If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me repeat over and over again that acne is an external symptom of an internal issue.
This concept isn’t new.
It’s actually been around for thousands of years and is the foundation of an ancient technique called Chinese face mapping.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), everything on the outside reflects what is happening on the inside. This belief is shown through the Chinese face map, which is used to help isolate organs that may be contributing to your acne or other skin issues.
Before we dive into face mapping, though, you need to understand what TCM is.
TCM is a healing system that has been practiced for over two thousand years in China. It’s based on the five elements of earth, fire, metal, water, and wood. Those elements correspond to different parts of the body and the five flavours. Here’s a quick breakdown:
TCM also includes the basic law of yin and yang, which can be used as guidance for eating based on your balance or need to rebalance those five elements. According to this approach, your yin-yang balance is always shifting, and in turn, the food you eat should change accordingly. Each food flavour is either more yin or more yang. Here are some examples:
TCM is much more complex than I just explained. But ultimately, its foundational truth is that everything in the body is interconnected. This principle couldn’t be more true when it comes to your face. So let’s take a look at how acne on certain areas of your face may connect to specific parts of your body according to TCM.
While Face Mapping isn’t a diagnostic tool, it can be helpful for helping to narrow down the areas of the body that need to be addressed. Also, keep in mind that there are other face maps from skincare companies but the TCM face map is what we refer to with clients in The Clear Skin Solution.
If you breakout on the middle of your forehead, it may relate to an issue with your small intestine. In order to have clear skin, it’s crucial for your small intestine to be working properly. The trillions of bacteria in your gut microbiome play an important role in a plethora of functions like helping to digest food, absorb nutrients, and protect against pathogens. If there is any disruption in your gut, it can lead to leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), candida, dysbiosis, and then contribute to acne. You can read more about the gut-skin connection in last week’s blog.
You may see skin problems pop up in this area because of poor food choices including a diet high in refined sugar, alcohol, dairy, and gluten, as well as unaddressed food sensitivities. Stress also taxes the digestive system and can show up on the forehead.
You can support this area by consuming fermented, probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, coconut yogurt, kimchi, pickles, apple cider vinegar, olives, tempeh, and miso. You can also eat gut-healing foods like bone broth, avocados, dark leafy greens, and cold-water fatty fish. Including stress reduction practices like meditation, deep breathing and tapping can be helpful as well.
The corners of the forehead, near the temples, can correspond with your bladder. Inflammation or an infection in the bladder can show up as acne on this area of your face. Steps to support the bladder include staying hydrated with clean water and herbal teas, reducing caffeine and alcohol, and increasing your fibre intake.
The area directly above the eyebrows and on the nose can reflect the state of the heart. Breakouts and oily skin can be a sign of blood pressure or cholesterol issues. While blackheads and redness may signify heart-related blockages. In TCM, the heart is also part of the mind. Thoughts, emotions and feelings originate here as well. A heavy heart and repressed anger is said to also contribute to breakouts seen here.
Show your heart some love by reducing refined sugar, trans fats, and processed foods. You can also support your heart health by consuming anti-inflammatory foods like cold-water fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acid including wild salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies, and high-quality cod liver or fish oil. Include stress reduction practices and work with a qualified practitioner on past emotional traumas.
The space between the eyebrows relates to the liver. This is one of the main organs for detoxification. It works to cleanse your blood, expel toxins for excretion, and filter your hormones. Unfortunately, our bodies are constantly overburdened with chemicals from our environment, personal care products, and overly-processed food. This clogs up and overwhelms our organs of detoxification (like the liver) causing them to not do their jobs efficiently. If you have an overload of toxins and hormones stuck in your liver, skin issues like acne can start to pop up, especially between your eyebrows.
The best foods for liver detoxification are the cruciferous family of vegetables and bitter foods including beets, lemons, kale, arugula, and cauliflower.
Your kidneys correspond with the area underneath your eyes. Your kidneys work like a filter to remove waste, toxins, and excess fluid from your body through urine. They also regulate your electrolyte levels, which is important for proper cell function. When you are dehydrated or under stress, it can negatively affect the kidneys and result in dark circles, bags, or puffiness under the eyes. You can support your kidney function by eliminating refined sugar and salt, caffeine, and alcohol. Including plenty of water, mineral-rich foods, and sufficient sleep will also benefit your kidneys.
If you have red cheeks, this may be an indication of stomach inflammation. According to TCM, redness in this location may be a result of consuming too much raw or cold foods. The reason why is that your stomach has to warm up the food so it’s the same temperature as inside your body. When you only eat cold or raw foods, however, the stomach goes into overdrive trying to produce more hydrochloric acid (HCL). This ultimately burns out the stomach. Try consuming more lightly-cooked and warm foods to promote optimal HCL production.
Blemishes around your lip and mouth area are associated with your large intestine. Also known as the colon, it’s designed to remove waste to make sure it doesn’t recirculate into your body. Nutritionally, you can detoxify your colon by increasing fibre, water, cruciferous vegetables, beans and lentils, and apples in your diet.
Breakouts in this location can represent problems with your lungs and respiratory system. Your lungs naturally detoxify simply by breathing. They work to filter CO2, allergens, airborne toxins, and fumes. Unfortunately, we are breathing in harmful chemicals, toxins, and irritants every day. This stresses the lungs and can even cause difficulty breathing in some people. Factors that contribute to blemishes in this location are allergies, asthma, environmental toxins, sinus issues, and smoking. Getting rid of indoor toxins including candles, conventional household cleaners, and air fresheners can help to support the respiratory system. Try using a diffuser with pure essential oils and natural cleaning products instead.
The chin and jawline relate to hormonal balance and the reproductive system. Stress, PMS, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pregnancy and the birth control pill can all lead to breakouts in those areas. Check out these articles to find out how to reduce stress and balance your hormones to help clear your skin.
Want to go more in-depth?
Listen to our podcast episode “The Missing Acne Puzzle Piece (And What Your Acne Means)“ here!