"Like botox, but without needles" – I tested Gua Sha, and the results were impressive 2 years ago

"Like botox, but without needles" – I tested Gua Sha, and the results were impressive

I like to think that when it comes to my skin, I have been pretty lucky in the genetic lottery department.

As a teenager, I never really had breakouts. And up through adulthood, through two pregnancies and breastfeeding, my skin never really gave me any grief or cause for concern. That said – I do live a pretty healthy life, protect my skin in the sun, rarely (like twice, three times a year) drink alcohol, stay active and eat right.

And having chatted to, at this stage, hundreds of beauty in-the-knows, facialists and skincare experts up through the years as part of my job, I know how much your lifestyle has to say for the condition of your skin. Hint: Living a healthy life – and making sure you get enough sleep is pretty much the be-all and end-all when it comes to your skin health.

However, I am currently in my mid (to late) 30s, and despite all my clean living and yoga and turmeric tea, I have noticed my skin changing a little bit over the past few months. It feels dry more often now, and some mornings there seems to still be an imprint of the folds of my pillow on my cheek when I get up. I don't think I have many wrinkles yet, apart from my smiley ones in the corners of my eyes (love those!), but there is definitively a little more dullness, and a bit less firmness there.


And here is the thing - much as I might worry a bit over wrinkles and less bouncy skin, I stand firm on that I will never inject things into my face in a bid to stay young. Never. Trust me, in the line of work, I have been offered botox to test out on a number of occasions, but have never, and will not, try it. It's the place where I draw a line I don't want to cross, feeling like a slippery slope of self-doubts and perfection hunting awaits.

However  – there are alternatives. And I for one was eager to test one that has been getting a lot of attention this past year.

Gua Sha


Gua Sha (pronounced gwa-shah) is a tool (or tools) used to scrape the skin to promote circulation. Kind of like a more in-depth and effective cousin of the now very trendy jade- or rose quartz roller.  And just because gua sha is trending at the moment, don't go dismissing it for something new and trendy.

"Ancient Chinese medicine actually utilized the gua sha tool thousands of years ago to increase blood circulation and heal the body, explains registered acupuncturist Amanda Nordell.

"Facial Gua Sha is a technique in which specially crafted handheld pieces of stone, such as jade or rose quartz, or others, are used to invigorate the skin, smooth out wrinkles and increase blood supply. As well as that, facial Gua Sha can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, melasma and dark circles."

Sounds intriguing? I thoughts so too – which is why I was super-excited to be heading into a session of Gua Sha and facial cupping with Amanda recently.

Having googled Gua Sha intensely beforehand (as one does), I must admit I had been a little jolted by the body treatment namesake, but Amanda reassured me that the facial version is far less intense and that many of her customers actually end up falling asleep during their treatment.

Yes, really.

gua sha

Having come in for my appointment, I must admit I was put at ease immediately by Amanda and her calm and serene nature – and her passion for the treatments she provides. (Note: Amanda also runs a clinic in Windy Arbour, Dublin 14)


Facial Gua sha, she explained, is a specific type of massage adapted from ancient Chinese bodywork that utilizes a scraping tool to move toxins out of the body. Traditionally, it was – and is – used in Eastern medicine to address stagnant energy, called chi, in the body that practitioners believe may be responsible for inflammation. Rubbing the skin’s surface is thought to help break up this energy, reduce inflammation, and hence promote healing.

The facial version is far gentler than body Gua Sha, and has a relaxing effect on your facial muscles and complexion, Amanda tells me. "The treatment I do here takes about an hour, and is often combined with facial cupping and traditional acupuncture to promote general balance and wellness."

Facial cupping, she informed me, is the use of small glass or silicone cups with rounded edges to provide a gentle suction to the skin around the face and its underlying musculature.

"These special facial cups allow for a smooth sliding motion across the face without irritating the skin."

My Gua sha treatment

As gua sha is often touted as “natural botox,” I was naturally super-intrigued to see what the treatment would do for me. And overcoming my slight fear of needles, having Amanda put acupuncture needles in my hand and foot prior to starting was actually not in the slightest bit painful, and make me feel totally relaxed and chilled out.

gua sha

And Amanda's Gua sha/ cupping treatment did not disappoint, ending up being one of the loveliest, most gloriously relaxing hours I have ever spent – and I think I actually did end up falling asleep at one point. Both the gentle scraping with the Gua sha tool and the lovely sensation of the cups being glided across my face felt so good, and nothing like any facial I have ever had before.


“A lot of people are using Botox now, but that paralyzes the skin," explains Amanda once she is finished with me – having stayed completely silent to let me zone out during the treatment. "Gua Sha, on the other hand, strengthens the muscles of the face and relaxes wrinkles."

Impressive results

And even just after one little treatment, there was a visible difference in my face! The faint horizontal lines on my forehead were softer, and both my jaw, cheeks, and brow bone seemed as if they had been lifted.

As well as this, my skin looked radiant – super, deliciously glowy.

"Facial Gua Sha boosts the circulation of blood, oxygen and vital fluids to your face," Amanda explained after I had expressed my surprise at how instant the results from the treatment were. "This instantly encourages a brighter complexion and, in the long-term, will improve skin functions as it can more readily eliminate toxins and rejuvenate skin cells."

I will definitively be heading back to Amanda for more Gua sha and facial cupping – both because I cannot get over how amazing my skin looked and felt after, but also because the hour felt like such an investment in my own rest and wellbeing. I left the Dublin Wellness Centre feeling like I had just a mini holiday, and honestly, as a busy working mum, that is worth its weight in gold. Oh – and the glowy skin that everyone kept complimenting me on over the following days certainly didn't hurt either!


gua sha

Benefits of Facial Cupping

  • Increases circulation to the skin, drawing nutrients to the surface and enhancing absorption of lotions or serums.
  • Increases blood flow to the skin and brings collagen to the surface.
  • Drains stagnant fluids and eases puffiness.
  • Reduces fine lines.
  • Reduces dark circles.
  • Drains nasal sinuses and stimulates the lymphatic system.
  • Stretches the muscles and connective tissues.
  • Soothes the skin.
  • Brightens and rejuvenates faded skin.

Benefits of Facial Gua Sha:

  • Detoxifies the face and moves stagnant blood and inflammation.
  • Increases blood flow to the face – nourishing the skin.
  • Reduces fine lines.
  • Reduces dark circles.
  • Reduces puffiness.
  • Relaxes muscles.
  • Reduces sagginess to neck area and jowls.
  • Promotes smoother skin.
  • Brightens and rejuvenates faded skin.