No, I’ll probably never give up on my beloved jade roller, but there is another skincare tool I can’t stop thinking about: the jade scraper. Also known as a gua sha tool, this little flat pebble of jade is praised near and far for its ability to chisel out cheekbones you didn’t even know existed, de-puff hangover eye bags, and whack up the dial on skin brightness.
But what exactly is gua sha and how can a small stone offer so many beauty benefits? We reached out to three skincare experts: Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, Chinese medicine practitioner David Peters, and licensed aesthetician Ali Tobia for answers. Ahead, find their master advice and everything you need to know about this skincare treasure.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in general dermatology, cosmetic dermatology, skin cancer, and dermatological surgery.
- David Peters is a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and a skincare expert who is in residence at the Bulgari Spa in London.
- Ali Tobia is a licensed aesthetician at Just Ageless who combines ancient wellness techniques with innovative beauty technology and modern esthetics.
What Is Gua Sha?
While the terms "jade scraping" or "gua sha" may be new to your ears, the facial technique actually dates back centuries ago. "The [face scraping] technique is based on an ancient healing technique called Gua Sha, which was first referred to in a classical Chinese medicine text called the Shan Han Lun dated 220 CE," Peters tells us. "Originally, practitioners wanted to obtain 'Sha'—redness that encourages the skin to heal itself," he explains. "Having studied both Japanese and Chinese traditions, I have adapted this early technique for my facial treatments. Obviously, I don’t use it as vigorously—I’ve seen it performed with a coin in China."
"Originally a body treatment, [gua sha] has since been adapted to [be] use[d] in facial therapies, with the scraping motion evolving to a gentler gliding technique," adds Ali Tobia. As Tobia explains, gua sha is a method that promotes lymphatic drainage, which helps to eliminate bloating caused by interstitial fluid (fluid trapped under your skin that needs to be released to your lymph system).
The Benefits of Gua Sha
While modern-day jade scraping might be less invasive, it can still have some pretty impressive results including:
- Stimulates circulation
- Helps produce collagen
- Softens fine lines and wrinkles
- Decreases puffiness
- Decreases inflammation
- Diminishes dark circles
- Temporarily tightens skin
- Brightens complexion
- Sculpts facial muscles
- Releases tightness
How to Use a Gua Sha
So how can you get the benefits of gua sha at home? "There are so many varieties and shapes of gua sha tools that there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach to how to use gua sha," Tobia explains. That said, there are some fundamentals to the facial gua sha process for all methods. According to Dr. Nazarian, the best method is to use gentle pressure and "apply even strokes against your skin, preferably in the direction of lymphatic flow."
“These benefits are often apparent even after the very first gua sha treatment,” says Tobia.
"I like to use a combination of short and long strokes across the areas that need it," adds Peters. Lymph nodes are located beneath the surface of the skin. "An easy, feather-like stroke of a gentle facial gua sha technique is all it takes to flush the lymph into your body’s drainage system," Tobia says. The process stimulates lymphatic flow and drainage, releasing excess fluids that can make the complexion look a little, well, inflated.
Confused? Tobia describes the process of lymphatic drainage for us: "It’s like a garbage disposal. The interstitial fluids that collect beneath your skin need to be flushed into the body’s natural detoxification system. Gua sha works to move those collected fluids into the lymphatic system where they get cleaned and mixed back into your bloodstream."
"Unlike the circulatory system,” she continues, “there is no pump for the lymphatic system… By performing gua sha techniques, you are giving your lymphatic system the boost that it needs to rid yourself of the fluids that are stuck beneath the surface of your skin and causing your face to bloat.”
At home, I apply a 50p-size (or, for our American readers, about the size of a quarter) puddle of facial oil and then use the tool over my entire face, neck, and décolletage. I’ve found it’s brilliant for the days when I want to really ham up the facial massage or need to iron out a cheese board-induced puffy jawline. It isn’t hard to use at all. Whilst on our hunt for gua sha inspiration, I came across queen of holistic skincare Britta Beauty on Instagram. Her gua sha videos are not only great to have on hand if you're unsure how to use a gua sha tool, but they're seriously mesmerizing too.
How Often Should You Gua Sha?
While once a week is recommended for gua sha, the frequency of use will depend on your skin type and your skin’s tolerance for the method. “As you start to familiarize yourself with it and get more comfortable with your techniques, you should aim to use gua sha at least two to three times per week,” recommends Tobia. “Once you get into a routine of performing gua sha on yourself… you’ll achieve the best results doing it daily.”
How to Choose Your Gua Sha Tool
While the type of stone used for gua sha is not important, the shape certainly is. Dr. Nazarian recommends finding one that is smooth and rounded and fits the curvature of the area you want to treat. "It should be comfortable to grip," she continues, "so you can evenly apply the strokes to your skin."
Tobia recommends gua sha tools with varying contours on each edge "so that you can find the right curvature to fit the angles of your face," she explains. If this sounds daunting, keep Tobia’s wise words in mind: "When a tool has a few different angles and curves along its edges, that will provide you with more options, especially as you learn what works for you." The variety of contours will also allow you to use your tool on various parts of your face including your jawline and cheekbones, Tobia tells us.
