While I’m extremely into using each and every high-tech device that I can get my hands on for the sake of my skin—I’m looking at you, NuFace ($325), Neutrogena LED Light Mask ($30), and GloPro ($200)… and the list goes on—I’m also not above turning back time (in Cher’s voice) to embrace ancient facial tools. The jade roller, for example, feels amazing and also helps with de-puffing. And lately, I’ve been loving the gua sha—which is kind of like a jade roller in that it’s made out of a gemstone, but it’s more sharp and has different benefits. Namely: sculpting your face and stimulating lymphatic drainage.
But as I’ve been gliding the gemstone tool across my face in every-which direction, I’ve been noticing an added perk. My blackheads have been clearing up. Is this too good to be true, or an actual benefit of doing gua sha on the reg?
I have great news: Gua sha can, in fact, help with this particular skin woe. Holistic facialist and co-founder of Wildling, Britta Plug says this is the case because gua sha acts a a sort of system sweeper underneath your skin. “What it comes down to is working on the lymphatic system and drainage,” she tells me. “Of course, the lymphatic system has so many different functions and health benefits in the body, but in terms of your face, it’s about how [the lymphs] are the septic system of the tissue.” Gua sha comes in because it’s gliding across your skin in the right direction in order to remove that waste… and that waste is what’s behind skin congestion.
Gua sha comes in because it’s gliding across your skin in the right direction in order to remove that waste… and that waste is what’s behind skin congestion.
“When we’re able to stimulate that flow and optimize it, then we’re going to be able to remove waste so much more efficiently from the tissue—and what that results in is less blackheads, less breakouts, and less hyperpigmentation over time because all that junk is being cleared out from below the surface of the tissue,” says Plug. That’s all opposed to doing it topically—so while it takes longer to see these pore-clearing results, it’s a more holistic and preventative method of achieving that glow.
Of course, since gua sha is working the magic from the inside-out, it’s not like you’re going to see your blackheads fall out à la, say, a nose strip or some sort of facial peel. “They more so just dissolve and disappear,” says Plug. Though if you’re dealing with really solidified blackheads, she notes that it may be best to actually go to a facialist for extractions before using gua sha to prevent it from building up like that again.
That said, it’s worth noting that this method falls more on the “woo-woo beauty” side of things… and isn’t necessarily dermatologist-backed. Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care recommends exfoliating acids for expunging blackheads from the skin (like salicylic and glycolic acid), but she notes that gua sha “is good at surface exfoliation,” she says. “I cannot find any clear evidence that gua sha alone will actually help acne, but in one review, the scientific literature concluded that gua sha works pretty much only when combined with acupuncture for acne.”
Down to try it, though? Logistically, it’s all about moving from the center outwards. “I think of it as sweeping a floor into piles at the edge of your face,” says Plug. “Make sure to drain all of those piles down to that dip above the collarbone—it’s like taking out the trash to the curb.” Also, she suggests using more lymphatic-based, thick strokes when dealing with pore congestion. “A major lymphatic drainage stroke comes down from the ears to the collarbone,” she says.
Additionally, you can tweak other aspects of your lifestyle to make your gua sha routine more effective: Be consistent and regular with the practice, and stay hydrated, have healthy digestion, get enough sleep, and eat healthy meals. “To be really effective, you need the other organs of elimination to be optimized as well,” says Plug. Worth a try—at the very least, gua sha feels heavenly on the skin.
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