In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), your face reflects your inner health status. Mien Xiang (面相), also known as Chinese face mapping, originated 3000 years ago and used to view the face as a body map with each facial area connecting to different organ systems.
Beside the common possible causes of acne, such as overproduction of oil secretion and poor skincare habits, TCM believes that the imbalances in an organ system can also result in blemishes and acne found on the face. With that, face mapping is then useful in directing the diagnosis and treatment approach to treat the root cause of an acne outbreak.
Chinese Face mapping
The forehead reflects mainly the Heart, Small Intestine and the Liver systems. In TCM, the heart and the small intestine share a paired relationship and are thus closely related. Acne on the forehead is caused by the internal heat produced in the heart and liver system. Stress, irritability and the lack of sleep are the main triggers that ignite heart-fire and liver-fire, leading to the formation of acne around the forehead area.
Tips: Stress and poor sleep (quality and quantity) can cause a vicious cycle of acne breakouts. Listening to relaxing music and meditation before sleep instead of scrolling on your phone can help build sleeping habits.
Food recommendations: Lotus Plumulae Tea
Lotus Plumulae have medicinal properties that help to clear heart-fire. Adding them into tea or porridge can help to nourish the heart and reduce forehead acne.
Add 3g of Lotus Plumulae (莲子心）and 3g of Liquorice Root (甘草) in boiling water and let it seep for 5 minutes.
Acne found around the nose area indicates excessive stomach-fire and poor bowel movements in the body. This excessive stomach-fire in the body is usually a result of overconsumption of unhealthy food such as spicy food, deep fried food, processed food and raw cold food. Excessive stomach-fire can also lead to the accumulation of heat in the large intestine that dries up fluid in the large intestine, resulting in constipation. Regardless of primary or secondary constipation, poor bowel movement leads to poor detoxification, which then reflects as acne on the face.
Connecting the two points at each side of the mouth to the tip of the nose bridge forms the “Dangerous Triangular Zone”. There are many veins connecting to the brain located in this zone and thus, always avoid squeezing the pimples found in this zone as it could possibly lead to bacterial infection.
Tips: Limit intake of unhealthy food. Increase fibre intake such as water and vegetables.
Food recommendations: Green bean soup
Green bean has cooling properties that can help remove stomach-fire in the body andpromote bowel movements. However, people with diarrhoea are not advised to take it for the long term.
- Wash and soak 200g of green beans for at least 2 hours.
- Transfer the soaked green beans and a suitable amount of brown sugar (to suit your taste) into a large pot and add 1.5litres of water. You may also wish to add 2 pandan leaves (rinsed and knotted) into the soup.
- Bring it to boil and reduce the heat. Allow it to simmer for 30 minutes or until the green beans split open.
- Serve it warm.
The upper cheek also belongs to the stomach and explained above, whereas the lower cheeks belong to the lungs (right) and the liver (left). The respiratory system is closely related to the lung’s health. Hence, acne dominant around the right side of the lower cheek area are often related to respiratory ailments such as sinus and allergies issues. In TCM, the liver governs our emotions and thus, being under a stressful environment can also result in acne breakouts around the left side of the lower cheeks.
Acne found on the cheeks can also be due to poor skincare habits or long hours of wearing face masks. It is important to disinfect your handphones/headphones and change your pillow sheets regularly. To avoid “maskne” (mask acne), do wash your face regularly using a gentle cleanser and also take a break from makeup, which may cause more clogged pores.
Tips: Use air purifiers to ensure the quality of the air in your environment and reduce possible allergic reactions. Avoid smoking. Engage in exercises such as swimming and jogging to help build up your lung capacity.
Food recommendations: Snow fungus soup with pears.
This is a well liked traditional dessert amongst Chinese women as it contains collagen that brings about beauty benefits. White fungus (Snow fungus) is rich in dietary fiber and helps to nourish the lungs, kidney and stomach.
- White fungus (soaked) 25g
- 1 large Pear
- Dried goji berries 15g
- Dried Chinese red dates 20g
- 10 cups of water
- Wash the ingredients and remove the skin of the pear.
- Cut the pear and the snow fungus into smaller pieces and add all the ingredients into a large pot.
- Add water and the snow fungus into a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium low and cover the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the pear and continue cooking at medium low heat for another 30 minutes.
- Add goji berries and red dates into the soup. You may also use rock sugar to adjust the sweetness to your preference.
- Cover and simmer at low heat until the soup turns syrupy. This should take 1-2 hours and it is now ready to be served.
Lastly, the chin and jawline area belongs to the reproductive system which is governed by the kidney. From a TCM perspective, hormonal imbalance is caused by the deficiency in the kidney and liver system. Therefore, common causes for acne around this area includes stress, menstrual cycle, post-birth control pills, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and menopause.
Tips: Make an effort to sleep before 11pm to nourish the kidney yin.
Gently massage these acupoints for 3 minutes, twice a day.
The appearance of acne at different facial areas can signal an imbalance in the respective organ systems. By using face mapping as an informative guide, TCM physicians can treat the root cause of acne breakouts internally, allowing for an overall holistic healing on top of a good facial skin condition on the outside.
Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.