What can your face say about your health?
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), face reading is a tool that has been used for centuries by practitioners and healers to help diagnose a person’s overall health and wellbeing. The face is viewed to be much like a mirror, whereby the internal condition and wellness of our bodies are reflected externally through various facets of our faces. It is as if our bodies are trying to talk to us through our faces, telling us what the body needs and the challenges it is having. All we have to do is observe and read the messages our faces present to us. It’s said the face never lies.
Each section of the face is believed to relate to an internal body system. Disharmony in that internal system will, in turn, lead to a change in the complexion, texture or moisture of the corresponding facial area. Reading the face is similar in principle to how we read and access the organs of the body via the feet in reflexology.
Facial reading is used to determine a person’s constitution, current health status, long-term Health prospects and psychological and emotional profiling. All aspects of the face are read. This includes the shape of the face, the colour and condition of the skin (ie oiliness, dryness, roughness, redness, breakouts, lines etc), the shape of the eyes and brows, the thickness of the hair and the shape and condition of the mouth and lips.
In recent times, many professional skin therapists have adopted the tool of face reading to better understand and treat their clients’ skin and overall wellbeing. It provides the therapist with an objective view of the skin’s condition as well as an indication of the issues that might be affecting it. Therefore using face reading as a diagnostic tool assists in a more accurate customisation of the treatment and lifestyle advice, aiding in a more personal approach to skin and body care.
It’s important to note the following information is not intended for any type of medical diagnosis, but merely to illustrate some typical examples of what can be detected in the various zones of the skin during a facial diagnosis procedure by a professional skin therapist.
Every facial reading includes four elements of diagnosis known as the Four Examinations: looking, listening, asking and touching. By using these four diagnostic tools, a comprehensive assessment can be made as to how best to treat the unique needs of each person.
Basic reading tools
The first thing that needs to be ascertained is a person’s overall energy balance (qi), looking for signs of either too much or too little qi. If one’s qi energy levels are out of sync, the body’s internal harmony and wellbeing are disrupted and we can see this visibly on the skin surface.
It’s believed that when we see “red”, or feel excess heat, it’s indicative of a person with yang-type energy. An example of excess yang energy would be red, flushed skin with inflamed breakouts. On the other hand, a sallow, oily skin would be indicative of yin-type energy. An example of excess yin energy would be very pale skin that’s cold to the touch and has numerous blackheads. From this simple information a therapist can determine whether to use cooling anti-inflammatory ingredients and treatments or warming, clearing and stimulating ingredients and treatments as the protocol for the client.
When reading the skin we are looking out for irregularities such as oedema, excess oil secretion, rashes and increased sensitivity. Permanent lines indicate a long-term imbalance or stress, whereas breakouts suggest a more short-term imbalance or stress. Dehydration and flaking may indicate that a particular organ is distressed, toxic or dehydrated. Irritation sometimes directly relates to allergies or deficiencies and broken capillaries and redness may also be related to stress, toxicity and internal irritation.
Facial diagnosis zone by zone
The forehead links with the process of digestion. You can find even very young people with quite deep lines on their forehead that can’t be attributed to the ageing process but certainly can when taking into account their dietary habits and digestion. The upper part of the forehead is associated with the bladder, the middle with stomach digestion and the lower with the small intestine. So sensitivity on the middle of the forehead, for example, could relate to poor diet and sluggish digestion, which may be a result of eating too late at night. If there is irritated, red skin on the top of the forehead it could relate, for example, to poor urination or a bladder infection.
Between the eyes
This zone is known as the “wine and dine area”. Sometimes you may find it becomes red or irritated or you may even have a permanent vertical line there, not always associated with frowning. This could be reflecting an intolerance to food such as dairy products, wheat or processed sugars, or simply poor eating habits.
These days, we all seem to be suffering from more stress in our lives. A quick way to check how stress is affecting you is to take a look at your eyebrow hair. If it seems unusually wiry, it could be an indication of adrenal stress. Fine, feathery lines stemming from the start of the eyebrow are linked to long-term adrenal stress and may correlate with tightness in the shoulder area, which is a “referred” pain area.
