It’s nearly impossible to scroll through social media without seeing influencers and beauty experts alike using a flat crystal gua sha stone to massage their faces. While this trendy skincare practice might seem new, it’s actually been around for years—hundreds of years. Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, this ancient Chinese technique first came on the scene as a wellness ritual in which stones were used to massage areas of the body on those who fell sick. Fast forward to today, it’s used as a beauty ritual to enhance the overall look of the skin. But, as we have learned with the skinification of hair trend, your skincare routine doesn’t end with your complexion. Your scalp (and, by extension, your hair) can also benefit from gua sha massage.
Up ahead, we take a deeper look at this rejuvenating practice, including how to gua sha the scalp and what products to use for an enhanced gua sha for scalp experience.
What is gua sha?
Gua sha is an ancient Chinese technique that is traditionally used on the face, neck, and décolletage to massage the skin and promote circulation and lymphatic drainage. The practice calls for the use of a gua sha stone, which is typically made of jade or rose quartz (although you can find ones made from all kinds of stones, including amethyst, obsidian, and tiger’s eye) and flat in formation with some straight and curved edges.
For those who aren’t familiar with how to gua sha on the complexion, you hold your skin taut with your fingers and apply light to medium pressure as you scrape or glide the tool upward in various motions around the jaw, cheeks, forehead, and even the eye area. But, for the scalp, it’s a little different.
“The basic scraping gua sha technique [used on the face] should not be used on the scalp,” explains hairstylist Monica Davis. “Instead, you have to apply circular motions,” she adds, noting that using the gua sha tool on your neck can also have some scalp benefits (more on that later).
What are the benefits of gua sha?
Many love gua sha for the face because the massage can help with circulation and lymphatic drainage. The facial massage technique can also help the skin appear to be more glowy and rejuvenated. It’s also a great hack for de-puffing the eye area since some of the ridges on the gua sha stone are small enough to use around the eye contour to massage away swelling.
As for the scalp, Davis says the tool can be used to help destress, which feels really great (think: head massage times 100). The benefits of gua sha for scalp, however, extend beyond relaxation.
“Massaging your scalp with a tool regularly can significantly improve blood circulation on the scalp,” she says.
How often should you gua sha?
You can gua sha your scalp anywhere between once a week to daily—but it all depends on whether or not you incorporate a product into this ritual and how often you want to wash your hair. Because the gua sha movements on the scalp don’t require a gliding motion (like on the face), you can add this practice into your routine sans product. Without product, gua sha on the scalp can be practiced daily.
Of course, even with a scalp product, you can practice gua sha on the scalp regularly. However, if you choose to incorporate a product—such as a scalp oil—you might want to wait until you’re ready to wash your hair. These formulas sometimes feature ingredients that can weigh down the root area, which can leave hair feeling prematurely greasy.
How I Use Gua Sha In My Hair Routine
While I typically gua sha my complexion daily, I usually gua sha my scalp only a few times a week. The reason for this is because I prefer to incorporate a 100 percent argan oil or a scalp oil into this hair care ritual. Just like the skin on my face, my scalp tends to be on the drier side of the spectrum, so adding an oil into this practice ups the ante in terms of benefits, since the gua sha tool massages the nourishing elixir into my scalp. With the addition of oil, I gua sha my scalp before jumping in the shower to wash and condition my hair.
I use gua sha in my hair routine in two ways: On the scalp and on the neck. But, before I reach for my rose quartz tool, I always run a hair brush through my strands and in different directions on the scalp to help increase blood flow.
I first hold my hair in a ponytail and brush out any knots. I have long hair, so this is an important step to prevent breakage when brushing from scalp to ends. Then, I take a brush to my part and brush down and around my head. After that, I flip my hair to the right side in an extreme side part and focus on brushing the left side of my scalp. Then, I flip my hair to the left and brush the right side of my scalp. I follow up by brushing my hair (and scalp) back, as if trying to achieve a slicked-back look before flipping my head upside down and brushing my hair and scalp at the base of my neck toward the crown of my head. At this point, my hair is looking a tad floofy, but my scalp is feeling tingly and ready for some massaging.
Gua Sha On The Scalp
To gua sha the scalp, I start at my part and apply a few small drops of hair oil. Then, I take the pointed side of the gua sha stone and move it in circular motions with light to medium pressure. After about 10 seconds, I reverse the direction of my motions and massage for another 10 seconds. I repeat this all the way down my part and the back of my head.
Next, I create a side part on the left side of my head, about 1 inch away from my usual part and apply a few drops of product. I then take the side of the gua sha stone with two points and repeat those clockwise and counterclockwise motions I did on my part. The left side of my hair is thinner than my right side, so I like to practice the gua sha massage for a bit longer (about 15 seconds in each direction) on this side. Just like I did with my part, I repeat these motions in a row, making my way down to the back of my head. I then part my hair one more time on this side—in that deep side part—and repeat. After I finish up on the left side, I like to grab a stone comb and gently go over the areas I covered with short strokes to help further promote circulation and product absorption. Then, I move on to the right side of my part and repeat these steps.
Gua Sha on the Neck
As Davis mentioned, applying some gua sha massage to the neck area can also increase circulation, plus it feels really great. I finish my gua sha practice by applying a few drops of my favorite skin care oil to my hands and patting it into the back of my neck. Then, I grab the gua sha stone and place it at the base of my skull. With my other hand, I also place my fingers at the base of my skull and push upward to hold the skin tightly. Then, I stroke the flat edge of the stone with medium pressure down toward the base of my neck. I practice this movement a few times on each side of the neck.
Scalp and Hair Products to Use In Your Gua Sha Routine
You can enhance your gua sha experience with scalp products for added benefits. Here are some gua sha for scalp favorites you can use for added hydration, nourishment, and rejuvenation.
Kerastase Resistance Sérum Extentioniste Scalp & Hair Serum
If you’re hoping to help strengthen your hair from the root, reach for this scalp serum. Formulated with creatine and ceramides, this serum visibly strengthens hair and ensures new hair grows in as strong as possible.
Kérastase Scrub Energizing Deep Cleaning Fusio Dose Scrub
Customize your scalp gua sha routine by adding in a scrub to slough off dry skin and product buildup. This energizing sea salt scrub from Kérastase is great for those with oily hair, or if you add an oil to your gua sha regimen and need some extra muscles to lift away the grease from your roots. Plus, it’s formulated with vitamin B6 so your scalp can be left feeling refreshed and nourished.
Kérastase Discipline Fluidissime Anti-Frizz Spray
If you choose to gua sha without a scalp oil, you might create some excess frizz with the massaging motions. This anti-frizz spray is great for gua sha as it can help re-tame hair back in place, fix flyaways, and provide some extra shine with just a few spritzes.
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Ultimate Reset Restorative Hair Mask
For a full-on hair spa day, you can use this rejuvenating practice as an excuse to give your strands some extra love, too. After washing your hair post-gua sha, reach for this restorative hair mask from Shu Uemura Art Of Hairand apply from your mid-lengths to your ends. This moisturizing formula is enhanced by repairing ingredients that provide hydration while protecting against future breakage and damage.
Interested in learning more about salon-approved scalp treatments? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.