Face mapping

Every so often you’ve just got to take pause and take a second to think about the wonder that is your skin. It is so many things: a protective shield, a tactile playground, and a living, breathing organ. When it is at its best it is smooth and calm, and an accurate indicator that all is as it should be, inside and out. When it is at its worst it is, in a nutshell, the very worst. Inflamed, sensitive, tender, and all-round unhappy.

Your skin, in fact, is a bit like your gut. Much like your digestive system, it is a protective organ with its own bacterial ecosystem, with the ability to absorb and synthesize both nutrients and vitamins. And much like your gut, when your skin’s not as happy as it should be, it tells you. Mine’s telling me right now.

If your trouble’s in your gut, you’ll likely see inflammation, cystic acne (those deep, painful spots), or eczema flare-ups. If your liver’s taxed, or you’ve been hitting the booze and late night snacks hard, you’ll see a general pallor to your skin and more breakouts. Thyroid trouble? Dryness and hair loss are symptoms you’re told to look for. Breakouts along your jawline point to hormones that are out of whack.

Learning to listen to your skin can help you navigate more than your reflection. It takes a little attention, but in both ayurvedic as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine traditions, face mapping helps you address the root of the problem instead of just tackling a spot.

A basic cheat sheet for your next face freakout below, but if you’re interested, there is a wealth of information available online that can help you identify trouble spots and their root cause in more detail. PLUS, and this should really go without saying, but this doesn't sub in for a doctors opinion when something's really up.

Corresponding area in the body: Your gallbladder and liver
It might mean: You’ve been hitting the margaritas and pizza hard, or that you’re super-stressed. Ayurveda says that you’re out of whack and that both your digestive and nervous systems are likely in need of some respite.
Recommendation: Ease up on the processed fat in your diet, cut out booze for a bit, and drink loads of water. Plus, calm down. Have you considered yoga?

Corresponding area in the body:
Your liver and stomach
It might mean: Your digestion is shot and you’ve been eating terribly.
Recommendation: Consider whether you have any food allergies by cutting out dairy, gluten, alcohol and sugar for a bit. Even if you don’t, a brief patch eating more greens, less sugar, and no dairy will probably do you a world of good. Bonus points for adding in probiotic-rich yoghurt, miso soup, and all the leafy greens you can manage.

Corresponding area in the body:
Your kidneys
It might mean: You’re dehydrated
Recommendation: This one’s easy, drink more water! Also increase your intake of water-rich foods like cucumber and juicy fruit.

Corresponding area in the body: Your colon and/or ovaries
It might mean: Breakouts in this area are often triggered by hormonal stress, so women are likely to experience breakouts here around their menstrual cycle.
Recommendation: Try eating a balanced diet with a good mix of clean protein, veggies, and healthy fats to keep your blood sugar on an even keel. Eat your broccoli and sweet potatoes. Sleep lots. Meditate. Move your body.

Corresponding area in the body: Stomach, lungs, or liver
It might mean: Redness and sensitivity in your upper cheeks could mean that you’re having issues with your lungs, or that your metabolism isn’t as fired up as it should be. Breakouts and redness in your lower cheeks could mean that your stomach needs some attention.
Recommendation: Try breathing exercises, particularly those of you that live in polluted cities (hello everyone). Also try eating lots of leafy greens, and try cutting out booze and sugar for a bit. And this isn’t linked to any healing tradition, but have you considered cheek acne caused by a dirty phone? Clean your screen, change your pillow covers, and stop touching your face.