The material of the stone is also something to look out for. "Some stones have antimicrobial qualities that make them especially well-suited for facial techniques," explains Tobia. "Some, like those made from nephrite jade and amethyst," she continues, "are naturally cooling, which helps to counteract the warming effect of the technique (even with a gentle gliding motion, there is some natural friction that stimulates circulation and causes warmth)." Finally, Tobia recommends rose quartz for anyone with reactive skin because of its natural calming effects.
Unsure if a gua sha tool is well made? "A quality tool made with authentic crystal or other natural material will often be of a slightly heavier weight than a knock-off or man-made synthetic tool," explains Tobia. "And while the weight of your stone will ultimately be a matter of personal preference, a heavier tool can help you achieve better results simply by being more substantial in your hand as you perform your techniques, which allows for deeper penetration (which provides greater stress/tension relief)."
Do you follow mysticism or have transcendental views on the power of crystals? If so, "many of the materials commonly used in high-quality gua sha tools possess properties that help clear your chakras and unlock your qi," explains Tobia.
Shop Our Favorite Gua Sha Tools
Before purchasing a gua sha tool, it’s important to consider its quality and material. "This is not an area where you should cut corners," Tobia reminds us. "You’re better off getting one or two high-quality tools than getting [several] cheaper tools… Not only will the higher quality stones last longer, but they’ll also provide a much more therapeutic effect," she concludes.
"Some people believe the stones contain different energetic properties, but I prefer to focus on the physical effects," adds Peters. "I use surgical-grade stainless steel so it can be properly sterilized, but whether your tool is made from jade or rose quartz, the most important thing is the motion. You could even start with a rice spoon if you wanted."
Tobia has her own list of recommendations for beginner gua sha users. "I typically advise my clients to start with tools that offer a variety of different contours and bevels on the edges." Tobia also notes the importance of finding a gua sha tool that has both smooth bevels as well as at least one carved tooth edge to “help to gently lift the skin as you glide your tool.”
Keep scrolling for our experts' top gua sha picks.
In general, gua sha scrapers are becoming more and more readily available. At first, I was dubious, but Peters reckons it’s fine to even buy one on Amazon when you’re just starting out. Jovivi's wing-shaped gua sha tool is handmade withrose quartz crystal, a stone that represents the powerful forces of love.
White Lotus makes a great jade version.
Skincare brand Elequra's gua sha tool is bone-shaped and made of rose quartz. Founder Nausheen Qureshi tells us that means it has "a packed crystal structure that means it's able to retain heat and cold better, which in turn helps the absorption of active ingredients into the skin."
Dr. Nazarain is also a huge fan of jade gua sha tools, recommending Elizabeth Trattner’s Genuine Jade Gua Sha. “The shape allows for use around the eyes and hairline,” she says.
[Ed. note: Unfortunately, this item is out of stock. We recommend trying Elizabeth Trattner's Little Wing Rose Quartz Gua Sha ($36) instead].
Dr. Nazarian recommends Mount Lai’s Amethyst Facial Lifting Tool. Amethyst—a stone known for its ability to soothe stress—promotes relaxation when used on the skin. "I love the Mount Lai Amethyst Facial Lifting Tool. The shape is great for facial contours," she raves.
"The CJB Pro Nephrite is a fantastic, versatile tool that can be used in a variety of methods due to its varying shapes and contours on each edge. If you’re going to start with just one tool, this is the one to get," says Tobia.
"Another very versatile option is the Empress Pro from Wildling. This tool is made from a unique Chinese material called Bian, which provides a bit more heft than jade and possesses significant healing properties," Tobia tells us.
Next, Tobia recommends CJB's Rose Quartz Sculpting Spoon. "[It's] a great addition as it provides a smooth surface for promoting lymphatic drainage and refreshing your facial contours to combat the appearance of sagging skin. The Rose Quartz Spoon can be used either warmed or cold for different effects," she explains.
"If you have room in your budget for one more, I recommend the Nefeli White Jade Stone," adds Tobia. "Similar to the CJB Pro, the Nefeli is a very versatile tool that provides additional edge shapes and bevels to expand the methods you can use. The Nefeli is a bit pricier… but it’s a really great tool to have in your set."
There are also tons of different skincare serums or facial oils that are perfect to use with your gua sha. As a general rule of thumb, you want something with enough slip that will let you really work the product into your skin, without too much pulling or dragging. But if you're unsure which is right for you, we can help.
We have nothing but time to show us that this centuries-old approach is a skincare secret we should all be privy to. It's important to add that while gua sha is a great non-invasive technique, it cannot always be combined with other procedures. For example, "If you have had facial botox or injectables within the past three to four weeks, you’ll need to wait at least four weeks from your most recent injection before beginning a gua sha routine, and should never perform gua sha in the four weeks that follow any facial injections,” explains Tobia. Last but not least, while gua sha can offer rewarding results, Dr. Nazarian reminds us that most of the visible benefits are temporary, so it’s important to incorporate it into your weekly routine if you wish to maintain the benefits.
Chen T, Liu N, Liu J, et al. Gua Sha, a press-stroke treatment of the skin, boosts the immune response to intradermal vaccination. PeerJ. 2016;4:e2451. doi:10.7717/peerj.2451