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Face Mapping: What Your Skin Says About Your Health

Want to improve your health? Take a look in the mirror — face mapping can help you discover bodily imbalances through skin issues.

Young woman touching her face.

Are you breaking out, experiencing dryness, or looking pale in certain areas of the face? Your complexion could give you a clue about what’s going on in your body. In fact, this practice of facial analysis has been practised in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries. Face mapping is considered an important and intuitive diagnostic method to discover any imbalance within the body.

“Face mapping stems from the TCM belief that a person’s skin reflects our inner health,” says Real Health Medical Physician Kelvin Goh. This 3,000-year-old practice views the face as a map with sections that correspond to the different organs of the body.

Studies in recent years have introduced new face mapping techniques such as Dermalogica face mapping and acne face mapping. These tend to rely on dermatology rather than TCM wisdom, clarifies Physician Goh. “But they are still based on the idea that a blemish on your face indicates a deeper issue.” 

The Benefits of Face Mapping

Doctor looking at and speaking to a patient.
Face mapping can help your TCM physician diagnose if there are internal imbalances in the body.

In TCM, there are four methods for diagnosis — inspection, auscultation and olfaction, interrogation, and palpation. Face mapping falls under Inspection, where a TCM physician examines your facial areas, which correspond to different physiological functions.

“Our face is always a reflection of our state of inner health,” adds Physician Goh. “Noticing the small signs that appear can allow us to take notice of our health and alter our daily routines or habits to achieve optimal health.” This can then help you make the necessary changes for overall better health.

Understanding your Complexion’s Clues

Photo of a young woman looking into the mirror with a finger on her cheek
That pimple on your cheek may be a clue to the state of your inner health.

According to Physician Goh, there are nine body constitutions, which can be seen in your skin’s general condition (as shown below). 

  1. Balanced: Glowing and healthy skin  
  2. Yang Deficiency: Always looking pale  
  3. Yin Deficiency: Dry skin 
  4. Qi Deficiency: Loose, soft, and droopy skin 
  5. Qi Stagnation: Tendency to have pigmentation 
  6. Blood Stasis: Dark, scaly, and dry skin 
  7. Phlegm Dampness: Oily skin 
  8. Damp Heat: Acne-prone skin 
  9. Sensitive: Tendency to be allergic to the environment/objects/food or have eczema and hives 

Understanding your constitution classification through facial features can help reveal what conditions you may be prone to. You can then take preventive steps to maintain overall health. But when skin issues in certain areas of the face arise, these symptoms can help you identify where an internal imbalance lies. 

Mapping your face can help you get to the cause of the skin condition.

Forehead 

Represents the digestive system, including both the bladder and small intestines. 

Symptoms: “If one frequently suffers from acne on your forehead, it could be a sign of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or a urinary tract infection,” suggests Physician Goh. 

Treatment: Ways to combat these issues will be changing to a cleaner diet (like avoiding spicy and oily food), increasing water intake to flush out toxins, or seeking medical treatment. Massaging the zu san li (ST36, 足三里) acupoint daily can also improve the digestive system and bowel movement.

Temples, eyebrows, eyes 

Reflects the Liver. “The Liver is your body’s natural detoxifier. Therefore, toxins from unhealthy foods, negative emotions, or lack of sleep can affect these areas of the face.” 

Symptoms: Acne between the eyebrows or on your temples may indicate trouble with the Liver. 

Treatment: Physician Goh advises sleeping early before 11pm (since this is the optimum time for detoxification), getting seven to eight hours of sleep a day, and avoiding smoking and alcohol. Reduce caffeine intake and exercise regularly by doing more cardio exercises to care for both physical and mental health. You can also massage the tai chong (LR3, 太冲) acupoint to regulate Liver qi.

Nose 

Represents the Heart and gut. 

Symptoms: Acne around the nose may be tied to gut-related problems and inflammation of the small intestine. A red nose may indicate Heart-related issues like high blood pressure and inflammation, says Physician Goh. 

Treatment: Try an anti-inflammatory diet. Eat fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, and skinless poultry and fish. You should also consume low-fat dairy products, non-tropical vegetable oils, nuts and legumes, and whole grains. Rest and rehydrate. 

Cheeks 

Indicates the state of your Spleen, Lungs, stomach and respiratory system. 

Symptoms: Redness of the cheeks could be a symptom of stomach inflammation, while breakouts might indicate allergies or sinus issues, explains Physician Goh. This can be due to pollution and smoking. 

Treatment: Stop smoking and start exercising regularly. Change dietary habits by avoiding sugar and other fast foods. Get more fresh air and drink lots of water

Mouth and chin 

Represents the endocrine system. 

Symptoms: “Usually hormones are raging, such as around the time of menstruation, and pimples may start popping up around your mouth or chin.” 

Treatment: Rest more, and avoid cold food like ice cream, cold drinks, and spicy food. 

You can also try Bak Foong pills (白凤丸) to nourish and regulate the body, especially if you’re experiencing Blood and Qi Deficiency. This can help alleviate mild symptoms associated with menstruation. 

Have you tried face mapping before? Bookmark this article the next time you have skin issues to see what areas and treatments apply to you.

References

  1. Biomed Research International. 2014. Qualitative and quantitative analysis for facial complexion in traditional Chinese medicine. [Online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054802/> [Accessed on 17 October 2022] 
  2. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015. Advances in Patient Classification for Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Machine Learning Perspective. [Online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4515265/> [Accessed on 17 October 2022]
  3. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences. 2016. Classification of traditional Chinese medicine constitution based on facial features in color images. [Online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095754816300928> [Accessed on 19 October 2022]

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