How-To: Give Yourself a Gua Sha Facial

Last Update: July 29, 2020

Meet your new self-care hero: the at-home gua sha facial. While DIY face masks and baths tend to be the most popular forms of self-care, perhaps facial massage should be added to the ritual routine. The benefits of facial massage—specifically the practice of gua sha—include relieving facial tension, toning facial muscles, boosting circulation, and improving product absorption.

But don’t just take it from us—we interviewed Hayley Wood, holistic esthetician and founder of Therapeutic Skin Coach, about how to give yourself the best gua sha facial at home. Learn about the practice’s history and its short-term and long-term benefits, plus tips on how to get started. We’ll also cover facial tools, the best gua sha oils, and perfecting your technique.

Hi, Hayley! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a holistic esthetician (for 14 years!), esthetician mentor, and the founder of Therapeutic Skin Coach (TSC). I created TSC to help connect the teachings of holistic skin health practices with modern-day skin concerns, bridging the gap of education by honoring each individual’s intuition. I believe that nurturing oneself towards full self-acceptance and self-love through skin-health education and breaking old fear-based beauty beliefs.

Let’s start with the basics. What is gua sha?

Gua sha is a therapeutic Traditional Chinese Medicine modality to help unblock tensions and stagnation in the body and face. It is primarily done with a gemstone such as jade or rose quartz that is shaped like a flat square or rounded board and fits nicely in the hand.

Where does this practice come from?

The practice originated in Eastern Asian, specifically China and Vietnam, and has been around for around 700 years. It started becoming a more popular form of self-care in the holistic skincare industry in the past 20 years.

How long have you been practicing gua sha and offering it to clients?

I have been practicing gua sha on myself for more than four years and on my clients for more than two years. It completely changed my facial and it’s my favorite way to perk up my skin whenever I’m feeling dull or stagnant!

For someone interested in practicing gua sha at home, where should they start?

There are so many great tutorials that can help you get started, but there are also scary and potentially harmful ones. The key is to find a licensed professional who has trained in the practice and get a consultation if you can. So many incredible estheticians are offering online consultations! Once you determine if it’s a good practice for you, you can follow along with my tutorial here or take a custom class on how to do it for yourself.

I also love the tutorials by Cecily Braden, Britta Plug, and Sandra Lanshin Chui. They are all teachers of mine and they are very generous with their online gua sha teachings.

Why is education so important for a proper practice?

Education is so important because there are a few contraindications. If you have hypertension or hyperthyroidism, it’s best to avoid the practice unless you’re in a professional’s care. Many inflamed skin conditions can really benefit from gua sha but only if they modify according to their condition. It’s also really important to understand the principles of gua sha, which includes having the right pace, pressure, and posture during your own routine. Blindly going into it could create unnecessary issues to the skin instead of helping the skin find balance. I compare it to doing yoga for the first time in a class or one on one versus at home. The modifications and adjustments by a teacher can completely change the practice. It’s the same with gua sha. You’ll have a safer practice if you have the right supportive education.

Why is it important to stay in touch with our skin and see how it communicates with us?

The skin is a live organ that communicates with us throughout the day. It’s been with us since we were in our mother’s womb and I believe it shares the stories of your life. It tells us when we’re dehydrated or when we need more sleep, but also when we are in major transitions in life—both physical and emotional. When we can tune into our skin, it can become a wonderfully insightful relationship, which strengthens our ability to care for ourselves.

What materials are recommended?

It’s very easy to implement gua sha into your existing routine because you only really need the tool and an oil-based product to successfully practice it. Before you do the gua sha, I typically recommend cleansing the skin, misting with a hydrator, and then adding a few drops of an oil, such as organic jojoba oil, to the skin. After, you can add the rest of your routine as you normally would and go from there.

What should someone look for in a gua sha tool?

I want potential gua sha users to feel comfortable asking questions on origin and sustainability of the gemstones if it’s not made clear by the provider. Right now, tools are coming out almost everywhere with different shapes and from different stones like jade or rose quartz. A flat board that fits nicely in your hand is great to start with. If there are a lot of edges or it feels too big to use comfortably, that can be saved for a more advanced practice.

What oils are best for gua sha?

Most gua sha companies will offer a kit with designated skincare to go along with it, which is incredibly helpful. But if you don’t have that access or would rather use your existing products, I would suggest using a single-origin organic oil like jojoba, squalene, or tamanu oil. It’s just meant to give you slip so you are not applying pressure with the tool. It’s important that no matter what kind of product you use with your tool, you wash your tool with warm soapy water and dry off immediately after each use.

What are the immediate and long term benefits of gua sha?

Gua Sha is like exercise—the more you do it consistently the more you’ll benefit long term. The subtle changes you notice from your gua sha practice might not immediately feel like a replacement for injectables or aggressive anti-aging practices. The subtle release of tension encourages your lymph to flow through the pathways under your skin, collecting waste, delivering nutrients, and pumping oxygen to your cells. It leaves you with radiant, healthy skin that doesn’t feel like a doctored version of you. It’s also highly beneficial for soothing the nervous system by helping you achieve a parasympathetic state through the methodical movements and encouragement to connect with your breath. It’s a grounded, intuitive, and gentle practice that has a big impact on your skin and health.

How has your practice changed since sheltering in place?

Since we have all been home, this has been a great opportunity to do more education with my clients and people who normally can’t see me, since I’m based in Los Angeles. I’ve been speaking to people all over the country and in Canada. I particularly love to share my gua sha skills with people so I’ve been offering custom gua sha classes via ZOOM along with different consultations and classes, depending on the person’s needs. Another popular option is just a general skin health assessment or product use class.

About two years ago, I created different online classes and tutorials (including one for gua sha) that focuses on holistic skin health education and creating a ritual through your skincare. People are loving it now more than ever before because they can take the time to dive into the content. Some people are scared or unaware of how to care for their skin without the help of their esthetician or dermatologist. My courses help empower people to learn how to feel confident in their skincare as self-care.

Anyone can purchase the courses for 40 percent off using the code “nurtureyou” through the month of May.

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Lily Comba

Lily Comba has never met a baked good she didn't like. When she's not baking, you'll find her writing, taking a Pilates class, or collaborating with the editorial and social team as a Senior Content Writer at Thrive Market.

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