Who knew that the simple act of strategically rubbing a stone on your face could provide relief from stress, improve your skin’s health, and boost your mood both in the moment and long-term? That’s precisely why facial gua sha is having a moment, and as students, practitioners, and enthusiasts of this modernized ancient self-care modality we’re absolutely delighted to see how it’s helping everyone, from acne-sufferers, to people living with chronic illness, to those who are simply looking to give their complexions a boost.
We’re also a little … uneasy, if we’re being honest. With the widespread adoption of facial gua sha within the beauty and lifestyle communities, and the inevitable spray of Instagram tutorials that follows, we’ve observed some techniques on social media and YouTube from brands and influencers alike are often—albeit innocently!—totally wrong. Sometimes these mistakes are inconsequential, but when you’re working with the skin, lymph, and chi (the Traditional Chinese Medicine word for life force), we feel it’s important to follow a protocol to make sure you’re getting the most out of your practice and that you’re not accidentally causing any harm. These five gua sha mistakes are the most common ones we talk about in practice and see on social media. Fixing them will ensure your practice is safe and will likely yield better results!
1. Using the wrong kind of oil.
Gua sha requires a slip-and-slide that only facial oils can provide. Using a serum or an especially tacky combination of oils and other ingredients will cause pilling, potential redness, and interfere with the calming effects of the ritual. Not cool! Investing in a facial oil that’s made especially for use with a gua sha tool is a good way to get the most out of your stone, your time, your energy, and your dollar. We recommend the Empress Oil.
2. Holding the gua sha tool incorrectly.
One of the most common mistakes we see on Instagram is people holding the gua sha stone at the wrong angle. For the basic gua sha stroke, hold the stone so it creates an acute angle with the surface of the skin, somewhere between 15 to 45 degrees. Doing so maximizes the contact between the tool and your skin, and is also the most efficient for moving lymph. Do not hold the stone at a 90 degree angle to your skin unless you’re working with a specialty technique that requires it.
3. Skipping the neck.
When learning facial massage, understanding that the neck is like the super highway to the face is key. In other words, facial gua sha doesn’t really work unless the neck is treated, too.
4. Moving too quickly.
Slow and steady wins the gua sha game. Fast movements have their place, but the basic stroke is more effective when it’s a beat or two slower than what feels comfortable. Slowing down gives you a chance to connect to your breath and to fully feel the happy, releasing sensations that gua sha can give. Permission to move as slow as you want, granted!
5. Applying the wrong pressure in the wrong areas.
Harder isn’t always better, especially when it comes to facial gua sha. In order to move the lymph efficiently, a gentle pressure is ideal for the stroke. Pull rather than push—if you go too hard, you risk bruising, the kind you see in gua sha bodywork, which isn't cute on your face.
Like all worthwhile endeavors, these optimizations are both minor and important. The devil is in the details! With these gua sha tweaks, you’ll get better results, keep it safe, and now have bragging rights! Take to Instagram, tell your friends, and treat your face equipped these top-notch, up-to-date, gua sha-expert endorsed tips.