If you have any interest in beauty, you’ve probably encountered facial rollers and gua sha, most likely on Instagram, where they’ve been hailed as totally transformative by every influencer worth her follower count. These tools are typically made from minerals like jade or rose quartz, materials that enthusiasts sometimes claim possess certain healing powers. The roller looks like a miniature paint roller, while the gua sha is a flat tool that’s used to scrape/press the skin. Both are said to come from the Traditional Chinese Medicine world, and while that’s true for gua sha, there’s no evidence that facial rollers are anything but a new phenomenon. Rollers and gua sha are used, often with oils and serums, for facial massage that fans claim can deliver all kinds of benefits, from boosting circulation and thus helping products better penetrate the skin to slimming the jawline.
According to aesthetician Kathryn Sawers, who owns Vancouver’s Collective Skin Care, the science behind facial rolling and gua sha is much the same as facial massage in general. “When muscle tissue is massaged, it activates the lymphatic system, which can help to move stagnant lymph, hence the detoxifying benefits. Massage also brings fresh oxygenated blood to nourish skin and muscle tissue. Improved circulation to the skin also aids in product penetration.”
It makes intuitive sense, but Dr. Shannon Humphrey, medical director of Carruthers & Humphrey Cosmetic Dermatology, isn’t convinced. “In theory massage can boost lymphatic drainage, which, at a stretch, could impact puffiness around the eyes, and possibly facial puffiness,” she says. “They boost circulation in the superficial layers of the skin, but this is of an unknown impact—boosted circulation isn’t necessarily a good thing, particularly if it’s vigorous or vaso-dilating and you’re getting a lot of redness and inflammation.” More lasting benefits like slimming down the jawline? Humphrey says she can’t think of a physiological mechanism whereby that would be possible.
It’s often recommended that gua sha and facial rollers be chilled in the fridge before use, and Humphrey says that cold temperatures could deliver a temporary effect on eye bags and facial puffiness, though, Sawers notes, the devices tend to warm up fairly quickly, so this isn’t likely to have a big impact. As to whether jade promotes wisdom and rose quartz can help you find true love? Surprisingly, there’s no evidence whatsoever for that.
While Humphrey is skeptical about the science behind gua sha and facial rolling, she’s not at averse to people using the devices as part of their beauty regimens. “It’s not hurting you, it’s very calming, it feels good and as a bit of a stretch it may do some good – I’m all for it,” she says. Whatever the beauty benefits, it’s a fact that facial massage feels lovely, gives you a chance to take a breath, and who doesn’t need that now?
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