Gua Sha: Not an Alternative to Botox

Posted by Emily Davis on

First, my pro-claimer for this article: What you are about to read below is not to throw shade at anyone who gets Botox or any other injections. I understand the desire… I have the same desire- to look as radiant as I feel. This is why I love facial massage, and I am excited to share my knowledge with you. 


A simple search on the internet might have you thinking that Gua Sha is simply a new trend of rubbing a stone on your face, and it magically gives you Botox-like results. And this isn’t the case. It’s paradoxically more than this… and not this at all simultaneously. 

When I first learned facial fusion Gua Sha massage several years ago, I did talk about it as an alternative to Botox… Because it is something you can perform on the skin, it will help your appearance look more youthful and fresh. In addition, it softens the appearance of wrinkles. And Botox also softens the appearance of wrinkles. Gua Sha does so without the adverse side effects of Botox, so in this sense- yes, one could say it is a natural alternative to Botox. 

However, upon further reflection over time and practicing this treatment as a fusion with facial massage thousands of times, I realize that that statement reflects a misconception of the depth that Gua Sha is working at and a misunderstanding of what Botox does to the skin tissue. 

Gua Sha is not a quick fix; if your goal is to look like an Instagram filter, gua sha might be disappointing because it will not change your face like plastic surgery or even fillers, and Botox will. (This is a good thing). Fillers and neurotoxin injections (such as Botox) create stagnation in the skin. They both physically block the natural movement of nutrition to the skin cells and waste away from the cells, and they also block the movement of Qi. Qi is our life force, the energy that circulates through our body at all times, and the more free-flowing it is, the more vibrant you are: it shines through your face and your eyes. Because of this, I often see a dull pallor and dryness in the skin that has received these interventions. It has been said repeatedly that “stagnation is death,” which is why, over time, neurotoxin injections age the skin more rapidly (aside from the fact that it causes muscle atrophy). When you view it through this lens, the concept of preventative Botox becomes nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Gua Sha has no place in superficial beauty culture. Yet, I see it infiltrating this space- sans the more profound understanding of the purpose and intention.

So what is Gua Sha? 

Gua Sha is an ancient healing technique. It predates even Traditional Chinese Medicine; it came from ancient Chinese medicine, where it was a form of folk medicine. This concept ignited my love for this modality- much like herbalism which is also a form of folk medicine- that is to say, medicine for the people. 

Folk medicine as a concept relays that well-being is not something that has a gatekeeper but something that an average person could support their health- I am a huge believer in personal empowerment regarding health. Unfortunately, the current culture has been conditioned to believe that our health is in the hands of someone else with more authority, a highly dangerous concept that only works to benefit a multi-billion dollar empire. The subtle disempowering messages behind the idea of a gatekeeper infiltrate many areas of the beauty industry, even the “holistic” skincare space. No need to email me, I understand the importance of life-saving emergency intervention, I know that there is a time and place, but obviously, that’s not what we see on a large scale in modern times.

That’s not to say that proper training is not essential. Without training, the deeper concepts get lost, and this is when we see spas, brands, and online influencers mindlessly rubbing a stone across the face and calling it Gua Sha. Same thing with herbalism- this is when we see people applying an allopathic approach to holistic concepts. (More about that in a future article)

In the spirit of folk medicine and proper training, I am so excited to share my Gua Sha self-care workshops with you. So read below to learn more and sign up for the first one!

Gua Sha is a modality that aims to bring out inner beauty through health and vitality.

As acupuncturist and seasoned international Gua Sha educator Clive Witham states, “Gua Sha helps to restore the circulation patterns in the skin.”

It helps to repattern the way our skin is aging by making subtle changes to both the connective tissue and the muscular tissue below the surface that, when practiced consistently, can significantly impact the natural aging process. This also helps to aid in the effectiveness of skincare products, as the skin is healthier.

Benefits that you can expect to see in your skin:

Vitality shining through the skin and the eyes

Improvement in the appearance of skin


An evening of the skin’s texture and tone

Reduction in the formation of lines and wrinkles

And because I also incorporate other massage modalities with the Gua Sha stone:



Lymphatic stimulation



You can shop for my favorite Gua Sha tools here!  

facial massage gua sha Skincare Wellness

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