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Beauty Fanatics Are Hooked On A 600-Year-Old TCM Treatment

This traditional Chinese medicine technique is a hot topic on social media and among beauty fanatics.

If there is one thing being in lockdown has thought us, it is that we are a rather resilient and resourceful bunch. Although we’ve missed salon-standard facials and hair treatments, some of us have been taking personal grooming & pampering into our own hands with DIY hair cuts and DIY dye jobs.

So you want to have a DIY face massage at home, why not?

Chinese Beauty Beside a Plum Tree, leaf from the album “A Contest of Beauties from the Near and Distant Past” (1895), woodblock print; ink and colour on paper. Gift of Donald Keene, in honor of Julia Meech-Pekarik, 1986 / The Metropolitan Museum of Art

When it comes to face massage tools, the gua sha tool, in particular, is becoming popular. Used for over 600 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), gua sha is said to boost micro-circulation, remove toxins and relieve muscle pain. Used on the face, it’s even been touted as an alternative to botulinum toxin injections since the massage technique helps to relax muscle tension.

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The biggest reason behind this increased interest in gua sha is social media, says Newby Hands, Net-A-Porter’s global beauty director. “Gua sha has become popular globally and, especially in Europe and the US, from Instagram, and following on from the popularity of jade and rose quartz facial rollers, this was the next big thing.”

Hands adds that its popularity is also thanks to how easy it is to incorporate into your skincare routine. Using it with a facial oil both encourages micro-circulation to get the complexion glowing and nourishes the skin.

What gua sha does for your skin

Gua sha involves scraping (gua) your skin with a tool to elicit a healing effect, says Eu Yan Sang’s associate physician, Lin Jiayi, who is based at its Serangoon TCM Clinic. “Similar to acupuncture, gua sha has the same concept of promoting balance and flow of the body’s energy by improving its qi and blood circulation.

Eu Yan Sang does not offer face gua sha services but Lin says the concept is similar to the body version, although it is performed with a lighter hand, using gentler strokes.

This is how a beauty fiend rolls these days – with a gua sha massager on hand.. Photo:@Herbivorebotanicals

“The redness (sha) on the skin that is experienced during the treatment is the body’s healing response, and the amount of sha depends on the individual’s skin type and the severity of the treatment.”

When done properly, there should be little to no redness or marks left on the face. “Face gua sha improves circulation and lymphatic flow in the face, firms and lifts the skin, reduces water retention and improves the complexion. It also relieves tension in the face muscles – particularly along our jaw and the space between the brows, which tends to get tense when we are stressed – while relaxing both the body and mind.”

Here, Lin shares the dos and don’ts when doing face gua sha.


1. Limit your home face gua sha to two to three times a week, for a start. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can include it in your daily skincare routine to boost skin health.

2. Use light to medium pressure – we know you’re probably tempted to exert more pressure because no pain no gain, right? Not in this instance though.

3. Use a jade tool because that is what’s traditionally used in TCM. Plus, jade is said to carry healing energy and it also balances the body’s qi. Jade also cools down the skin and soothes it, which aids in healing and detoxification. Lin recommends using a tool that is flat on one side and has rounded knobs or edges on the other. You could also use a facial roller but Lin says it will be less intense on the face. Ultimately, you should choose the tool you’re most comfortable using.

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1.  Go overboard. Each face gua sha session should take five to 10 minutes, done once a day. There is no need for repeat sessions throughout the day.

2. Rush through the movements. Use slow and mindful strokes, and it’s best done when you’re feeling calm and relaxed. Try either in the morning when you wake up or at night before going to bed.

3. Other things to remember include avoiding doing face gua sha on inflamed skin, such as acne, rosacea and sunburn. And it’s not recommended for pregnant women as well. If you’ve got sensitive skin, Lin suggests consulting a professional first because gua sha might over-stimulate skin, which can lead to more problems.

Angela Caglia Vibrating Rose Quartz Face Sculpting Roller, US$196.15 (S$274)
Not only helps you ease stress and tension, but it also uses over 6,000 sonic vibrations per minute to help your skincare products penetrate better and deeper into skin. Hayo’u Jade Precision Beauty Restorer, US$42.31 (S$59)
Especially designed to rejuvenate a tired-looking complexion, smoothing away the appearance of wrinkles and reducing toxin build-up via lymphatic drainage. Its slim profile also makes for a more comfortable grip. Jade Roller Beauty Jade Roller Pro, $73
An easy-to-use beauty tool to reduce puffiness, encourage micro-circulation and lift the skin. The elongated and larger jade roller also makes it easier to use. Herbivore Botanicals Gua Sha Rose Quartz, $27
This rose quartz beauty tool not only relieves muscle tension and boosts micro-circulation, is also said to channel warmth and emotional healing. Daily Concepts Daily Jade Gua Sha, $29.90
Lifts the skin and erases the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Skin is smoother and looks more radiant.