What Chinese Face Mapping Can Tell You about Your Health
Have you ever heard of Chinese face mapping and wondered what it was all about? Let’s take a closer look at this ancient technique from traditional Chinese medicine. We’ll cover what it is, how it works, who might benefit, and how to give it a try for yourself.
What is Chinese face mapping?
Chinese face mapping is a technique that is based on the belief that a person’s skin can reflect the state of their inner health. Redness, bumps, dryness, or other skin issues on the face are thought to represent something happening elsewhere in they body. The practice is also called mien shiang, which literally means “face reading.”1 2 3
The practice of Chinese face mapping comes from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and it is at least 3,000 years old. TCM is an ancient system of medicine originating in China that is based on the idea that everything in the body is interconnected. When there is an imbalance or energy blockage in one area, there will be wide-ranging effects throughout the entire body—including the skin.1
The concept behind the practice of Chinese face mapping is that when there is an imbalance or disturbance somewhere in the body (such as the liver, the heart, the lungs, etc.), it will manifest as physical blemishes on certain parts of your face.
How does it work?
Within the practice of face mapping, the face becomes a map—with each area corresponding to a different organ system. The map allows you to see where certain internal health ailments may show up as skin issues.
A trained TCM practitioner can examine your skin and face (for tone, color, texture, sheen, etc.) and make an assessment based on what they observe. If an issue is suspected, the practitioner may recommend changes to what you eat, how you sleep, how you manage stress, or how you take care of yourself, for example, in order to treat the underlying cause of your blemishes.
Here’s a quick introduction to what different areas of the face might correspond to:
- Forehead – Small intestine and nervous system
- Breakouts here may be related to poor digestion, diet, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, stress, sleep deprivation, and more.
- Between the brows – Liver
- Blemishes between the brows might be a sign you need to detox, cut down on alcohol or rich foods, or process difficult emotions.
- Temples – Kidneys and bladder
- Skin irritation in the temples might indicate infections, inflammation, reactions to medications, and more.
- Nose – Heart
- Your nose is related to the heart, and breakouts here may be a sign of high blood pressure, inflammation, or other heart problems.
- Cheeks – Lungs
- Breakouts on the cheeks might relate to allergies or immune responses, and may suggest breathing exercises or aerobic activity to be useful.
- Chin, mouth, and jaw – Reproductive system, colon, stomach
In recent years, concepts from traditional Chinese face mapping have also been incorporated into more modern, scientifically backed treatments. For example, holistic, modern dermatology practices sometimes use an evolved version of face mapping (such as Dermalogica and “acne face mapping”).4 7
What are the benefits?
Proponents of Chinese face mapping believe this practice can help you to:
- Clear up acne and improve skin health by addressing the root cause
- Gain a deeper understanding about the state of health in your body
- Learn more about yourself, your personality traits, your tendencies, and other characteristics 1 2 3 4 5
What does the science say?
Research on the topic of face mapping is quite limited, and there isn’t much scientific basis for the practice. And some experts believe it doesn’t have any legitimacy at all.8
That being said, many people, including dermatologists and other healthcare professionals, believe in the power of this technique. And there are many anecdotal reports of it making a difference in improving skin and health.2 5
In the absence of scientific studies, proponents of the technique rely instead on the thousands of years it has been in use as a traditional practice and the belief in the core concepts of traditional Chinese medicine.
Plus, there is evidence that the root causes of skin conditions of the face can indeed be related to things like hormone imbalances, poor sleep, high levels of stress, poor gut health, allergies, poor circulation, and underlying diseases like heart disease.1 Many of these things are addressed in face mapping treatments.
According to dermatologist Dr. Claire Chang, as told to Real Simple, face mapping can be one tool in our toolbox for treating skin issues, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not necessarily a universal technique that works for everyone. Instead, it can be seen as a tool to help point to possible triggers and may be a starting point to better understanding our bodies.2 5
Who uses Chinese face mapping?
Chinese face mapping is used by a wide variety of people, for a wide variety of reasons. For example, someone might seek out Chinese face mapping if they have had problems with acne or other skin issues and other conventional, first-line options haven’t been successful.
Someone might also use Chinese face mapping if they believe in a whole-body approach to wellness, and are looking to bring all areas of their body, mind, and spirit into balance. Perhaps they have explored other techniques used in TCM, and they would like to use Chinese face mapping to complement other treatments and therapies.
Along with health, face mapping is also sometimes used to assess and understand character traits and personality, so some people enjoy learning about face mapping for those reasons.3
So is Chinese face mapping right for you? Although there isn’t much scientific basis for Chinese face mapping, there is also little risk to exploring this as an option to support your health.1 So if you are interested in the technique, it may be worth your while to check out!
How to give Chinese face mapping a try for yourself
If you have breakouts, irritation, or redness on the skin of your face, then you might be interested in giving Chinese face mapping a try to support your body and get to the root cause of your concerns.
Chinese face mapping may be a useful complementary tool, especially if other techniques haven’t been working for you to clear up your skin or address other issues.
Seek out a qualified TCM practitioner, who can give you a true assessment with a trained eye and provide personalized recommendations based on what they observe. Recommendations may relate to your diet, lifestyle, stress management, sleep, and more.
You might also search for dermatologists who use a holistic approach, as they may also use face mapping techniques in their practice.
Just be sure to use other skin care tools and get treatment from a medical professional if you do have problems with your skin. As with most things, a well-rounded approach is key; addressing the issue from all angles with a professional healthcare team can ensure that you are taking into account all of the different factors that may be at play for you.
About Chelsea Clark
Chelsea Clark is a writer and certified health and wellness coach who is passionate about supporting others along their own health journeys. She enjoys helping people make positive, lasting changes so that they can live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
1. Levy, J. “Face Mapping: What Your Skin May Be Telling You.” Dr. Axe. Draxe.com.
2. Xue, F. “Face Mapping: What Your Breakouts Can Reveal About Your Health.” Byrdie.com.
3. McCarthy, P. “The Face Reader.” Allen & Unwin; 2007.
4. Sharkey, L. “Can You Use Face Mapping to Improve Your Skin’s Health?” Healthline.com.
5. Hong, H. “Acne Face Mapping: Here’s What Causes Breakouts on Every Part of Your Face.” Real Simple. Realsimple.com.
6. Charkalis, D.M. “Can Acne Face Mapping Reveal the True Cause of Your Breakouts?” Prevention. Prevention.com.
7. Sissons, B. “What to know about acne face maps.” Medical News Today. Medicalnewstoday.com.
8. Mahto, A. “Face Mapping Is Complete Rubbish, According To This Dermatologist.” Refinery29.com.