Gua Sha Facial Rolling: Learn the Wellness Secrets from an Expert
In the past few years, skincare has evolved beyond a simple cleanser and moisturizer routine to include serums, essences, and tools—like face rollers and gua sha tools. Most commonly made from jade or quartz, these sculptural objects may seem new to us but have actually been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries. We recently chatted with Lynn Gallagher, a licensed esthetician at Haven Wellness Center, located in Philadelphia’s Olde Kensington neighborhood, about all things gua sha. Read on to learn more.
terrain: Hi Lynn! Thank you so much for chatting with us. First things first—what is gua sha?
Lynn Gallagher: Gua sha (meaning “to scrape”) is a facial massage technique that stems from TCM. Gua Sha, as commonly practiced on the body by acupuncturists and massage therapists to treat pain and tension, has been adapted for the face using lighter motions. It’s important to give credit to eastern medicine here as we start to use facial gua sha in our own skincare routines. In my opinion, it is much more than a cosmetic or aesthetic treatment; it’s also energetic and intelligent.
terrain: Got it! What about the basic principles of the practice?
Lynn: Sure! According to TCM, the use of gua sha addresses qi (chi) energy in the face and body to restore optimal health and vitality. In order to keep the qi balanced, it must be able to properly flow. Qi can become stagnant due to lifestyle factors such as diet, stress, lack of sleep, and lack of movement. Gua sha assists in the proper flow of qi and blood which will ensure the health of the entire system. Fresh, flowing blood with the proper qualities brings radiance to the skin, specifically when talking about facial gua sha. It works with the lymphatic system in order to flush out toxins and restore qi, it helps remove adhesions in connective tissue and relaxes your face muscles to release tension. To some degree, we all may notice some stagnation or tension in the face and gua sha is superior in working intelligently to release this.
terrain: What are some of the more specific benefits people may notice when they do gua sha?
Lynn: Well, the facial treatment itself is deeply nourishing and relaxing. But people can see and feel benefits in a few ways, whether they see reduced inflammation, hyper-pigmentation, and congestion or feel a reduction in puffiness and see a more firm, sculpted appearance. Gua sha also helps to stimulate collagen and elastin production to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
terrain: What are your tips for at-home gua sha?
Lynn: Once you understand the basic techniques (and I do recommend speaking with a licensed, certified practitioner first), home practice can become a simple ritual that you truly enjoy and look forward to doing. I like to keep instructions simple so you are able to keep your practice up at home.
Lynn’s Gua Sha Tips
Pressure: Make sure you use light, consistent pressure on your neck, medium pressure on your face, and deeper pressure on your forehead and jaw.
Angle: Use upward or downward motions on the front and back of your neck. Work in outward motions on your face, using the tool at a flat-to-15 degree angle to activate the lymph.
Anchoring: Depending on the area, you want to have a light touch with a finger on the point from which you are working with the tool. For example, hold the center of the chin with the pointer and middle finger and glide the tool along the jawline toward the ear. This helps you with calming your nervous system and it won’t feel like you're tugging and pulling at the skin.
Number of “passes”: Moving along the same area multiple times is necessary to receive the full benefit. The appropriate amount of passes is about 5-10. Too many passes can over-stimulate the lymph!
Breath: Remember to check in with your breathing. Allowing your body and face to relax will help you feel the overall effect of a facial gua sha home practice. Continuously breathe with long, intentional inhales and exhales.
Oils: I recommend using a high quality facial oil with a hydrosol on top to provide just enough "slip". You should feel neither too oily nor too dry.
Be sure to check out our Spa + Wellness Shop to stock up on facial rollers, gua sha, tools, oils, and more!