What do those dark circles under the eyes really mean? Are they simply a result of too many late nights? Well, in Chinese philosophy, the under-eye area relates to the kidneys, so it may indicate your elimination is weak. The darkness can reflect excess toxins and the need for a system cleanse or simply that the body would benefit from more water to aid its functions. Grittiness under the eyes correlates with an excess of uric acid. A good, healthy diet and a low intake of caffeine and alcohol would be beneficial.
The cheek zone relates to the lungs. They are often red and irritated and may feel spongy to the touch if you tend to have sinus congestion, asthma or perhaps live in a polluted area. Any of these symptoms may also mean there could be increased sensitivity to certain active skincare products, so patch testing and the minimalist approach are advisable. If there are broken capillaries, this could be from stress of the lungs associated with smoking. Dehydration over the cheeks may be the result of a recent cold or reaction to cold, sinus and flu medication.
If you can’t get rid of those persistent breakouts on your lower cheeks, it may be because this area relates to the gums and back teeth. The breakouts in this area that can’t be explained may be caused by dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, gingivitis or perhaps irritated wisdom teeth. A trip to the dentist could be the solution.
Cracking, dry lips? We can often blame the weather, but take a look at how your diet may have changed as you move into the various seasons or if you’ve been worried about something recently, as cracking lips is a sign of gastric stress.
Do you get recurring monthly breakouts on the sides of your chin? Not surprisingly, in Chinese face reading, this area relates to the ovaries. You may notice that the breakouts occur on opposite sides of the chin each month in unison with the particular ovary that happens to be ovulating. The middle of the chin, however, relates to the elimination process of the bowel. If you have a breakout or irritation there, this would suggest a current imbalance, whereas those people with a permanent dimple may have a hereditary weakness in this area.
As a result of the hundreds of years of skilled observations of practitioners, we have the ability to see how the face can tell us so much about ourselves and how it is a clear reflection of our inner wellness. A slight adjustment in diet and lifestyle can make all the difference in how we can bring our bodies back into harmony and balance.
For the therapist, face reading allows them to choose between various methods of treatment such as acupuncture, acupressure, pressure point massage, reflexology, shiatsu, stress therapy and MLD (manual lymph drainage), to name but a few modalities, all of which assist in restoration and energy balance. In addition, having a treatment created just for you according to what your skin and body needs is an incredibly rewarding experience.
Ying and yang
All things in the universe have two sides: a yin aspect and a yang aspect. Yin and yang balance each other. Nothing can be wholly yin or wholly yang in a normal healthy state; there is a balance and harmony between yin and yang, their proportions moving smoothly in and out of each other, as suggested by the symbol.
In Chinese medicine it has been long noted that the material world is in a constant state of flux due to the dynamic movement and mutual antagonism and sympathy of yin and yang factors.
The ancient Chinese applied these two theories in the medical field to explain the physiological activities and pathological changes in the human body; they have become an important component of traditional Chinese medicine.
The theory of yin yang holds that every object in the universe consists of two opposite aspects that are in continual mutual restriction and interaction. For example:
Moist vs dry
Dark vs light
Hidden vs exposed
Night vs day
Cold vs hot
Yin and yang are at once in opposition and interdependence; they rely on each other for existence, giving meaning to each other (dark is the absence of light, cold the absence of heat etc and co-existing in a single entity.
Each of the two aspects is the condition for the other’s existence and neither can exist in isolation. Yang is active and strong, while yin is passive and gentle. For example, daytime is yang, while night is yin. Without day, there would be no night and vice versa.
The yin and yang aspects within an object are not quiescent but in a state of constant motion. They can be described as being in a state where the lessening of yin leads to an increase of yang and vice versa.
The yin yang theory considers the normal vital activities of the human body to be the result of the relative balance (or imbalance) between yin and yang. Disease is a result of an imbalance between these opposing but complementary forces.
Emma Hobson is the Education Manager for the International Dermal Institute for Asia, Australia and New Zealand.