the TCM modalities from Gua Sha to Cupping to Acupuncture.) When seeking a practitioner to learn from, look for an 'L.Ac.' behind their name, or doctorate (Dr. ) credential, which signals the Acupuncturist has received a doctorate degree in Chinese Medicine.
Facial Gua Sha can be practiced for 20-30 minutes 2-3x week to see and maintain results. It can also be practiced daily for shorter periods of time like 5-10 min.
How Hard Should You Press?
"Pressure varies depending on the area of the face or neck, but I recommend light to medium pressure, and always feather-light around the eyes. The face really responds to a 'less is more' approach.
Look for tools that best fit facial shapes and contours. I designed all of our Lanshin Intro and Lanshin Pro Gua Sha tools to do that... The tools are designed to be easy to use on oneself, or on a client. Most other tools on the market are stock tools you’ll find on Alibaba, or designed by brands who don’t have clinical experience actually using Gua Sha on clients.
Tools for Getting Started in Gua Sha
To get started you'll need an oil and a tool — both of which you can find via Lanshin. "I’ll admit I’m obviously biased, but the right tool for facial Gua Sha is honestly a Lanshin Gua Sha tool for those reasons," she says.
"Our Lanshin Pro Gua Sha tool is shaped to fit facial contours and features beautifully across many different faces. It is the swiss-army-knife of Gua Sha tools because it offers different angled curves, and special precision edges all in one tool," she says. "It is made from luxurious and powerful Nephrite jade — a stone I chose for the soothing smoothness of its touch across your skin, and because when you heat Nephrite it emits Far-Infrared energy properties that induces an extra boost to circulation. Also, Nephrite jade is sturdier than all other Gua Sha stone types and thus least likely to break if dropped."