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Article: Ask The Expert: The Art of Gua Sha + The Defense Barrier

Ask The Expert: The Art of Gua Sha + The Defense Barrier
Ask the Expert

Ask The Expert: The Art of Gua Sha + The Defense Barrier

A Celebrity Esthetician Shares Gua Secrets For Unlocking Glowing Skin

In winter, the skin defense barrier becomes the focal point for maintaining healthy, strong and youthful looking skin.  We work with alot of top spas and estheticians and there is one practice that has gained huge popularity for barrier support: Gua Sha.

What is Gua Sha?Gua Sha, means "scraping away illness" and involves using a smooth-edged tool, typically made of jade, onyx or quartz, to massage the skin. The technique is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and is believed to stimulate the flow of energy (Qi), along the body's meridians.  While Gua Sha is a technique many professional estheticians use in their practice for visible results, it's also something you can do at home for supporting the defense barrier, which is why we love it!.  

There are countless Gua Sha videos on social media, but we wanted to know about techniques for optimal results, so we asked one of the best – LA-based celebrity esthetician Katie Sobelman, @theorganicesthetician:


  • Improved Circulation + Lymphatic Drainage: Gua Sha helps increase blood flow to the skin, detoxifying waste, and promoting skin oxygenation, all of which support healthy skin function for optimal barrier support. 
  • Enhanced Product Absorption: Gua sha works to infuse the skin with lipids from your facial oils supporting the building blocks of your skin’s barrier: cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides. 
  • Tension Release: Helps release muscle tension, particularly in the jaw and neck area, for a more relaxed and youthful appearance.

What is the right way to prep the skin to Gua Sha? You want to start with clean, hydrated skin. I always recommend applying a toner or essence, to balance pH and add hydration, followed by an organic facial oil of your choice. This allows your tool to glide seamlessly on the skin and infuse the skin with the oil’s lipids. 

Can you explain three simple steps to properly use the Gua Sha? Hold your tool at a 45 degree angle, allowing for as much of the flat side of your tool to touch the skin at all times. Work from the base of the neck up to the forehead and back down, moving from the midline towards the ear. Go slow! The slower you move, the better your results.

Is there an incorrect way to Gua Sha or any watchouts? When it comes to gua sha, I think it is really important to think about what you are trying to achieve. Do you want to drain fluid and de-puff the face? Or do you want to carve out cheekbones to lift and sculpt? Your movements and how you hold your tool will be different depending on your desired goal.

The biggest mistake when performing Gua Sha is using the edge of the tool instead of the large flat surface. While the edge can be beneficial for stimulating blood flow over targeted areas, it is not designed to be used over the full face. Instead, get as much of the flat surface of the tool touching your skin as possible, then glide. 

What products support the best Gua Sha results? Are there any products we should NOT use with the Gua Sha technique? Hydrating products full of lipids are best paired with gua sha. I personally love performing gua sha over facial oil. However, depending on the formulation, you can gua sha over serums and moisturizers too.

Because the main focus of gua sha is draining, detoxifying, and improving circulation, it is best to avoid using active ingredients that might create irritation when stimulated, like retinol and AHAs.

There are so many variations of Gua Sha tools on the market right now.  How do you choose the shape, stone type and size?  Ultimately, you want a tool that feels comfortable in your hand and that you can easily move on your face. This allows for a lot of freedom so choose a tool that speaks to you. When it comes to materials, gemstone tools can impart additional skin benefits while stainless steel tools are ideal for sensitive and reactive skin.

How often should we Gua Sha and for how long to see results? Gua Sha can be performed daily and results can be seen almost immediately. The more you do it, the healthier your skin will become. It is sneaky. You might feel like you're not doing anything special or complicated, but suddenly you’ll have the best skin of your life, and you’ll owe it all to these simple movements.

What is the proper technique for skin tightening and barrier support? I’m a big believer in draining then sculpting. By slowly and gently draining the face, you’re able to remove stagnant fluid, lymph, and toxins, creating a fresh slate for the next step. Follow draining movements with sculpting movements applied with slightly more pressure to increase circulation, drenching the tissue with the nutrients and oxygen it needs to maintain firm skin and a healthy barrier.

What age should you start using the Gua Sha? You’re never too young to start using gua sha. Gua sha can be helpful for addressing acne in teens and creating a healthy skincare routine for those in their 20’s. To that end, you’re never too old to start gua sha either, and can see improvement well into your 70’s.

FAST FACTS:  Katie Sobleman, The Organic Esthetician

  • Favorite Wellness Practice or Beauty Ritual: Microcurrent and Pulsed Electromagnectic Field therapy for improving cellular health and mitochondrial support. Contrast Therapy, Infrared Sauna and Cold Exposure, for improved circulation, cardiovascular health, inflammation support, stress reduction, and an elevated sense of wellbeing.
  • One Wellness Practice You Can't Live Without:  Mouth Taping - I tape my mouth every night to ensure I breathe exclusively through my nose while I sleep. Your internal hydration increases up to 42% when you stop breathing through your mouth. Nose breathing also improves sleep quality, prevents chapped lips, and improves your overall immunity. 
  • What You're Reading / Watching Right Now:  Reading: Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself by Joe Dispenza, and The North Woods by Daniel Mason. Watching: The new seasons of Fargo and True Detective
  • Favorite Place You've Been: We spend a lot of time on the North Shore of Kauai with family, it’s a second home. When I’m not thinking about heading back to Limahuli Valley, I’m dreaming of Rome. It is quite possibly my favorite city I’ve ever been to.
  • Favorite Restaurant/Cafe/Coffee Shop: Valley Bar + Bottle in Sonoma and Erewhon in LA.
  • Current Desert Island Skincare Products:

Note: Katie Sobleman is a licensed master esthetician and entrepreneur with a large and loyal client base in studio and on Instagram at @theorganicesthetician. Ask the Expert tips and interviews are for informational purposes only and any practice, product, supplement, medical or dietary recommendations are personal to those in this blog post only. Always consult your trusted medical practitioners and personal esthetician to determine the best options for you. 

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