In this article I’m gonna be talking all about gua sha for wrinkles, reducing morning puffiness, sculpting the face and having a skin tightening effect.
Table of Contents
What is Gua Sha?
It’s really trendy right now on social media. Chances are if you open up any social media app. you’re going to see an influencer talking about doing their gua sha as part of their skin care routine.
But it’s been around a lot longer than social media. It’s part of traditional Chinese medicine.
It involves taking a half moon-shaped stone. made either of rose quartz or jade and rubbing it across the skin. This is thought to help in promoting the chi, which is a principle of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the energy balance and flow throughout the body.
The reason the stone is made either of rose quartz or jade is because a tenet of traditional Chinese medicine is that it places value on the material and it’s not that rose quartz and jade have healing properties.
The action of rubbing the stone across the skin is thought to activate certain acupressure points and to relieve tension.
Skin care enthusiasts who tout the benefits of gua sha for their skin care routine claim that it sculpts the face and is almost like an alternative to Botox. They claim that it helps reduce puffiness and helps fight off wrinkles and helps their skin care products work better.
So in this article I’m going to talk all about is there any truth to these claims.
But I have to tell you up front I have never used a gua sha tool before.
So what do I think about the gua sha tool overall?
Does Gua Sha Work?
Honestly, my gut reaction was this seems like a gimmick, another thing for you to buy and get roped into.
However, I cannot deny the benefit.
First of all, the aspect of massage. It is very relaxing and we know first and foremost that stress is a major contributing factor to aging of the skin. Chronic psychologic stress activates the autonomic nervous system and over time that actually can weaken the moisture barrier and leads to more prominent signs of photo aging.
So first and foremost in my opinion, one benefit of this is that it’s likely a relaxing practice. And when it comes to a skincare routine, I think sometimes people tend to rush through skin care and they’re missing out on a key time to really unwind and relax. Especially at night before you go to bed.
So I really appreciate that fact that it basically just takes some time to do and has a relaxing aspect.
I do think that massage can help to relax muscles that you may have been clenching all day, like around your jaw or your forehead. Over time, that chronic clenching can contribute to wrinkle formation, along with ultraviolet radiation destroying collagen down below.
The chronic clenching definitely can play a role. That makes sense to me.
But the idea that you could tighten the skin or boost up collagen production, I honestly was very suspicious of that. It just doesn’t seem likely that rubbing something on the skin is going to affect change in the deeper layers of the skin necessary to boost up collagen production.
But i did go to PubMed and see if there was anything there. And I found something that is promising.
I found a paper published in 2017 where they looked at the effects of facial massage on wrinkles.
They’re not looking at gua sha, they’re just looking at facial massage.
In this study they took 20 women, who were aged 65 to 75, and they had them apply a cream to the face and neck, followed by daily use of a massage device for eight weeks.
They had a control group of 20 women roughly the same age who just applied a cream for eight weeks.
They looked at global facial wrinkles, skin texture, the lip area, cheek wrinkles, neck sagging and neck texture.
At the end of the study they showed that both groups actually had improvement in the appearance of some of the signs of photo aging, but the benefit was amplified in the group that used the massaging device.
They showed pictures of two of the participants in the massage arm of the study.
I noticed a change in in the appearance of wrinkles.
It would be nice if they had included some photos of the control group to compare, but I do see what they’re talking about. It does look like there is some benefit in the appearance of wrinkles, maybe enhances the effect of the cream.
They don’t go into detail about what this cream is or what’s in it or anything like that, but the the conclusion is that the massage did amplify the benefits of the cream in terms of the appearance of wrinkles.
You might posit that the action of massage increases blood flow, improves delivery of growth factors, enhances uptake of your moisturizers to really get good hydration. Who knows?
There’s also some thought that it’s that mechanical torque on the skin that deep down can stimulate fibroblasts to produce collagen, having a wrinkle smoothing effect.
I will point out, however, in this study they’re using a device that has a a rotary torque to it, an oscillating head as opposed to the gua sha tool where it’s not torquing on the skin.
I don’t know if the gua sha tool would produce similar results.
They were able to get pretty good improvement as far as texture of the neck and neck wrinkles by adding that massaging piece to the treatment.
So I’m not sure if the gua sha tool would affect this kind of change, because in the study they’re using a massaging device that has a torque to it. That might make a difference as opposed to just rubbing across the skin.
But you could assume this is improving blood flow, improving circulation, ultimately yielding a better result.
I am still skeptical however that this is really going to make a difference as far as the strength of the elastic tissue in the skin and the quality of that tissue in the skin. It just doesn’t seem likely that it’s going to affect change at that level, to that depth.
I would like to see more studies looking at the mechanical effects of massage on wrinkle formation and parameters around photo aging, before just assuming that this one small study published in 2017 proved massage makes things better.
But, like I said, anything that’s relaxing is going to benefit not only your skin, your quality of sleep, but your total overall body health. That’s really important and if you do clench your muscles, I think this can help you just relax the face.
In regard to the chiseling aspect, I’m suspicious.
If you do have swelling, this will help in pushing the fluid out of the skin or out of the tissue. That makes sense that it actively reduces puffiness.
I think it’s better to be mindful of your salt intake, try and sleep with the head a little elevated to promote drainage of fluid out of the skin back to the heart.
But don’t expect miracles with something like this.
Is Gua Sha Safe?
I do think that this is overall safe.
Who should not do gua sha?
People who are on blood thinners and bruise easily. I would say you don’t want to do something like this because it can result in bruising.
The women in the study were a more senior age. That is an age group where your skin is a lot more vulnerable to bruising because of age-related loss of the structural support in the deeper layers.
If you are of that age group and you are on a blood thinner, including aspirin, be very careful. I would caution you against this.
I would also caution you against this if you have rosacea, because anything that stimulates blood flow to the skin of the face can precipitate a flare of rosacea.
If you have any kind of active skin problem, skin rash, acne breakout, I would avoid this as well, because that rubbing on the skin could actually cause some irritation that ultimately would worsen certain skin conditions.
I believe that the tools come with instructions on how to clean them.
That would be another thing that I would advise. Make sure that you clean it regularly, because your dead skin cells are going to slough off on there and if you’re rubbing this over skin care products, they are going to accumulate on there.
You don’t want to then put that back on your skin. Eventually it might create some kind of a film of bacteria that would aggravate things like acne. So just make sure you keep it clean.
We’ve talked a lot about using it on the face, but you also can use it to the arms. If you have saggy skin around the arms, wrinkles, crepey skin, it may help in just smoothing things out.
But, it’s hard to say!
It would be nice if we had an actual study on that, rather than just assuming that maybe it will work.
As far as chiseling your face, that claim makes some sense. You’re pushing fluid out of the tissue, but it’s not actually changing your anatomy or facial structure and it’s not actively tightening saggy skin.
So if you are somebody who has age related loss of volume and facial sagging, this is not going to lift things up.
So set your expectations.
You may appreciate just a little bit more of a radiant glow, simply perhaps from the increased blood flow.
I don’t think it’s a harmful thing to do whatsoever.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.