3 Tools to Give You Glowing Sculpted Skin

Believe it or not, the technique of Gua Sha – a traditional Chinese medicine said to treat heat stroke and seasonal ailments – has been around since the Ming Dynasty (translation: it’s been around for centuries). While it’s nothing new, it’s recently become a focal point of skincare, gaining popularity as a manual skin smoothing and muscle relaxation practice in modern cities from New York to Paris.

I’ve heard some amazing things about Gua Sha, so I was keen to learn more about the benefits of this ancient holistic healing method. By reaching out to top practitioners, I quickly discovered why this skincare practice isn’t just a passing fad – and why it deserves a place in your (and my) skincare routine.

What is Gua Sha?
Gua sha means “to scrape,” and scraping refers to “sand or small pebbles,” explains Emily Grace Siy, L.Ac. an acupuncturist and longtime gua sha practitioner in New York who grew up with grandparents who used gua sha as a home remedy. “Gua sha leaves marks that often resemble areas of small red pebbles,” she adds – which makes sense, given the name. But don’t let that deter you. While massaging your body with this tool can leave marks and bruises, facial gua sha is a super light and painless treatment.

The goal of Gua Sha is to move “energy,” or qi or chi in traditional Chinese medicine, and to heal the body from the inside out by using a well-defined tool – it’s originally made of animal bones or spoons – to gently scrape the skin with short or long strokes. The Chinese believe that stagnant energy causes inflammation and that clearing it improves circulation and health. Paris-based acupuncturist and facial rejuvenation specialist Elaine Huntzinger, L.Ac, says, “By scraping an area, we are able to move the qi and blood, so circulation is improved.” Elaine Huntzinger, L.Ac, has been practicing Gua Sha for over 15 years.

Benefits of Scraping
Guasha is said to improve physical pain, and David Colbert, M.D., founder and director of the New York Dermatology Group, is a fan of this pain-relieving technique.” Guasha is actually something I do on myself regularly to reduce joint and muscle pain from surfing and biking.” Studies have shown that the procedure can improve microcirculation in the area of application, boosting blood flow to those parts of the body or skin that are key to improving the delivery of oxygen to cells, Dr. Colbert notes.

It can also provide benefits to your overall health.” Guarza acts on the lymphatic system to help move [excess] fluid out of the tissues and into the lymph nodes,” says Huntzinger.” Blood flow and lymph go hand in hand, so without proper circulation, nourishing cells and removing waste to create space for new cells can be compromised, and your organs and immune system can be affected,” explains Huntzinger. In short, Gua Sha helps your lymphatic system, which in turn helps support your body’s function. While not everyone in the medical community likes the concept of lymphatic drainage, some doctors, such as Dr. Colbert, can appreciate its massaging and relaxing effects.

While gua sha on the body can leave the skin bruised and red, facial gua sha is much more gentle – and offers a variety of skin care benefits.” Facial gua sha is used to smooth the skin, relax facial muscles, and direct healthy blood circulation to the head, face, and neck,” notes Siy. What’s more, facial gua sha increases skin elasticity, de-puffiness, minimizes fine lines and removes muscle tension, resulting in a more sculpted face, Huntzinger adds.

According to Siy, facial shaving uses very light pressure, so it’s generally safe for most people.” When doing a facial shave at home, make sure you avoid any areas with rashes and skin breakouts to prevent further irritation,” Siy tells Health.” Also make sure you wash your tools with soap and water before and after each use.”

If you have facial implants, injections, or fillers, you should avoid doing an at-home shave to prevent any potential damage. Instead, see a licensed physician and let them know about your implants or fillers so that they can apply the best pressure for you.

How to Use Gua Sha Tools on Your Face?
If you want to add facial shaving to your current skincare routine, experts recommend using the tool three times a week to lift and sculpt your face – and note that it’s best practiced at night before you go to bed.” It’s easier for lymphatic drainage because you’re lying down and you have less stress [because] you’re resting,” explains Huntzinger. Also, know that you don’t need to apply a lot of pressure or push very hard, she adds.

Start by applying your favorite face oil. While Huntzinger likes Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum ($185; detoxmarket.com)-a hydrating and anti-aging skin food enriched with plants and potent grapeseed oil (a.k.a. grapeseed oil)-you can get it on Amazon only! Takes $15 if you’re on a budget to score a top-of-the-line, vitamin-packed grapeseed oil. Then, work outward and upward using light to moderate pressure, making sure the tool is always flat on the skin to move the gua sha stone. Start at the neck and continue to the chin, under eye area, brow bone, and finally the forehead.

Still wondering if this is the right holistic treatment for your skin? Experts recommend consulting your dermatologist – if you need a deeper reduction in inflammation, talk to Dr. Guasha.

Expert-approved scraping tools
After experiencing this ancient ritual for myself in Huntzinger, I can attest to the rejuvenating effects of gua sha on the body and mind. On arrival at my studio in the heart of Paris, I felt sluggish and my face puffy from lack of sleep. I settled into my treatment bed, eager to have my skin caressed and cooled by the energetic action of the jade rollers, followed by a cleansing bath with various oils. By the end of the hour-long treatment, I noticed my face was more sculpted and my complexion more radiant. And I was lighter on my feet, which was an added bonus.

If you’d like to implement Gua Sha at home, Huntziger and Siy use the following Gua Sha tools in their practice to give their clients glowing skin.

Herbivorous Plant Rose Quartz Gua Sha Scrub

A Huntziger favorite, the tool comes in two shapes – square (shown above) and heart-shaped – for a truly customized gua sha experience.Huntziger and Siy both love Rose Quartz because of its healing properties and the fact that it’s thought to open the heart and increase self-love. Not only does this gua sha tool help reduce puffiness, improve fine lines, and relieve muscle tension, but when massaged with it, it also helps your facial oils and moisturizers be better absorbed into your skin.

To purchase. Rose Quartz Gua Sha ($18; herbivorebotanicals.com and sephora.com).

Orchid Pro.

This Gua Sha tool is made from black or Hetian jade from the Kunlun Mountains of Xinjiang, where black jade has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to aid in healing. Acupuncturist and facial scraping expert Lanshin Zhao created this tool, which is essentially the “Swiss Army Knife” of Gua Sha – meaning it’s a single, multi-faceted tool that you can use to sculpt or smooth the skin thanks to its combination of curves and soft edges.

To buy. lanshin Pro ($125; thedetoxmarket.com)

CJB Professional Dark Green Nephrite

Designed by New York-based esthetician Cecily Braden, this flat shaving tool is Huntzinger’s current preferred choice. Made of dark jade, Huntzinger likes the density of the material to better aid flow.” The different angles, the groomed sides and the weight of the tool make it easy to use,” she says. In addition, the stylish edges help the tool easily navigate the many contours of the face and neck for sculpting.

To buy. cjb professional dark green jade ($130; beautysecrets.us).