By now, you’ve surely fallen into the trap of the oddly satisfying facial massage videos popping up all over Instagram. Maybe they’ve even inspired you to get into it yourself—you wouldn’t be the only one. Gua sha, the ancient Chinese practice of using a smooth-edged tool to increase the circulation in your skin, has boomed in popularity over the past few years, and we have a few ideas why.
For one, it seriously works. Gua sha, which can be done on body or face, can impact everything from fitness recovery to collagen stimulation. “Facial gua sha is used to relieve tension in the facial muscles, improve blood circulation, and encourage lymphatic drainage to treat edema in the face [Editor’s note: basically, getting rid of built-up fluid],” says licensed acupuncturist Jamie Bacharach, Dipl.Ac. “These all help the facial skin become brighter and tighter.”
And better yet, it’s easy and affordable to do at home. All you need is a gua sha tool and a clean, moisturized face (ideally lubricated with a facial oil or moisturizer). Then, it’s all about proper technique: Angle the tool as close to parallel with your skin as possible and using gentle pressure, work from the center of your face out while using the fingers of your free hand to pull your skin taut. “At the end of each stroke, give the tool a wiggle to release tension,” explains Nina Zilka, cofounder and CEO of Alder New York. Repeat a couple of times on each side and you’re set.
If you’re not sure you have the correct method down, you can also get the treatment done by a facialist, which Bacharach recommends. And if you’ve gotten injectables or experience skin inflammation like rosacea or acne, Dr. Kan Cao, founder of Bluelene, suggests you talk to a dermatologist before attempting anything.
For maximum benefits, Cao says to perform gua sha three to four times a week, for three to five minutes each time. Here are the results you can expect.
After One Day
It’s an easy sell: Gua sha will give you instant benefits. “You’ll immediately notice your face looks more toned and sculpted. This is because gua sha aids in draining your lymphatic system—your body’s system for filtering toxins,” says Zilka. It also improves blood circulation, which will give you a glow without the help of any additional products.
Plus, you’ll get some stress relief. “The most interesting part to me is how clients feel after just one gua sha treatment,” adds Joanne deLeon, Heyday regional trainer and skin therapist. “We hold so much tension in our faces, particularly the jaw and forehead. Immediately after gua sha, clients feel what relaxed muscles really feel like. Spoiler alert: It feels amazing!”
After One Week
Expect to further cut down on unwanted swelling, almost as if you’ve contoured your face with no bronzer or concealer required. “You will notice almost immediately a reduction in puffiness along the under-eye area, plumping of the skin, and a brighter complexion as your skin detoxes and drains waste from the lymphatic system,” says Cao.
After One Month
At this point, your skin could start showing more dramatic changes. Puffiness will continue to go down, plus Cao adds that “after one month of consistent use, you will notice an increase in collagen production (so, suppler skin), increased firmness, and a brighter complexion.”
Gua sha can also help combat the strain of your desk job. You’ve probably noticed that after a long day in the office, your posture is out of wack. “Practicing gua sha a few times a week in the proper manner along the side and back of the neck can begin to loosen the muscle tissue and relax the body,” says Cao. Just be careful not to press too hard, as the neck can bruise easily.
After Six Months
By the time you’ve firmly cemented gua sha as a part of your skincare routine, it can have serious anti-aging effects (though you’ll still have to keep up your habit of wearing SPF every day and properly moisturizing, of course). “Many holistic aestheticians and practitioners swear by using gua sha as a natural alternative to Botox to ease the muscles and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a more natural look,” Cao says.
You can think of it as your skin simply operating better. As deLeon explains, “Brighter and healthier-looking skin becomes a new normal after six to eight weeks of consistent home treatments.” If redness or breakouts were a concern, you can also expect to see improvement there, Bacharach notes. All that, and you’ll gain peace of mind thanks to the few minutes you take out of your week to enjoy a nice, relaxing massage. Ahhh.