Forget serums and supplements: Gua sha combs are the latest secret to longer, thicker, healthier hair — at least according to social media. One look at TikTok is proof positive, where thousands of users have been posting videos demonstrating what’s known as “scalp gua sha.”
But here’s the thing: This is hardly a concept that’s new for 2022. Gua sha is an Eastern medicine practice with a centuries-old history, which is associated with benefits that plenty of people today find appealing.
So, can using a gua sha comb on your scalp actually have any kind of positive impact on hair and hair growth? Keep reading to see what the experts have to say about scalp gua sha and gua sha combs.
What is scalp gua sha?
It’s first important to understand exactly what gua sha is, as well as its overarching benefits. “Gua sha is an East Asian medicine technique in which a tool is used to move what’s known as blood stasis, or blood stagnation, in the body, improving circulation to the tissue,” explains Giselle Wasfie, DACM, doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine and founder of Remix Acupuncture Integrative Health in Chicago.
Blood stasis is actually fairly common, and everything from a lack of exercise to cold weather can trigger it, she says. Historically, gua sha was most often used on the neck and back in order to help treat issues such as congestion or colds, whereas gua sha on the face and scalp (for skin and hair revitalisation purposes, respectively) are more modern uses, explains Wasfie.
As it pertains to the scalp, gua sha stimulates blood flow, promoting healthier hair follicles and making hair thicker and lusher.
Thanks to the popularity of scalp gua sha, some brands now offer gua sha combs, which are shaped like a traditional comb with extra thick teeth. However, you don’t need to run out and buy a dedicated gua sha comb if you want to get in on the trend. Whether you use a gua sha comb or the flat side of any type of gua sha tool is a matter of personal preference, according to Wasfie. (If you haven’t seen them before, facial gua sha tools are typically slabs made of stone that can fit in the palm of your hand and have a divot on one side.) You’ll also need some kind of oil. “With any kind of gua sha, you’ll want to start by applying an oil to the skin in order to create a slick surface on which to glide the tool,” explains Wasfie. “The scalp is no exception.”
How to use a gua sha comb or face tool on your scalp
As mentioned, you should start by applying an oil — Wasfie recommends using one that’s specifically intended for the hair (which is typically noted on the label) — along your roots and gently rubbing it into your skin with your hands. Starting at the centre of the top of your head, hold the tool at a 25-degree angle to your head and stroke it down towards your ears with gentle (keyword!) pressure. Repeat, rotating around your scalp until you’ve covered your whole head, then repeat three to five times, she says.
“Gua sha, by definition, can honestly be too aggressive for the scalp if too much pressure is applied,” says Kerry Yates, a trichologist at Colour Collective. Similarly, if the tool ends up pulling on the hair, it can cause inflammation and stress to the hair follicle, potentially even leading to hair loss, she cautions. So, when using a gua sha comb (or, again, any gua sha tool), you should keep the pressure super light, gently gliding the comb’s teeth across your scalp and refraining from tugging your hair.
As is the case anytime you’re talking about hair growth, patience is a virtue. You need to incorporate a gua sha scalp ritual daily, five times per week, in order to see results, which can take up to a few months to show up, says Wasfie.
Can a gua sha comb boost hair growth?
The answer to this question seems to depend on who you ask. For starters, it’s important to remember that hair loss can be caused by any number of different factors, including diet, genetics, hormones, and stress levels. And sometimes it can be brought on by a combination of these. To that point, it’s often important to get the root of the issue (pun intended), which means calling in the help of a dermatologist or trichologist to determine the cause and, in turn, the best course of treatment rather than relying on gua sha and similar methods to address any strand-related concerns.
That being said, if you’re simply looking to help boost some new growth or thicken your hair, scalp gua sha is a fairly low-risk option, says Wasfie. But she also warns against it for those who are prone to headaches or are pregnant, as it can be too stimulating and trigger headaches, and those who have a delicate or dry scalp, for whom it can be too irritating.
On the other hand, Yates feels that while the theory behind scalp gua sha is legit — namely that stimulating blood flow can improve scalp and follicle health — a good old-fashioned massage is the way to go. “It’s best to use your fingertips to massage your scalp daily,” she says. This can improve blood circulation, alleviate tension, and help distribute your skin’s natural oils to ensure follicle and hair health, without the potential risk of damage from being too aggressive, she adds.
Whether you use it on your face or scalp, gua sha, in general, can be a soothing and calming ritual, notes Wasfie. There shouldn’t be much, if any, harm in making it a part of your daily self-care routine — so long as you’re doing it correctly, which, when it comes to the scalp, means doing it ever-so-gently without tugging on the hair.
But, if you don’t already own a gua sha hair comb or tool and don’t feel like buying one, you can also reap similar benefits by just rubbing your head. Scalp gua sha isn’t a universal solution for all hair loss, but it can boost circulation, which can be beneficial for hair and scalp health in general.
This story first appeared on www.shape.com.
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