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What does your face say about your health - TCM facial diagnosis

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Well actually, it says more than you might think. In fact, your face can tell you a lot about what’s going on internally. Here I share about facial diagnosis from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective and tips on how to remain youthful with a natural glowing complexion.

According to TCM, our external physical appearance depends on the condition of our internal organs, which is often an outcome of our general health (daily eating and lifestyle habits) and our attitudes (emotions). There are some people who look young and full of vitality even at age 80, yet some who look prematurely aged and burnt out at age 30.

Here are some common cosmetic issues and the possible internal manifestation, from a TCM perspective:

  • Horizontal wrinkles on forehead – small and/or large intestinal disorders, over worry, anxiety.

  • Vertical line between eyebrow – overactive yang liver, frustration, overthinking, concentration.

  • Horizontal lines above upper lip – female reproductive organ disorders.

  • Bags under the eyes – kidney, spleen yang deficiency.

  • Dark blue rings under eyes – kidney, bladder, or reproductive organ disorders, lack of sleep.

  • Puffy semi circles (bags) an inch below eyes – intestinal disorders and/or weak lung function.

  • Double chin – excess damp condition (eg. excessive cholesterol or fatty deposits in the body) due to overconsumption of fatty, processed, fried foods, animal foods, salt, refined sugars, and late-evening meals.

  • Puffy face – excess damp due to spleen/kidney qi deficiency and/or overconsumption of fatty foods, animal foods, salt, refined sugars, sweets and pastries.

  • Jowls – excess damp due to spleen deficiency and/or overconsumption of dairy (cheese, milk), fatty foods, animal foods, refined sugars, certain fruits, sweets and pastries. May also indicate grief, sadness and suffering.

  • Acne – excess damp due to overconsumption of extreme yin foods (sugars, fats, some fruits, pastry) in addition to extreme yang foods (red meat, eggs, alcohol, coffee, hot spices).

  • Veins on cheeks – heart and/or stomach disorders due to irregular eating habits, overconsumption of food and/or alcohol.

  • Excessive sweating – extreme yin and yang food intake, heart, lungs or kidney condition.

  • Pigmentation and moles – liver and kidney imbalances (yin deficiency), excess sun exposure, certain medications, overconsumption of spicy, fried foods and sugar.

  • Thin, dry, wrinkly skin – blood and yin deficiency, poor nutrition, commonly seen in low-fat dieters.

  • Loose sagging skin – loose connective tissue due to spleen qi deficiency.

Tips for youthful and naturally glowing skin

Healthy eating habits and a wholefoods diet

As you can see from above, irregular eating, overeating and extremes in diet can over time result in poor skin quality. Often this is accompanied with irregular bowel motions, constipation and/or unhealthy stool patterns. Chapter 9 of Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classics) mentions that the lung is the basis of qi and one of its functions is to nourish the skin. Furthermore, the lungs and large intestine are a pair of interacting organ systems in TCM – which means that poor elimination of wastes and toxins due to poor eating and bowel habits can lead to eruptions or blemishes on the skin.

Chapter 9 of the Inner Classics also mentions how the essence from the five flavours of food, when being digested, will be transported to nourish the qi of the organs. When the qi and body fluids are in harmony, then the Shen spirit will be vigorous. From these passages we can see that healthy eating habits and a balanced diet based on wholefoods are critical for vitality and a healthy glowing skin.

Quality sleep

It’s called ‘beauty sleep’ for a reason – because our skin repairs itself when we sleep. Therefore, it is important that we maintain adequate rest and keep a regular sleep-wake cycle to allow good blood flow to our skin and collagen production. Lack of or poor-quality sleep can deplete our vital qi resulting not only in decreased resistance to disease but also cosmetic issues such as dark under eye circles, puffy eyes, wrinkles, saggy skin, dull complexion etc.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

“The heart is the basis of life, where wisdom, consciousness and mind locate. Its effulgence is in the face (Chapter 9 of the Inner Classics).” This emphasises that our appearance is a reflection of the condition of our heart, which includes our emotional and mental wellbeing. According to TCM, overthinking, worrying, anger, grief and fear can impair our internal organ functions as well as create cosmetic issues such as facial lines. On the other hand, nourishing our heart by enjoying our work, appreciating life, staying connected in a healthy social circle, and being in the present moment, can help with a glowing appearance.

Cosmetic acupuncture and skincare routine

A regular skincare routine using organic natural products (including sunscreen) and dermal or jade rollers can help improve the appearance of some cosmetic issues. Cosmetic acupuncture and natural Chinese herbal medicine can go one step further to help correct constitutional imbalances and minimise these cosmetic concerns. Consult your TCM practitioner to work out the best program that helps you glow from the inside out.

Dr Rachel Woo (TCM)

Morningside Healing Sanctuary

13 March 2022

Disclaimer: Advice on this site is not a substitute for advice from a medical practitioner. If you have concerns, consult your medical practitioner.

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