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If you’ve spent any time on TikTok, Instagram, or the Internet in general over the past few months, you may have noticed a new skincare ritual popping up—gua sha. However, this ritual is anything but new. Rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this practice involves using a special tool to release tension and improve circulation throughout your body.
While using a gua sha tool isn’t complicated (really, I promise), it’s important to know the correct technique, frequency, and even type of tool to buy before embarking on this ritual. I spoke to Ervina Wu and Angela Chau Gray, the founders of YINA, a beauty and wellness company inspired by TCM practices, to answer all of my questions—and debunk common misconceptions—about gua sha. Here’s their expert gua sha guide.
What are the benefits of gua sha?
Don’t judge a gua sha tool by its size—it may be small, but it can help with a range of issues. Suffering from heatstroke or a fever? The practice may be able to aid your recovery. Dealing with a soft tissue injury or inflammation? Gua sha may be able to provide relief. Additionally, Wu says this ancient wellness ritual stimulates blood flow, reduces puffiness (especially on your face), and relaxes your physical body.
Where should you use the tool on your body?
Yes, on TikTok and Instagram, you may see videos of people using the tool on their face. But don’t stop there! While there are many benefits to practicing gua sha on your face (hello, tension relief), the tool is actually intended to be used on your entire body.
All of the acupressure and acupuncture channels throughout your body connect to one another, Gray says. And as a result, by practicing gua sha on the rest of your body (yes, beyond your face), you’ll experience wide-ranging benefits. “When you’re activating, using the gua sha tool on your body, you’re actually working on increasing blood flow, [as well as] what we call chi promotion, the movement of chi (or life-force energy), throughout the body,” she says.
If you have the time, practicing gua sha over your entire body is the best option, Wu says. However, that commitment may not be realistic for most people. Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, Gray suggests spending time focusing on the area of your body where you feel the most tension or pain. Hunched over a laptop all day? You may opt to use the tool on your neck and shoulders. Sitting for a little too long? Utilize the gua sha tool to guide the movement of chi in your legs. Your gua sha practice should be tailored to you and your body’s needs.
How do you practice gua sha?
It’s important to learn the practice of gua sha from a licensed professional, Wu says. But it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. To begin, YINA recommends watching the below gua sha routine. When using your gua sha tool, it’s important to follow the stroke lines that correlate with the circulation and movement of chi in your body. However, Gray says different licensed professionals may recommend different directions of movement—and that is perfectly normal. Depending on the benefits you’re looking to achieve and the areas you want to target, you gua sha routine may look entirely different from someone else’s.
How frequently should you gua sha?
Like most things, to see results and reap the benefits of this wellness routine, consistency is key. But you don’t need to make it a major time commitment. Gray says if she has 10 minutes in the morning, she’ll spend about five minutes guiding the gua sha tool on her face before spending another five minutes on her neck and chest. Just a few minutes every day can make a world of difference.
What are some red flags to look out for when purchasing a gua sha tool?
Are you ready to try gua sha? You’ll want to do just a little bit of research before purchasing a particular tool. Wu says she sees retailers claiming they invented the gua sha tool. Considering it’s an ancient practice of TCM, that raises a bit of a red flag. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for retailers using a different name for this tool. While some of these sellers may be offering products that look like a gua sha tool, they’re most likely bypassing the TCM roots of this practice. (Unsure of where to look? YINA sells a Bian stone gua sha; $60)
While these tools offer a plethora of benefits for your entire body, be wary of gua sha tools claiming to sculpt or lift your face, Wu says. These particular physical changes may be related to the increased stimulation of blood flow on your face, but they’re not a direct result of gua sha. So, while this ancient wellness ritual comes with tons of benefits, it’s still not a quick fix.