Myths About Gua Sha Tools You Need To Stop Believing

In our culture's never-ending search for perfection, we'll turn to anything in the hope of getting positive results. In the past few years, gua sha has become part of that search as people have been using the tool on their faces to diminish wrinkles, smooth their skin, and even erase what society deems as flaws. The problem is that not everyone knows how to properly use gua sha facial tools or knows what the benefits are supposed to be.

"Gua means 'scrape' and Sha means 'petechiae' (tiny, flat red, purple spots) in Chinese," skincare shop owner Dr. Ervina Wu told Harper's Bazaar. "Gua Sha began as a full body treatment — which most people don't realize since facial techniques have recently become popular. The key point is to scrape the skin (commonly the upper back) to invigorate blood flow, release heat toxins, stimulate lymphatic drainage, activate various points of the body, and bring helpful cells to the area by stimulating an immune response."

As Dr. Wu points out, it's the facial gua sha techniques that are the most common, but with people doing them at home, myths have followed as to what one can expect. What was once something that was used for health reasons is now being sold as a way to transform your face in one way or another. However, that's not how these tools and techniques work. It's time to put the myths about gua sha tools to bed.

Gua sha tools can erase a double chin

Unfortunately — and not for the first time — some TikTok creators have been making false claims. It seems like every other day, people take to TikTok to push a false narrative about something, and then a bunch of other people eat it up. At the moment, that rumor on TikTok is that gua sha tools can get rid of a double chin if you use them enough. 

"The issue with claiming gua sha can reduce a double chin is the misunderstanding of anatomy and physiology," certified acupuncturist, herbalist, and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Sandra Chiu told Allure. "If heaviness of the chin is due to an out-pocketing of adipose tissue, there is no way gua sha is going to eliminate that." In layman's terms, adipose tissue is body fat.

What gua sha tools actually do when they're "scraping" is target stagnation in the body and bring the flow of qi — vitality — back to its proper levels. This results in healthy skin and muscle tissue, but it doesn't erase a double chin.

They will change the shape of your face

Similar to the misguided belief that gua sha tools can eliminate a double chin, there's also a myth that they can dramatically change the shape of your face. If only such things were so easy for people who prefer a differently shaped face. Can gua sha tools make your face look temporarily slimmer? Sure, but that's only because when you use the tools correctly, they reduce facial puffiness by creating microcirculation. This effect doesn't last, so when you wake up the next morning, you need to do it again. Making gua sha part of your morning routine is great for the skin — just don't expect facial structure to change. 

According to a 2007 study published in Explore, within 10 minutes of gua sha, microcirculation in the area increases fourfold. Because of this, it's natural to see some changes in your face. Once the effects fizzle, however, your face will look like it did before gua sha. If you're hoping to change your jawline, nose, mouth, or any other facial feature, you won't find it in gua sha. You'll find it in surgery, per Slim Couture.

They offer a natural alternative to Botox

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Botox was the most popular "minimally invasive" cosmetic procedure of 2020 with 4.4 million procedures having been performed. Although Botox has become commonplace, it hasn't stopped some people from seeking natural alternatives to it — and gua sha has become one of them.

"When you compare the two, it is a disservice to the indigenous practice because [gua sha is] not Botox," doctor of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Paige Yang told Shape. "When it doesn't perform like Botox — it can't freeze your muscles — then people are left to believe that Chinese medicine doesn't work." But Chinese medicine does work, it's just a matter of knowing what to reasonably respect. 

The only thing that works like Botox is Botox and similar injections that do the same thing. Botox injections work in a lot of different ways and have many benefits that far exceed just diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. Gua sha, too, has many benefits, but as Yang points out, the two aren't even remotely in the same category and can't be compared. 

Gua sha tools are painful

If you're experiencing pain while using your gua sha tools, then you're definitely doing something wrong. Gua sha tools aren't supposed to be violently pushed into your skin and stroked over your face (or other parts of your body) with aggression. You may think giving extra pressure may give better results, but that's not how these tools work. 

Instead, oil should first be applied to the tools or wherever you'll be doing your scraping, so each upward movement is smooth and glides without a struggle. You shouldn't be fighting against your skin with each stroke, nor should you do more than five movements in one particular area. You also want to set aside time for your gua sha practice so you can focus on what you're doing and be mindful of each stroke, per Cosmetics by Tatiana. When you're fully engaged in what you're doing, you're more likely to do it correctly and ultimately not cause yourself any pain, or even worse, bruising. 

Anyone can use gua sha tools

Although — if used correctly — gua sha tools aren't harmful, it only makes sense that rubbing anything on your face isn't the best idea if you have sensitive skin or any sort of irritation. You're not just disrupting the natural facial oils and moving things around, but you're "stirring up the muck from the bottom of a lake," gua sha expert Britta Plug told MindBodyGreen. That visual alone should give you a good indication of what's going on when you first start gua sha, so people with sensitive skin should beware. 

"Gua sha can be utilized by most skin types, however it's best to consult your doctor or dermatologist if you have any serious skin problems such as rosacea," acupuncturist Ada Ooi told Elle. "It should not be used if you are taking any blood thinners or medicines that prevent or reduce blood clotting ability." This is because of the way gua sha encourages blood to circulate. If you're on such medications, a professional can do gua sha in a way that won't subject you to possible complications. 

Gua sha is great and there's no doubting the benefits that come with it. If you start doing gua sha expecting the myths you've heard to be fact, however, you're going to be disappointed. It's best to know what gua sha can do for you and have realistic expectations based on that knowledge.