Acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S. (and the most Googled).
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that it affects up to 50 million Americans annually.
I just want to start off by saying that I know just how frustrating recurring breakouts can be, and you’re not alone.
But this doesn’t make it any easier.
The AAD says that acne can not only cause permanent scarring, but can also lead to poor self-image, depression, and anxiety.
Seeing images of other people with clear skin doesn’t feel too great.
And finding a solution that works for your skin can be like an endless pursuit of trying this medicine and these pills.
But what if the root cause of pimples is more than just surface-level?
Today, I’m going to go in-depth about one method of finding the source of your breakouts: face mapping.
What is Face Mapping?
If you’ve ever gotten a facial, you may have noticed your esthetician circling numbers or letters on different parts of a face diagram during your consultation.
This, my friends, is the art of face mapping.
It’s also known as mien shiang, which literally translates to “face reading.”
It’s well-known in the skincare industry and is based in traditional Chinese medicine.
Put simply, the location of your acne may have something to do with what’s going on inside your body.
Face mapping charts a correlation between your internal organs and different zones of your face.
This can help us identify health or lifestyle factors that might cause breakouts.
When the practice was first developed thousands of years ago, the location of breakouts on the face helped doctors diagnose internal health problems (they didn’t have X-rays or MRI scans, after all).
A key philosophy of Chinese medicine is that one organ can affect another, and what affects one organ system can affect the whole body.
Since the skin is our largest organ, it makes sense that potential problems within our internal organs could show up.
Other philosophies in Chinese medicine include:
The unifying principle of these philosophies is that everything in the body is connected.
Is Face Mapping Reliable?
One problem is that many websites confuse Ayurvedic face mapping, which is Indian, with the ancient Chinese practice I’m talking about today.
This results in misinformation.
Get your skincare advice from a trusted professional – not just the Internet alone (and don’t self-diagnose!).
The goal of this post is to serve as a guide and help you reflect on some of your lifestyle habits.
Although face mapping has been practiced for thousands of years, generally, Western medical practitioners are skeptical about its claims.
Dermatologist Eric Joel Meinhardt says he is “open-minded” rather than “say something’s 100 percent not true, but there’s no evidence I’m aware of that supports [face-mapping.]”
After all, acne can be triggered by skin problems such as dead skin cell buildup, clogged pores, and excess bacteria and oil production.
I sell tons of different acne treatments that work well!
However, I sincerely believe that your skin alone isn’t always responsible for acne – internal factors play a role and show up on your face (like your hormone levels, what you’ve been eating, and what medications you’ve been taking).
Working directly with clients for many years, I’ve learned that face mapping can help with targeting internal and external causes of skin issues.
What Do the Different Zones Mean?
1. Forehead: Digestive System
Breakouts across the forehead tend to be hard clusters or more cystic-like.
They may be a clue that your body is having a hard time breaking down certain foods.
They are often caused by:
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
Cutting back on soda and carbonated beverages is a great step towards reducing acne in this region.
Try drinking green tea instead – it’s full of good-for-you antioxidants!
If you’re getting acne specifically along your hairline, the ingredients in your shampoo, conditioner, or other hair care products could be clogging and irritating your pores.
You can try using products that are fragrance-free, paraben-free, and sulfate-free for a couple of weeks to see if you notice any skin improvements.
Wearing unwashed workout headbands or hats can also transport bacteria to the edges of your face.
2. Above the Eyebrows: Immune System
This area is directly correlated to your immune system.
Breakouts will pop up here when you’re sick – or about to be sick.
To help ease symptoms, drink lots of water and tea (with lemon, preferably!).
If you use eyebrow grooming products (balm, pencil, shadow), you may also experience acne.
Take a break from using these products (including tweezing, waxing, and threading) and see if your acne clears up.
Additionally, if you use eyebrow brushes, give them a wash.
3. Between the Eyebrows: Liver
Breakouts in this area can be caused by:
- Eating sugary and greasy processed foods
- Drinking alcohol
- Food allergies and intolerances
Foods high in fat inhibit blood flow and circulation and lead to bloating.
Sugar can create inflammation and lead to redness and blemishes.
Alcohol creates inflammation in your skin and can be dehydrating.
It also decreases your body’s level of vitamin A, a powerful natural antioxidant that helps cell turnover and renewal.
You can combat acne between your eyebrows by adopting a healthy diet.
I know, it’s not always easy, especially with sugar cravings!
Try and pick lighter foods, like cucumbers and watermelon, and avoid “rich” foods made with lots of butter (think baked goods and casseroles).
And as tempting they may be, pass on the “midnight snacks.”
4. Cheeks: Respiratory System
This area is affected by smoking and air pollution.
Tiny bits of smoke, soot, and dirt in the air can infiltrate all the way into the deeper layers of the epidermis, clogging pores and causing dehydration.
While air pollution can be hard to avoid, it’s essential to wash your face at the end of the day to remove acne-causing buildup.
And I’m sure you already know this, but don’t smoke!
It’s just another form of air pollution that damages the skin’s ability to repair itself.
Breakouts on the cheeks can also be a sign that you’re consuming too much sugar.
Keeping your phone and pillow cases clean helps to reduce acne in this area, too – you don’t want to press dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells into your face!
When you wash your pillow cases, I recommend using a scent-free laundry detergent to avoid the possibility of irritating your skin.
5. Chin and Jaw: Hormones and Stomach
These areas are the most difficult to clear up.
Unfortunately, us ladies experience breakouts (usually cystic acne) in these areas the most often.
(Breakouts that are stubborn and frequent…we really won the lottery there…)
You can thank your hormones.
