It’s weirdly more challenging to figure out how to use jade rollers than it is to take a cute photo of them. If your introduction to jade rollers and gua sha tools comes from a cursory scroll through Instagram, you’d be forgiven for thinking they serve more as focal points for flat lays than anything else. The jade, marble, and rose quartz skin-care tools aren’t a new phenomenon; their origins go back centuries. But the methods I’m familiar with have also undergone a gradual evolution for social media. My childhood version of 刮痧 (gua sha) involved soup spoons, loose change, and copious amounts of Tiger Balm, which is significantly different from what’s all over my feeds now.
While I can think of plenty of Instagram-backed products that amount to little more than empty hype, dermatologists and aestheticians agree that these tools deliver legitimate skin benefits. The problem is, you need to know how to use jade rollers correctly in order to maximize their benefits.
If you’re looking for more detailed instructions for the face rollers, ice rollers, and gua sha tools sitting on your bathroom counters, consider this your definitive guide. Below, celebrity esthetician Karee Hays and the founder and CEO of Shiffa Beauty, Lamees Hamdan, M.D., break things down step by step.
How to use jade rollers (and other face rollers)
The phrase to remember here is “lymphatic drainage,” a form of massage that pushes fluids to your lymph nodes, which subsequently process and filter them out of your system. When you perform this technique consistently (i.e., via your face roller of choice), it’s supposed to deliver depuffing, glow-boosting benefits. Also, it just feels really nice.
According to Hamdan, there are two key things to keep in mind when learning how to use a face roller. “There is no point in rolling your face expecting drainage if you haven’t started with your neck first,” she says. “You need to roll your neck first to clear the lymph passageways before starting on your face.” Secondly, she cautions against pressing too hard. Use a light hand; the weight of the roller will do the rest.
Hays echoes those sentiments, explaining that too much pressure can actually irritate your skin and break capillaries, a warning I’ve heard repeatedly from estheticians. “If you are reusing a roller at home, always sanitize it with alcohol,” she adds.
Hays recommends beginning with a clean, moisturized face and adding additional layers of product if you wish to do so; the massage will help push them further into your skin. “When I have the time, I apply a KH Koji pad packed with antioxidants, then add Revision Skincare Hydrating Serum, and DEJ Face Cream and roll in an upward motion while the products are absorbing,” she says.
Herbivore Jade Roller
Jade Roller Beauty Amethyst Roller
$76.00, Jade Roller Beauty
Keeping their advice in mind, I grabbed my $30 Herbivore Jade Facial Roller and started rolling.
1. First I covered my clavicle area, using an up-and-down motion.
2. Next, I did a sweeping up-and-down roll on my neck.
3. After this comes the jawline. Here, I switched to a back-and-forth roll that starts at the center of my chin and goes toward my ear, repeating this all the way up to my cheekbone. Both Hamdan and Hays tell me to work from the neck upward, using sweeping strokes that go toward the outer edges of my face.
4. On my forehead I repeated the vertical roll, starting from the middle of my face and moving outward toward my temples.
5. I flipped the tool over to use the smaller attachment under my eyes—in a horizontal motion toward my temple. This is easier to do with a double-sided jade roller, like Herbivore’s.
6. To finish the routine, I used the smaller roller once more down my nose, moving it in a horizontal motion.
While I found that the roller already felt slightly cooling when stored at room temperature, there are options for even chillier applications. I like the $30 Ice Roller from StackedSkincare, which has a stainless steel barrel and houses a liquid core of water and gel. You store it in the freezer between uses and breathe out a sigh of relief when it meets your face. (You can, of course, also store your regular rollers in the freezer; the Ice Roller just retains the cool temps for longer.) Hays recommends this refreshing approach for those experiencing TMJ or sinus issues.
And if you want to take things up a notch, you could invest in a vibrating version—Jillian Dempsey’s $195 Gold Sculpting Bar doesn’t roll, per se, but the device delivers an automated massage that performs the same type of lymphatic drainage. Vibrating devices are also said to be particularly effective in aiding product absorption. All you have to do is slowly move it across different sections of your face to get the contouring, reviving effects.
