While sophisticated MRI and X-Ray machines leave little to the imagination, they haven't been around that long. Human disease and disorders, however, precede them by millennia. Instead, ancient medical practitioners have used nuanced observational diagnoses to quickly narrow down symptoms to specific imbalances within the body and help prevent or correct future disease.
The same techniques can still be used today to read the skin on your face to help determine what's causing flare-ups or blemishes. "Face mapping," an ancient practice rooted in Ayurvedic teaching, connects a point on your face to an organ or body part so you know what to treat internally for clear external results.
Here are 10 areas your face may be breaking out or experiencing an issue, and what they say about your health:
Might mean: gallbladder and liver issues
According to Ayurveda, the forehead is ruled by the Vata dosha and relates to the nervous system and digestive system, meaning stress and internal stagnation are probably causing breakouts here. Try reducing the amount of processed foods and fat in your diet sure to eat less processed foods, while incorporating meditation and yoga to keep stress low.
2. Between eyebrows, right side
Might mean: repressing emotions in your liver
It’s apparent to most that deep seated anxiety would cause your lovely face to wrinkle up, but understanding the line pattern can help you understand where you might be holding stress and which of your organs may consequently be most at risk. If you have a vertical line between your eyebrows on the right side, it indicates you're repressing emotions — especially anger — in your liver.
3. Between eyebrows, left side
Might mean: repressing emotions in the spleen
A line on the left side indicates that emotions are likely penned up in the spleen.
Might mean: joint problems, intestinal issues, thyroid problems
Eyes can be particularly telling: Small irises point to joint problems and an increased whiteness in the iris can indicate that joints are in a degenerative state. A spotty iris can mean poor nutrient absorption in the intestine. If you observe a light ring around the iris, cut back on your sugar and salt intake as this indicates that you have an excess of both. A yellowish color in the eye can indicate a weak liver.
5. Below eyes
Might mean: impaired kidney function
Puffiness and swollen lower eyelids indicate impaired kidney function.Increasing water intake will help, as will measures that kindle the body’s digestive fire, such as adding more spices to your food and making sure to chew your food well. (Ayurveda recommends chewing each morsel nearly 30 times before swallowing!)
Might mean: slow metabolism, low absorption of nutrients, lung issues
Patchiness or discoloration on the cheeks can indicate poor metabolism and low absorption of nutrients, such as folic acid and iron. Additionally, cheeks are linked to lung function (think about how red your face gets during a strenuous workout that has you breathing hard), so pay attention to the quality of your breath and consider breathing exercises.
Not based in Ayurveda, but it's important to note that acne on the cheeks might be caused by a dirty cellphone and pillowcases, or a tendency to touch your face a lot. Make sure to keep your hands away from your face, and accessories and sheets clean.
Might mean: blood and heart issues
Because the cheeks and nose are governed by the Pitta dosha (the fire element), it's no surprise that breakouts here indicate an internal flare up. The nose is closely related to your circulatory system, so if you find yourself breakout out there, it might indicate a blood pressure issue. Up the amounts of essential fatty acids in your diet (avocado, flax, olive oil), and avoid alcohol, coffee and spicy foods.
8. Lower lip
Might mean: intestines, digestions
Your lower lip can provide key insights into the functioning of your intestines. Browns spots can mean you may be suffering from indigestion and poor enzyme function, as well as a possibility of parasites or worms in the lower intestine. Adding more probiotics to your diet may help.
Pale lips are often the first sign of anemic onset, so increase your intake of leafy greens and other iron-rich foods. If you’re noticing a distinct bluish tinge on your lips, it may indicate poor oxygen absorption — possibly even a heart condition — and if you’re experiencing breathlessness that goes with it, you definitely want to follow up with your doctor. Finally, discoloration on the lower lip could indicate a possible disorder in the intestines, while discolorations on the edges of your lips may indicate a kidney issue.
Might mean: toxin buildup, lung issues
Your tongue is the first place many internal disorders will show up, so you'll want to inspect it every day (preferably in the mornings). Circular white residue in the middle or the back of the tongue indicates a build up of toxins in the intestines or colon, meaning it might be time for a detox.
Frothiness or abrasions at the edges of your tongue indicate a possible issue with the lungs, meaning aerobic exercise and meditation are especially important for you. If you find the outer edge of your tongue looking ridged or uneven, that would indicate poor absorption of nutrients into your blood stream. This could be happening because you’re eating too many processed foods, and sometimes even due to the overuse of vitamins (counterintuitive, I know!). Focus on clean, whole foods high in vitamins, iron and folic acids.
Might mean: Hormonal imbalance
Your chin is most likely where hormonal imbalances and stress will make themselves known, which means you're more likely to break out there around your menstrual cycle. Reducing stress as much as possible, getting adequate sleep and exercising will help heal blemishes around this Kapha dosha-ruled area.
Graphic by MBG Creative