You’ve probably seen it around the Internet, especially after exactly 20 Google search variations of “acne but only on my left cheek, why, oh god why,” but does face mapping have any merit to it?
Skin is our largest organ and we know that many internal health issues can manifest in our skin, but does a persistent spot right between your eyebrows really mean you should be examining your liver?
What is face mapping?
Face mapping is a practice that appears in traditional medicine practice like traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic traditions. Chapman Lee, a Chinese scholar told Refinery29 that “face mapping is the ability to see the reflection of the body’s organs on each part of the face by observing the face’s complexion—such as lustre, dullness, and colour (and breakouts!)—as well as the tongue and face expression.”
The idea is basically that if you get acne or skin issues in certain places it corresponds to stress or imbalance in an internal part of the body. For example, that if you have acne or irritation in between your eyebrows it’s due to dehydration or too much alcohol.
What are the zones in face mapping and what do they mean?
Okay, so we’re playing a little fast and loose here because TCM is not typically recognised by Western medicine, likewise with Ayurveda, but if you were interested to know what these different systems say about what’s going on all up in your face, Eminé Rushton, author of Sattva: The Ayurvedic Way to Live Well has a few basic pointers.
Ayurveda says this is the zone of “Vata” the element of air and the colon and nervous system. Breakouts here can be related to internal digestion issues or also emotional imbalances, like anxiety. (Apparently, it’s not just content to give us heart palpitations.)
The Nose and Cheeks:
These areas are linked to our small intestine “Pitta,” the fire element. Emotional causes could include anger, frustration and jealousy, so try and take some deep breaths. Too much pitta in the body usually calls for cooling everything down: say eating less sour, salty and spicy foods and not using any intense chemical peels, especially if you’re dealing with lots of redness in your skin. Putting the fire out is the idea here.
Mouth, Chin and Neck:
On the other end of the spectrum, this zone is about “Kapha” or the element of earth. Grief, depression and fear of change can manifest here.
Chinese face mapping is ~similar but different~, the forehead is again considered to show up digestion issues; your cheeks relate to the stomach, spleen and respiratory system; and the chin is a big indicator of hormonal wobbles. You can also read a more detailed breakdown and explanation by Daniel Hsu, D.A.O.M, L.Ac, a New York-based doc specialising in acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
Is face mapping legit?
We asked dermatologist Dr Philip Tong MBBS (Hons) PhD FACD, who contributes to the resource All About Acne, and is the Deputy Director of Research at The Skin Hospital as well as dermatologist at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst about face-mapping, and not to burst anyone’s bubble, but Western medicine isn’t exactly ringing the “celebrate face-mapping” bell.
“To my knowledge, I don’t believe there’s anybody medical evidence to back that up. Certainly, if acne is particularly difficult to treat in certain circumstances and it’s not responding to the usual conventional treatment, one might consider that something internal was driving it.”
However, he adds that they present with other things as well. So, look not super surprising for a system that is based on observation and flows of energy.
What does it mean when you only get acne in one place?
Aside from being frustrating and perplexing, Dr Tong explains that when acne is repeatedly occurring in just one place it may be due to the unique distribution of oil glands on a person.
It can also be related to the type of acne (for example hormonal acne in women tends to manifest on the chin) or a person’s habits. Dr Tong explains: “Some people lean on their chins or cheek, and that can cause occlusion, that is only surface blocks the oil gland, and there’s a lot of bacteria on our hands as well.”
Other things you can look at in this vein as potential location-specific acne causes are makeup brushes, pillowcases and sheets, hair products, phones, and headwear (from hats to headphones). Acne can be wildly frustrating for something as common as it is, and if you’re at your wit’s end and still Googling, it may be time to seek help from a dermatologist.
Trying to balance your Ayurvedic doshas probably can’t *hurt* though, especially as a lot of the practices are about balancing our diets and stress levels generally anyway. Might be time to put down your fourth hot bean juice and pick up a Tulsi tea instead
Lead Image via @starface.