Facial massage has been gaining lots of popularity lately, from electrocurrent stimulation devices to micro-needling to good old fashioned bare hands and facial oil. The appeal is that consistent facial massage could be a natural alternative to more drastic measures like botox and other medical/surgical procedures for firming and lifting your skin and features. Additional suggested benefits include increased circulation, reduced puffiness, enhanced product absorption, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and detoxing and calming the skin.
Gemstones are said to have been used for facial massage since ancient times in traditional Chinese medicine, but they’re also one of the most popular must-have skincare tools today. Most of them are made from jade, a beautiful milky-green stone that is said to have multiple healing properties promoting balance, purity, serenity, and calmness. I’m not naturally drawn to jade, and more options are becoming available as these tools gain popularity, so I was so excited to see a rose quartz version. Rose quartz isn’t just gorgeous; it’s said to be a feminine and healing stone that encourages love, peace, comfort and joy. It’s also said to promote proper circulation and a smooth, soft complexion.
There are many theories about the mineral and vibrational frequencies of gemstones and their effects on health, emotions, and wellbeing, but there aren’t many solid scientific resources to cite here. I enjoy wearing and using certain stones for decoration and like thinking that they offer whatever benefits you believe them to.
That being said, I don’t think your choice of gemstone really makes that much difference beyond your preferences and which one you are drawn to. Both jade and rose quartz are said to hold their natural cool temperature and not warm up too quickly on contact with skin, which helps with stimulating and tightening effects.
First up is this rose quartz facial roller that I got from Herbivore Botanicals ($45)*. Most facial rollers have two rolling barrels–one at each end–a wide one for the larger planes of the face and a smaller one for using closer to your eyes, nose and mouth. I love how smoothly this tool rolls across my face and how cooling the large round cylinder is. It’s also insanely easy to use and requires no technique. (Experts do recommend always using upward motions when massaging the face, though). I love the little end for using under my eyes when I have some puffiness. One trick many people use is to store the roller in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before using, and that feels great also especially in warmer months.
PROS: Feels great, very easy and fun to use, not necessary to learn/use a particular technique. No edges and even pressure from the round shape means you can’t really overdo it. Also, because of the rolling design, you don’t have to use with a facial oil (or any product at all) to ensure it glides. Definitely helps to depuff especially when used after chilling. Great massage tool for any soreness like that associated with TMJD/jaw clenching, eye strain, mild headaches, etc.
CONS: The metal and stone construction is a little complicated. My first one broke the second time I tried to use it–it literally just fell apart in my hands*. Thankfully, Herbivore Botanicals has a nice customer service team who sent me a replacement right away. I don’t think the roller design is the most effective for stimulating deeper than depuffing and mild increase in circulation. Cleaning it is not difficult but a little annoying.
*You can find equal quality jade rollers on Amazon for $10-$15. I really wanted the rose quartz instead of jade though, so I chose to pay extra. Unfortunately, I think this is overpriced especially after it broke so quickly.
Next is this set of rose quartz Gua Sha stones that I got from Amazon ($24). It was a set of five, but I dropped one of the stones when opening them and it broke. I was not intentionally testing these for durability, but I guess the lesson is that gemstones are fragile and I can be a bit clumsy, haha (although the HB roller had nothing to do with me and everything to do with poor construction).
Gua Sha is a traditional Chinese massage technique kind of similar to cupping in that they both stimulate blood flow, detox tissue and balance the “qi” or body’s energy. When used on the body, they both leave pretty shocking red marks and sometimes bruises on the areas that were treated. While cupping uses suction, Gua Sha uses intense strokes and special tools to “scrape” over the skin and muscle tissue to relieve pain, stimulate detoxification, and increase circulation.
Gua Sha facial massage is very mild compared to the technique used for the body. They are similar though in that specially shaped tools are used for different purposes and there is a suggested pattern for use. This mostly involves short, targeted strokes upward and out from the center of the face. It’s necessary to use an oil or very emollient cream for the best results when using these stones. Here’s a basic technique/stroke pattern:
The differently shaped stones are each designed for different purposes and specific contours of the face. The one that is most heart or V shaped fits really well into the jaw contour like so:
While the stone with the most defined point could work well for targeting areas like the nose and brow bone:
The other two shapes, the puzzle piece and bear claw, are good for cheeks and broader strokes. Because facial Gua Sha is intended to be gentle and light, you really can’t go wrong with which shapes you use where as long as you follow the basic up-and-out stroke pattern.
PROS: The value is obviously far better than the roller. The variety of stones is interesting and fun. The shape and thinness of these make for a more intense massage and following facial contours feels much more effective/targeted. These stones can be applied with more pressure and precision than the roller and they feel more likely to really help with circulation and muscle relaxation. Repeated muscle movements and expressions are what create fine lines that develop into wrinkles, so I can see how this type of massage could offer some benefit especially before wrinkles are formed. Once you have established expression lines, they’re pretty hard to reverse unless you use more invasive/medical measures. These are super easy to clean.
CONS: I don’t really like leaving thick oils or creams on my face, but one way around it is to use the oil/stones before cleansing and then continue with my skincare routine. This process feels way more time consuming than the facial roller which you just kind or swipe around and then it’s done. I don’t spend tons of time on my skincare routine (I’m more of an “oh crap, I forgot to wash my face and need to go to bed so I’ll cleanse and moisturize very quickly” girl most of the time), so this feels a little intimidating to start incorporating on a regular basis.
(These are gemstones and obviously somewhat fragile, and they can be slippery when using with oils and break on marble bathroom counters and hard floors. I don’t see a way around this other than to use while seated at a vanity or perhaps with a towel over the sink in case it slips. I don’t really consider this a con because it’s an expected aspect of the product. I just didn’t expect to experience it so soon!)
TL/DR: If you’ve ever had a Swedish massage vs massage therapy or used a large foam roller vs a small & firm massage ball, that’s kind of the difference between using a facial roller and Gua Sha stones/technique. They’re both relaxing and feel great but Gua Sha is just a little more targeted and specific.
The small end of the facial roller is the perfect size and shape for pressing and massaging right underneath the brow bone, which is a trick that I picked up during grad school that seriously helps soothe tired and overworked eyes from too much reading and computer screen-time.
For seriously puffy eyes from lack or sleep, a cold, crying or a little too much fun the night before, honestly nothing beats putting two metal spoons in the freezer for a bit and then holding them under your eyes. It’s like coffee + the coldest shower + your favorite happy song for your eyes. Instantly awake!
I’ll let you know how I keep liking/using these, and let me know if you have any favorite facial and skincare techniques/tools in the comments below!