Gua sha facials: fact vs. fiction

Does this face sculpting technique really work?

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Curology Team
Jul 03, 2020 · 4 min read

We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

The heart-shaped stones made from rose quartz or jade are undeniably beautiful, but does gua sha really work? The answer is complicated. Gua sha facials are taking off as a consumer trend in the US, but the practice of gua sha has been around a long time — many practitioners of traditional East Asian medicine say since ancient times. Even though your dermatologist probably won’t prescribe you a gua sha stone any time soon, this traditional skincare practice may have some positive effects not yet well-understood by modern westernized medicine.

What is gua sha, exactly?

Gua sha isn’t a new wellness trend — it has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. Its first recorded use is in 1337 AD. It’s often said that gua sha has been practiced since ancient times. And that might be true — ancient people definitely had the technology to perform gua sha. Many cultures outside of China (like Ancient Greece) have practiced skin scraping as a medicinal technique. But we couldn’t find any hard evidence that gua sha was practiced in the stone age.

That said? It’s only within the past couple of years that gua sha facials have caught on in the US. Some people use gua sha stones made from rose quartz and jade for a nightly head and neck massage. But it might not matter what your gua sha tool is made from — coins, spoons, and bones can also be used as gua sha tools.

What are the skin benefits of gua sha?

We think gua sha can be a great relaxation and stress-relieving technique, but we’re skeptical of the hype as it relates to skincare. There’s not any current medical evidence that gua sha has skin benefits. But there is some research that points to the potential benefits of the gua sha massage technique. Here’s what we do know:

Face sculpting

Those who love their gua sha facials say it lifts the face, and that it also helps with puffy eyes and face bloating. But according to our sources, gua sha is likely not an effective face sculpting technique. Honestly? We didn’t notice a before-and-after difference in the most popular gua sha video tutorial. Instead, one of the best ways to deal with puffy eye bags is to make some lifestyle changes. For starters: limit your salt intake, sleep more, and get any allergies under control.

Muscle tension

For lots of people, doing gua sha feels good — and that’s a real benefit, even if it’s hard to quantify. Most people feel great after any type of massage, even if their doctor didn’t prescribe it. While not totally proven, some studies suggest that head massages help with migraines. So a post-gua sha glow might come from deep relaxation.

Pain relief

One of the more fascinating studies found a correlation between gua sha back massage and pain relief — though it’s not known why. According to the study, “There is an unidentified pain-relieving biomechanism associated with Gua Sha.” While this research is compelling, it leaves more questions than answers. We’re looking forward to future studies. Until then, if you’ve got an achy back, feel free to book that gua sha massage — it probably can’t hurt.

Image via Elly Fairytale

We’re here to tell you what we know

Full disclosure: Curology has always been dermatologist-led, so we believe in skincare that’s backed by medical research. Practices like gua sha haven’t commonly been a part of Western medicine, which means it’s not well studied. Those who practice traditional Chinese medicine or integrative medicine might have a totally different opinion on gua sha based on their own experiences and research methods. At the end of the day, what you do for your body is up to you! The best thing to do is to draw your own conclusions based on your research. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably already doing that — kudos to you!

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