Acne can be triggered by the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
If you’ve experienced cystic acne before, you know how painful and tender it can be.
Getting your hormones checked for imbalances is a good idea if this is a persistent problem.
Your dermatologist may recommend:
- Birth control pills
- An oral or topical antibiotic
If you’ve been sticking to a skincare routine and have been using products that work for you, then I applaud you!
If you haven’t been seeing the results you want, though, I have good news: You can make some quick and easy lifestyle changes and yield results.
Below are some general lifestyle tips that are good for your overall skin health.
- Watch your dairy, sugar, and carbohydrate intake. When we eat a lot of refined sugar, it causes an blood sugar and insulin spike that increases inflammation throughout the body. This releases enzymes that break down collagen, weaken your skin’s elasticity, and can result in more acne.
- Limit junk food and fast food. Unhealthy fats from fried foods release free radicals in your body and can clog pores. A high sodium content can cause the skin to retain water which results in swelling.
- Try probiotics. Talk to your doctor about finding the right kind for your body. More research is being conducted about the correlation between your gut health and your skin health, but so far the results are looking promising! Good bacteria in your digestive system may help to reduce acne.
- Drink water. As I like to say, it’s the cheapest and most convenient skincare product to keep your skin healthy and moisturized.
- Eat omega-3s and fresh fruits and veggies. These are full of vitamins and nutrients that support skin cell health and skin’s ability to maintain hydration.
Healthy Skin Habits
- Stick to a routine. Healthy skin is happy skin!
- Don’t touch your face. This is the easiest way to NOT spread bacteria around.
- Use speakerphone. Your cell phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat (ewww!). When you talk with your phone pressed to your ear, that bacteria has the opportunity to create breakouts.
- Take off your makeup. I know, I know, this is the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day. But please, just wash your face! Let your pores breathe and get rid of all that gunk from the day!
- Aim for 30 minutes every day. When you increase blood flow during a good sweat sesh, you carry oxygen to your skin cells which provides them with nutrients. Plus, this process helps flush out not-so-good stuff like free radicals that can cause acne. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore – do something you enjoy and bring a friend along!
- Meditate and practice self-care. When you’re stressed, your body releases higher levels of hormones, like cortisol, which can cause inflammation. This can worsen acne. Staying calm and cool isn’t always easy, but it’s so important for our overall health in the long run. Take some time for yourself and do what relaxes you!
- Get some zzzz’s. While you sleep, your body uses that time to repair itself. It also helps maintain healthy cortisol levels. Aim for 7-9 hours a night. You’ll feel so much better!
Side note: If you’ve tried lifestyle changes and different skincare products and your breakouts just won’t go away, I recommend seeing your physician to help you figure out a plan that works best for you.
FAQ’s About Acne
What causes cystic acne?
When a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells and bacteria, a pimple forms.
Cystic acne occurs deeper in the skin than your usual whiteheads and blackheads, though.
My simple answer to this question is hormones.
(Sometimes it seems like they do more harm than good!)
No one is 100% sure of the exact cause, but male hormones called androgens play a role.
Genetics are also responsible.
Men and women can get cystic acne.
In women, hormone changes can be brought on by menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
How do I get rid of acne fast?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Some peoples’ acne just heals faster than others (you can thank those genes again!).
I recommend starting with a gentle skincare routine (cleanser, toner, moisturizer), then applying a product with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
I also suggest tea tree oil – just be sure to dilute it with water as it’s pretty strong by itself.
As a general rule, I would err on the side of caution and stick with products that you know your skin is OK with.
Many people try home remedies (like toothpaste) as a quick fix and end up with skin that’s more irritated than it was before.
How do I get rid of acne scars?
There are different types of acne scars that respond to different treatments (you can read about them here).
I recommend talking to a skincare professional first to see which options are right for you.
If you want to treat acne scars at home, skincare products with the following ingredients generally work well:
- Vitamin C
- Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
Some people have even reported success using these DIY ingredients:
- Lemon juice
- Apple cider vinegar
- Baking soda
Procedures that can be done by a dermatologist to eliminate acne scars include:
- Chemical peels
Does apple cider vinegar help with acne?
Apple cider vinegar has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that help prevent acne by keeping the skin pores free from bacteria and excess oil.
When used as a toner, it can help restore and balance your skin’s pH, which is crucial to stopping breakouts before they start!
What is the best acne face wash?
This really depends on your skin type (oily, dry, sensitive, or combo) and the kind of acne you’re dealing with.
Cystic acne requires a more gung-ho approach than the occasional whitehead.
Ideally, you want a gentle cleanser that treats acne without stripping the skin of moisture or making it too oily.
Look for key ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to target breakouts.
If you’re interested in browsing, here are some cleansers that I offer in my store.
How do I get rid of back acne?
Back acne (AKA bacne) can be embarrassing during bikini season but can improve with some simple changes!
Look for body washes with acne-fighting ingredients, like rosemary extract and witch hazel.
You can also use an exfoliating body wash with AHAs 2-3 times a week.
When exercising, wear breathable clothes and shower immediately afterward.
Apply a spot treatment with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide (if you can’t reach, have someone help you!).
Acne or not, you are beautiful!
However, it doesn’t have to be “just the way my skin is” or a permanent thing.
More importantly, if you feel it’s negatively impacting your self-esteem, you don’t have to suffer through it!
Now that you know what face mapping is, you can begin to determine the causes of your breakouts and start treating them.
Don’t be afraid to visit your dermatologist, esthetician, or physician and ask them for help!
Beauties, have you tried face mapping? Did you change your habits and see results, or did it not work for you? Let us know in the comments!
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