what the different gua sha shapes do and which is best for you
By now I’m sure you’ve seen tons of different forms and crystals used to make gua sha tools out there. When I first got introduced to gua sha I was like...what the heck? And over the years I’ve experimented, witnessed and discussed which shapes are best when. So let’s dive into what the different shapes do and which one is best for you. Also, I’ll also explain why we choose certain shapes for Dresden Body + Wellness!
In this article I will be talking about facial gua sha tools, or tools that can be used for gentle body work around the head and neck. These tools tend to be smaller and smoother than the tools used by professionals in therapeutic settings and the ones I choose to use for musculoskeletal acupuncture treatments. An example of a more extreme tool is the horn at the bottom of the photo. This tool is broad and powerful due to the leverage one can get with a large tool. It’s used specifically for pain and to release and rework fascial adhesions. Definitely not to be used for a more gentle facial routine.
Now that said, let’s jump into some of the more popular shapes and when or how to use them.
The wing, or heart shape, is the one I see most often on the market for gua sha tools. It has a nice shape that allows many options for functionally and a size that supplies a good grip on the tool. We chose our wing shaped gua sha tools because they are wide and weighty, which allows a broad stroke across entire areas of the neck, cheek and forehead. These tools can also be used on areas other than the face that would benefit from gua sha work (i.e. the neck, chest and legs) however, it’s important to seek the help of a trained professional for such instances.
The size and weight of the tool is something we always take into consideration when deciding which tool to use. A heavier tool means the tool does most of the work for you rather than you having to apply much pressure. By applying a small amount of pressure the tool is able to glide and sculpt effectively. The sodalite and quartz tools (available here and here) are the size of an average palm which we feel has room to grip while offering ample surface area for a soothing sculpting experience.
The thin shape of the tool allows for a grip that doesn’t fatigue the hand or fingers as quickly as a thicker tool might.
An indentation, notch, or series of notches (as in a wave pattern) at the base of the tool help sculpt around more angular areas of the face, such as the jawline, eyebrows and cheekbones. Play around with which shapes fit in different angles of your face. We love to use the indention to sweep over the entire eyebrow to address eye and forehead tension.
Surfaces with a curve help to work with the body’s natural curvature such as the apple of the cheek, the sides of the neck or the upper rib cage and lung area. In the photo above you will see four tools lined up with varying degrees of curvature. It ultimately comes down to what you find most comfortable in your hand.
Teeth or ridges as in a gua sha comb, or as in our quartz gua sha tool, are great at breaking up the bound fascia that can result from muscles folding over time. These folds are also known as wrinkles. ;) Yes, gua sha can serve to agitate these folds, creating microtraumas that the body then comes to clean up. When the body cleans these areas up it reconfigures the fascia in smoother lines under the skin. This is what scar tissue is and why body work such as gua sha, acupuncture, cupping and massage can serve to break up scar tissue. In a gentle, daily gua sha routine it works to smooth the facial muscles and tissue over time.
Spoon shaped tools offer a handle that allows for grip to reach harder to reach areas such as the back of the neck and the soles of the feet. They also work well sweeping over the eyebrow or gently sweeping under the eye.
Finally, I will talk about the mushroom shaped tool as well as pointed tools. These are wonderful for acupressure and running along muscle lines. The mushroom tool can be applied (with gentle pressure) along the eyebrow to relieve tension. Or held in place over tender spots on the forehead and sinuses. At times, pressure can be aggravating to head tension, so pay attention to the amount of pressure you are applying. If you find applying pressure to the head to be the aggravating pain rather than alleviating we suggest you do pressure point work at times when acute pain or tightness is not present. This becomes a preventative practice.
Now, some words about rollers! These are great at smoothing out tension and gently moving stagnant fluid from our facial tissue. A little bit of pressure goes a long way. Lymph fluid moves with light pressure, so rolling is a great tool to have on hand for gentle sculpting. We tend to use our rollers in the evening (while watching TV...or playing Scrabble) to melt away tension. We also love to keep one in the console of the car to roll away tension while sitting in traffic. It's a little more forgiving than gua sha and tends to bring up less redness to the surface (which don't worry, a little bit of redness means increased circulation in the case of gua sha).
We encourage you to play with your tool and find different ways to hold it and see how it feels on your face and body. You may find you change our grip on your tools numerous times throughout a single routine. Always apply a facial oil before your routine and use gentle, even pressure and remember...less is more with facial gua sha.