What You Need to Know About Gua Sha, the Chinese Facial Practice That Can Transform Your Skin

If you like jade rolling, you might want to try this

Updated 01/30/19

Courtesy of @britta_beauty

We love our trusty jade roller. However, that doesn’t prevent us from testing out some other self-care tools and techniques. On that note, there’s a buzzy ritual that’s taking over our Instagram feed. But here’s the thing—it’s not actually new at all. In fact, gua sha (pronounced gwah shah) has been around for centuries.

Intrigued by this ancient practice turned social media sensation, we called Britta Plug, holistic aesthetician and gua sha expert, founder of Studio Britta, and poster child for flawless skin.

Gua sha is an ancient Chinese healing technique that uses a stone tool to apply pressure and stimulate circulation. Before we go any further, there’s an important distinction to be made. On the body, it’s really broad vigorous strokes to bring out toxins, increase blood flow, and relieve tension. (And, yes, this can often lead to light bruising.) “Facial gua sha comes from the same root, but has evolved over time to become its own art,” explains Plug. “It’s a more gentle, fine-tuned adaptation that focuses on individual muscles, fascia, lymphatic stagnation, meridian lines, and pressure points.”

Facial gua sha is an excellent addition to any self-care routine. Keep in mind that it isn’t a quick fix. Results are cumulative, which means consistent use is required to reap the rewards. Speaking of which, there can be tons of complexion-enhancing benefits. It stimulates the lymphatic system to flush out pore-clogging impurities and reduce puffiness. This treatment also tones, lifts, and plumps skin.

Another perk? It’s soothing and deeply relaxing, making facial gua sha especially advantageous in the months leading up to your wedding. “I love working with brides and creating packages to support them through the whole process,” says Plug. As the big day draws near, the stress mounts. Regular gua sha sessions help detoxify, ease tension, and promote a sense of calm.

If you can’t make it to Studio Britta, don’t dismay! Plug cofounded Wildling with at-home use in mind. “Sustainable beauty practices need to be made more widely available to people. Our line is designed to elevate the gua sha experience, while enhancing the firming, lymphatic drainage, and sculpting benefits.”

Ready to give it a try? Technique is super important in terms of level of results. “I see a lot of methods on social media that aren’t accurate,” warns Plug. Her advice to gua sha newbies: Always prep skin first, that means cleansing and applying oil (this will give the tool a nice slip). Be more gentle than you think. Tune into subtleties rather than strong arming it. Keep the tool at a 15- to 45-degree angle. Remember to pull rather than push. Finally, anchor with the opposite hand. “This is where the magic happens!”

Curious about the best time to gua sha? Turns out that’s a personal choice. In the a.m. is great if you’re a morning routine person, according to Plug, though she prefers doing it in the evening before bed. “I get facial stoned, which signals my nervous system to settle down for a good night's sleep.”

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