Jillian Dempsey Gold Sculpting Bar
$195.00, Jillian Dempsey
Stacked Skincare Ice Roller
Both experts tell me I should repeat the ritual daily for the best results—or “at least three times a week,” says Hamdan. As for time of day, it’s entirely up to you. Hamdan prefers jade rolling in the morning “because it helps with puffiness, especially under your eyes.” Personally, I can barely manage to get dressed without injuring myself before I’ve had coffee, so I reserve my at-home facials for pre-bedtime relaxation.
How to use gua sha tools
Gua sha stones vary significantly in appearance; the futuristic Marble Eraser from Make doubles as a decorative object if you have $150 to spare. It looks absolutely nothing like the $75 Georgia Louise Butterfly Stones, but they accomplish the same purpose. For my experiments in learning how to gua sha, I go with Herbivore’s $18 Rose Quartz Gua Sha stone. The brand sells a variety of shapes—I choose the one labeled Teardrop, basing my decision on the fact that it loosely resembles a cute dinosaur foot.
“Gua Sha needs a well-oiled face,” Hamdan tells me, so I coated mine in a layer of Herbivore Lapis Facial Oil before proceeding.
Odacité Crystal Contour Gua Sha Tool
Herbivore Rose Quartz Gua Sha
Herbivore Lapis Facial Oil
Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil
$49.00, Josie Maran
Hamdan and Hays both tell me to do my gua sha from the neck upward, following a similar order as I did with my facial rolling. The motions differ here, though; I scraped the tool across and down my face (hitting the jawline, cheeks, and forehead), and switch to a zigzag motion on my smile lines and around my mouth.
Over the course of my experiments, I found that gua sha (unlike rolling) perceptibly lessened the tension in my neck and jaw. Because I’m already used to performing the latter on my body, I also included the back of my neck and shoulders in the demonstration. A little maneuvering is needed here, but nothing that requires superhuman flexibility.
This is probably my favorite part of the ritual, since it noticeably decreases the soreness in my neck and shoulders. Once I move to the front of my body, I find that some edges of the tool work better for certain areas of my face, so I flip it accordingly. Hamdan tells me that each movement should be repeated three times.
What is the difference between jade rolling and gua sha?
“The main difference between jade rollers and gua sha tools is that jade rolling is mainly a lymphatic drainage massage, and gua sha is a fascial [i.e., fibrous tissue] release massage,” says Hamdan. “Think foam rolling, but for your face. My own Fasha Tool is designed with different edges because fascia is multidirectional, so to properly release tightness, you need to use it a little differently from the jade roller.”
This process feels especially relaxing because you’re gradually releasing the tension in your face. “Imagine you have a tight muscle in your neck or back,” says Hays. “When you use a foam roller or a foam ball, you’re pressing into the tension to create blood flow and break up the fascia, which brings relief. These tools are working the same way. Their common goal is to promote optimal circulation and lymphatic drainage.”
As for the reason you see so many different variations, that’s part spirituality, part catering to social media. “There are many healing and spiritual beliefs around different stones and crystals,” says Hays. For the uninitiated, rose quartz is often said to radiate loving energy, clear quartz opens the mind, and jade is both soothing and purifying. Go for rose quartz if you love incorporating the material into your environment; opt for stainless steel if that speaks to your aesthetic more. As Hamdan advises, make sure whatever material you pick can be kept hygienic and doesn’t crack easily.
“Whether it’s round, on a roller, square, or rectangular, you are doing the same thing,” says Hays. “Just find one you’re comfortable using.”
Since my foray into the realm of facial massage, I can see why so many have become converts; these tools really do deliver the sensorial experience of a luxuriously long facial. My beauty-related laziness means I can’t claim to use either one on a consistent basis, but on weekends when I’m feeling particularly indulgent, I’ll reach for my jade roller or clear quartz Fasha tool.
I have yet to see any firming and contouring benefits (if they exist, they are definitely reserved for people who can commit to a daily routine), but they do give me the subtle glow of a circulation boost. There are acid peels and active-packed serums that do this more quickly, but the draw of these tools is the fact that they make you slow down. It could be the jade and rose quartz talking, but I always feel surprisingly pampered after 10 minutes. For those that can’t swing by the spa whenever the mood strikes (so, everyone reading this and also me), they’re well worth the investment.
Sarah Wu is a writer in Berlin. Follow her on Instagram @say.wu.
Originally Appeared on Glamour