By now, you likely know how critical it is to wash your makeup brushes, but the cleanliness of your skincare tools are equally as important. Be honest with yourself—have you washed your face rollers and gua sha tools lately? The logic behind why you should is simple: “Would you use a dirty towel over and over again on your body,” asks Five Seasons TCM acupuncturist and herbalist Kai Yim. Obviously not.
“Similar to our makeup brushes, bacteria can build up [on gua sha tools] and cause breakouts and infections,” warns board-certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics, Dr. Sheila Farhang.
Meet the Expert
Even if you don’t think that there is any build-up on your gua sha, Yim says that the very environment that it’s left in can cause bacteria to accumulate. And since most people leave their gua sha tools in their bathroom among the rest of their skincare regimen, you can take an educated guess on the kind of bacteria that might be present. Since you likely don’t want that or any other infection-causing grime to make its way to your face, read the best ways to clean your gua sha tools, according to the pros.
Carefully Wash Your Tools
The easiest way to wash your gua sha tool is by hand, Mindbody holistic wellness specialist Dani Schenone says. “Wet your hands with warm water and pour some soap onto your hands,” she says. “Create a lather and apply it to a wet gua sha tool for 30 seconds. Rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth—microfiber is great for this.”
That said, washing your gua sha with all those slippery suds can quickly go awry, so be careful. “Most of the polished gua sha stones become extremely slippery once the soap is applied, so please handle well and be mindful about this,” Yim urges. “So many people have shared their sob story of a slipped gua sha stone.”
Soak It In Water
If you have a bit more time—or if you want to avoid a drop at all costs—Farhang says that the best (and safest) way to clean a gua sha tool is by soaking it in a bowl of warm, soapy water.
As for the soap you should use, Yim says that antibacterial liquid hand soap (like Megababe’s Squeaky Clean Antibacterial Hand Wash, $12) will do the trick. That said, you can also try washing it with your favorite facial cleanser if you’re worried about putting non-face-specific products on your gua sha tool.
Use a Brush on Its Ridges
While many gua sha tools feature curved edges, some have prongs like a comb. “If your tool has tight ridges or a comb aspect, you’ll want to use a small brush (like a toothbrush) to clean in between those ridges where oil and debris build-up can be found,” Yim says.
Be Mindful of Its Material
What your gua sha tool is made of plays a role in how often you need to clean it. “The more porous the material, the more often it needs to be cleaned,” Farhang says. “Metals—like silver and copper—are the least porous but not very commonly used [for gua sha tools]. Good-quality stones such as jade and rose quartz are non-porous which allows a little room for error if a wash is skipped.”
In addition to making cleaning less of a stressor, she points out that these stones offer more glide, which means that more product will be absorbed into the skin, rather than into the tool the way other porous materials allow. “Wooden gua sha tools tend to be porous and may be more difficult to clean,” she adds.
"If you have a wooden gua sha tool, you should oil it after each wash, like you would a good wooden cutting board,” Yim says, warning that the wood will eventually crack with each wash if not lubricated.
Commit to Daily Rinses
Even if the material your gua sha tool is made out of is less porous, Yim says it’s worthwhile to get in the practice of regular cleaning. “Immediately after each use is best,” she says. “The longer the tool sits with facial oils and other products on it, the greater opportunity for an adhesive film to develop on the tool.” It’s this residue that can absorb into the tool and potentially lead to skin irritation.
Spritz It With Alcohol
If you’re particularly concerned about acne-causing bacteria lingering on your gua sha, Schenone says that you can add alcohol to your sanitizing routine. “If you want an added layer of cleanliness, spray some alcohol disinfectant to your tool once it is completely dry,” she says. Doing so will eliminate any residual bacteria.
More on Gua Sha
Gua sha tools aren’t some new-fangled skincare device—they’re rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and date back thousands of years. Gua sha tools have been shown to increase circulation in the treated area and tend to be more beneficial for women than men. While they’re most modernly known for their facial lifting benefits, they can also be used on the body, which is why Yim believes that differentiation is key.
“There is a difference between gua sha for face and body and medical gua sha,” she says. “Depending on the area you’re treating, you’ll then consider the type, size, and material of the tool. Facial gua sha has a much more gentle technique and is generally safe for most to do at home. Medical or body gua sha is typically used in conjunction with acupuncture and used as medical therapy and can treat a vast variety of disorders, like body pain (especially the sharp, fixed type), early-onset flu and bronchitis, migraine headaches, hepatitis (not an extensive list).”
Since body gua sha can have such vast effects, Yim says that it’s best to leave the practice up to the pros. “If you are seeking medical gua sha as treatment, please seek out a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner, so they can properly come to a diagnosis and gauge the treatment from there,” she says.
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.