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two heart shaped stones sit in a wooden bowl

Gua sha (pronounced gwah-shah) is a massage technique that involves scraping the skin with a stone tool; it has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to reduce stagnation and improve circulation of vital energy, or chi. While the ancient modality has recently been gaining popularity on beauty blogs, modern facial adaptions focus on combining TCM with the benefits of lymphatic-drainage techniques to improve the look and feel of the skin.

“My primary focus when it comes to gemstones and facial-massage tools is the physical effect they have on the skin,” says Cecily Braden, founder of CJB Beauty Secrets. With a variety of stones available, Braden recommends keeping a few considerations in mind as you select yours: “Although different gemstones have properties that support different systems of the skin, it’s less about the particular gemstone and more about the design and how it connects with your skin. You want to choose a stone that will resonate with you, that you will love, cherish, and, most importantly, be excited to use.”

Avoid gua sha if you bruise easily or if you are using blood thinners or other medications that can cause bruising. Consult your health professional if you have a specific skin or body concern.

Follow Braden’s protocol daily, completing each stroke-path three to five times, to “awaken your skin and support its ability to heal.”

1. Neck

illustration of how to gua sha upward stroke on neck

Starting at the back of your neck, hold the stone to your skin at a 15-degree angle like a squeegee, hugging your spine with the stone’s notch. Sweep from the base of your neck to your hairline. Continue parallel strokes around each side of your neck until you reach your throat.

Tip: Be careful not to press directly on your throat.

2. Jaw

illustration of how to gua sha jaw stroke

Using your jawline as your guide, start under your chin and move outward to below your ear. You can also use the notched part of the stone to “hug” your jawbone with the same outward movement.

Tip: Use light pressure under the jawline to move unwanted fluid.

3. Cheeks/off-ramp

illustration of how to gua sha cheeks and off ramp

Align the edge of your stone so it’s perpendicular to your mouth and sweep outward toward your ear. Support lymph drainage by sweeping down in front of your ear and straight down to the base of your neck. This pathway in front of your ears contains the preauricular lymph nodes; Braden refers to it as the “off-ramp.”

Tip: Gently wiggle the stone from side to side to encourage blood flow.

4. Eyebrows

illustration of how to gua sha eyebrows

Choose a smaller edge of your stone and, using your brow bone as your guide, apply gentle sweeps. Move from the inner corner of your brow to the temple. Repeat this movement above your eyebrow as well.

Tip: Work slowly and focus on the muscles around the eyes — don’t pull on your eyelids.

5. Forehead

illustration of how to gua sha forehead

With the long edge of your stone parallel to your brow line, make sweeping motions from between your eyebrows up to your hairline. Repeat this movement on each side, working outward from the middle of the brow.

Tip: Use medium pressure on fine lines and deeper pressure for muscular tension.

Illustrations by: Clare Owen
Laura Fogelberg

Laura Fogelberg is an Experience Life audience-development manager.

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