Your skin is your biggest and most visible organ. But it differs from many organs in one simple way: When it’s experiencing a problem, you sure as heck know about it.
This has led to a wide range of techniques designed to help keep your complexion as clear and healthy as can be. Face mapping is one of them. It stems from an ancient Chinese belief that a person’s skin is a reflection of their inner health.
In recent years, new face mapping techniques have been introduced. These tend to rely on dermatology, rather than traditional wisdom. But they’re still based on the idea that a blemish on your face is an indication of a deeper issue.
So can face mapping lead to clear skin? Research is limited.
Read on to learn about three different kinds of face mapping and what the science says about their ability to improve your skin’s health.
Also known as mien shiang, which directly translates to “face reading,” Chinese face mapping is a 3,000-year-old practice. It views the face as a map with each section connecting to different organs.
When there’s a bodily imbalance, it’s said that the skin will show this via pimples, redness, or dryness. The location of these blemishes on the face supposedly represent the organ that’s affected.
There’s no real scientific basis to Chinese face mapping. Instead, it’s based on years of observation and a belief that energy, qi, flows to and from organs along invisible pathways.
A study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies states that this hidden system has a degree of influence over both the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
But some experts don’t believe in it at all, claiming that pimples mainly appear on the face due to the area’s high number of oil-producing glands.
Many people still practice it though. If you’re interested in trying it, here’s a rundown of what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners believe each facial area represents.
The forehead is linked to the digestive system. Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome can show up here via breakouts or lines. So can a poor diet, a lack of sleep, and increased stress levels.
The temples represent the kidneys and bladder. Infections or inflammation in these areas can present themselves via acne. Medications that aren’t agreeing with your body can also have an effect here.
The space between the eyebrows corresponds with the liver. The liver plays a detoxification role, so toxins from negative emotions or a bad diet can be detrimental to this facial area.
Under the eyes is linked to bodily fluids. Stress or a lack of water can lead to puffiness, eye bags, or dark circles.
The nose is split into two parts. The left side signifies the left side of the heart and the right relates to the right side.
Any heart-related blockages reportedly show up in the form of redness or blackheads, and oiliness or breakouts could be a sign of blood pressure or cholesterol problems.
The cheeks relate to the stomach, spleen, and respiratory system. Red cheeks may be a sign of stomach inflammation. Breakouts may be linked to allergies or sinus issues.
The mouth symbolizes the stomach and colon. Ulcers in this area may be a sign of stomach ulcers or a raw or cold diet that forces the stomach to go into overdrive to heat up the food.
The jawline and chin correspond with the hormonal and reproductive system. Pimples here may relate to the menstrual cycle or feelings of stress.
What happens after
If any of the above problems are spotted, a TCM practitioner is likely to recommend changing aspects of your diet or lifestyle.
This advice may provide some benefits. But if you’re unsure whether to take it, consult a physician or dermatologist.
A more modern version of the traditional face mapping technique was launched by the skin care brand Dermalogica. It combines Chinese diagnoses with dermatology knowledge.
The face is once again split into zones and each area is studied by a trained professional. Combining this analysis with a lifestyle questionnaire allows the therapist to determine why you may be experiencing skin issues, ranging from acne to rosacea and eczema.
Here’s what each zone is believed to signify.
Zone 1 and 3: The forehead
Any issues here indicate a potential problem with the bladder or digestive system. Breakouts can mean a poor diet and lack of water. (Note that the link between diet and acne is
Congestion can also signal improper makeup or shampoo removal, or products that are clogging your pores. There’s even a name for this condition: acne cosmetica.
Zone 2: Between the eyebrows
The middle of your forehead is linked to your liver. Pimples or oiliness here suggests your diet may need an overhaul.
Avoiding excess alcohol, rich foods, and late night eating is advisable along with checking for food allergies, particularly a lactose intolerance.
Zone 4 and 10: The ears
Kidney problems can show up here. People with hot ears are advised to up their water intake and reduce caffeine, alcohol, or salt consumption. Other irritations may be related to cellphone use or jewelry allergies.
Zone 5 and 9: The cheeks
Linked to the respiratory system, those who smoke or have allergies may notice the likes of broken capillaries, hyperpigmentation, or general congestion. These may also be a result of comedogenic cosmetic ingredients, gum or tooth problems, or bacteria from cellphones.
