What Is Face Mapping? Meet The Ancient Practice That Dives Deep Into Your Skin Health

Our skin isn't just our biggest organ, but a vital one because it protects all the other organs from the outside world. In doing so, it's affected by what's going on underneath it, so if an organ isn't working as it should, there's a good chance that the skin will reflect it. Because of how the inside and outside of our bodies are so intertwined, three thousand years ago the Chinese developed a facial guide to understanding the organs and what might be ailing them. They called it mien shiang, and three thousand years later here in the West, we call it face mapping, via The Face Reader.

Face mapping isn't unlike acupuncture. Both subscribe to the belief of energy (Qi) that flows through the body, connecting and influencing everything. So if an acne breakout occurs on the cheeks, for example, it could be indicative of allergies or something similar because the cheeks and respiratory system are linked, per Healthline.

Although there's no science to back up the legitimacy of face mapping, various research has found that some organ health affects the skin. According to a 2021 study published in Microorganisms, gut and skin health are "highly analogous to each other in purpose and functionality," while a 2022 study published in Annals of Medicine found that recognizing "dermatologic abnormalities" can lead to early detection of liver-related diseases. So, the jury may still be out on the science of face mapping, but the fact remains that organ health and skin health are connected. In other words, face mapping can reveal quite a bit about our skin in its own way.

What exactly is face mapping

When done by a professional, face mapping can get to the root of your skin's issues. Using ancient Chinese techniques, the face is examined to determine the best way to heal it from the inside out. "Face mapping is the ability to see the reflection of the body's organs on each part of the face by observing the face's complexion — such as luster, dullness, and color [and breakouts!] — as well as the tongue and face expression," Chinese scholar Chapman Lee told Refinery 29

According to Chapman, face mapping isn't the first line of defense when it comes to treating problematic skin. Before delving into mapping the face, "we need to make sure that any dark spots or acne aren't caused by poor hygiene or a skin infection," said Lee. It's only if the symptoms persist after a topical treatment that they'll turn to face mapping as an option that might be able to get to the core of the problem.

How face mapping works

Face mapping breaks down every part of the face and connects it to an organ. So if you were to have your face mapped by a professional to see why you keep getting acne or dry spots in the center of your forehead, they may suggest some something that could help with your digestive track because that area is linked to the small intestine, via Healthline. Face mapping is essentially reading the exterior so as to reach a conclusion about the interior.

"The body is made up of a bunch of systems — lymphatic, neurological, digestive, to name a few — and all of these systems are tied together," acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner Daniel Hsu, DAOM, Lac told Byrdie. "It's very difficult to affect one without affecting others. In Chinese medicine, we look at the body as a whole and how everything works together." A face mapping session usually takes about 30 minutes so that each part of the face can be accurately read and interpreted.

How to use face mapping to treat skin issues

Because face mapping is about understanding the inside as a means to clean up the outside, the necessary changes you'll make for the sake of your skin won't be about changing your facial cleanser or moisturizer. Instead, you'll be changing what you put into your body, as well as how you manage the internal impact of external forces like stress and anxiety.

"Any disharmony inside the body will show up on the outside," naturopathic doctor Nigma Talib, ND told Beauty Daily. "It can manifest in different ways such as puffiness, excess lines, color changes, breakouts or zits, itchiness, dull skin, or flaky patches in these areas." As Talib explained, when there's an imbalance or blockage in the energy channels, "health symptoms emerge, and any meridians that are disturbed because of diet, lifestyle, stress levels, and hormone changes show outward signs on the face."

Depending on the areas that are most affected, changes in your routine may mean cutting back on alcohol and rich food, limiting dairy products, incorporating more or certain types of vitamins into your diet, or learning how to handle stress in a proactive, healthy way. In some cases, you may need to change your birth control if you're experiencing acne around the jaw and chin area because they're linked to the reproductive organs which impact hormones.

Drawbacks to face mapping

For the most part, face mapping is a harmless practice that offers another perspective into why our skin behaves the way it does. But as McGill University's Office for Science Society pointed out, face mapping is mostly pseudoscience, meaning, yes, our organ health can affect our skin, but it shouldn't be considered the only thing we use to determine why we may have a breakout. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, breakouts and skin issues like dermatitis can be the results of smoking, bad hygiene, interrupted sleep, and genetics, among other factors.

Face mapping wouldn't have survived for over three thousand years if there wasn't something to it. If you choose to give face mapping a try, you'll definitely be able to take some great information away from it, but if your particular skin issues persist, seeing a dermatologist is a good idea. The knowledge and treatment you receive from a doctor combined with what you learn from having your face mapped just might be the ticket to perfect skin.