Bacteria is one of the biggest contributors to acne, and studies show you should be particularly aware of your phone’s hygiene. These devices harbor
Zone 6 and 8: The eyes
Kidneys are also connected to the eyes. Dark circles and puffiness can be a sign of dehydration or an imbalanced diet. But allergies, poor lymph flow, and kidney stress can also be contributing factors.
Zone 7: The nose
Broken capillaries around your nose can have a simple cause, ranging from heavily squeezing pimples to the environment or genetics. But if the nose itself is redder than usual, this may be a sign of high blood pressure as it’s linked to the heart.
Zone 12: The chin center
A breakout here can relate to a hormonal imbalance, too. The middle of your chin also corresponds with the small intestine, so dietary problems or food allergies may be the cause of any issues.
Zone 12A: The upper lip
The space above your lip is associated with the reproductive system. Pigmentation or excessive hair growth here is thought to be a result of a hormonal imbalance.
This has a scientific basis. Changing hormone levels can affect melanin production, leading to hyperpigmentation. And increased production of hormones called androgens can result in unwanted hair growth — also known as hirsutism.
Zone 11 and 13: The jawline
Dental work can kick off a breakout along the sides of your chin. But so can hormones as this area is related to the ovaries. A 2001 study concluded that
Pimples here can also be influenced by a failure to properly remove makeup, irritating or pore-clogging ingredients in cosmetics, and constant touching of the area.
Zone 14: The neck
When you feel stressed, your adrenal glands release a bunch of hormones, including adrenaline. This can result in redness in your neck and chest area. But skin issues here can also be a sign of irritation caused by a fragrance or sun damage.
What happens after
Whether you attend a real-life consultation or use Dermalogica’s app, the end result is the same. You’ll leave with a personalized skin care regime consisting of Dermalogica products.
Of course, there’s no pressure to purchase these, and you may want to visit a dermatologist for a second opinion.
Acne face mapping strips out the Chinese beliefs, focusing on more scientific causes of breakouts and long-term acne. While there’s little research to prove that a specific factor can cause acne in a specific area, the technique is becoming more and more popular due to acne’s prevalence.
Acne affects up to 50 million Americans every year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. In fact, it’s believed to be the most common skin problem.
Acne face mapping believes that if you study where your breakouts appear, you can find the trigger. And once you know the trigger, you could put an end to your pimples.
This technique, just like the others, splits the face into zones that correspond with a particular medical or lifestyle issue. Here’s how it supposedly works.
This is linked to stress and diet. Remedies for breakouts or recurring acne here include eating more fruit and vegetables, ensuring adequate sleep, and drinking plenty of water.
Classed as a separate area, hairline problems relate to a buildup of hair or makeup products that include pore-clogging ingredients.
Breakouts caused by hair products is known as
Between the brows is again related to diet. Breakouts can be caused by consuming too much alcohol or fatty or processed foods.
Your cheeks can be affected by outside influences such as air pollution and bacteria from the likes of pillowcases and cellphones. To combat, clean skin thoroughly and wash pillowcases regularly.
Diet is also believed to have an impact here. A 2012 study
Your chin and jawline, as you may have gathered, is a mirror image of your hormonal balance. During menstruation and pregnancy, excess hormones can lead to breakouts.
Jawline acne can also be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition where women produce higher amounts of ‘male’ hormones.
What happens after
As with the previous face mapping techniques, your aesthetician will offer personalized advice ranging from dietary changes to lifestyle adjustments. Skin care products may also be recommended.
Although some aestheticians will be trained in techniques like face mapping, a dermatologist is often the best person to visit for any skin complaints.
These doctors treat any and all skin conditions. They’ll not only be able to identify the cause of any issue, but also advise you on the most effective treatment for your skin type and lifestyle. They can help you find a skin care routine that works.
Look for a person who has been certified by the American Board of Dermatology, the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Some elements of face mapping can be useful to store in your memory banks, but others come with little to no evidence.
Bottom line: Don’t look to the technique as the answer to all your skin problems. Instead, see a dermatologist for the best possible advice.