Face Mapping 101: What it is and How to Use it

    Are you worried that your forehead pimples the result of a slow digestive system? Concerned that the persistent, recurring zit on your chin is the result of a toxin buildup? What about your cheek acne -- could it be the result of a stressful work schedule?

    According to face mapping, acne and other facial blemishes develop in specific zones of your face as the end result of stress, blood pressure, hydration, digestive wellbeing and a variety of other factors.

    Face mapping is an ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicinal technique that involves using the pattern of acne development on your face to assess your overall health.

    Like many other holdovers from ancient medicine, it’s not exactly rooted in modern science. In fact, there’s no real scientific evidence to show that Ayurvedic and Chinese face mapping is at all accurate, much less useful.

    Despite this, you often can make accurate assessments about the main causes of your acne based on where it develops on your face using modern, science-backed principles.

    Below, we’ve covered the basics of face mapping, from the supposed zones that indicate your health problems to the “cures” advised for blemishes in specific zones. We’ve also covered the real causes of facial acne in different areas, from hormones to hair products, oils and more.

    The Basics of Face Mapping

    Face mapping techniques claim that acne breakouts in different zones of your face are triggered by different factors. In short, a breakout between your eyes is the result of a stressed liver, while a breakout on your chin is caused by a buildup of toxins in your intestines.

    The specific zones used in acne face maps can differ, although most maps divide the face into at least 10 different zones.

    According to face maps, acne can be caused by everything from eating too few vegetables to high blood pressure, bad sleep habits, excessive caffeine intake, lack of vitamins, “toxins” that build up in your intestines and a huge variety of other factors.

    Proponents of face mapping claim that you can treat and cure acne by fixing the root cause of each breakout zone. For example, according to face maps, quitting smoking can specifically reduce your likelihood of getting pimples around your cheekbones.

    Is Face Mapping Accurate?

    Simply put, no. The ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese face mapping techniques promoted online (mostly through Facebook memes and extremely popular YouTube videos) aren’t backed up by any scientific evidence.

    In fact, modern science not only doesn’t back up many of the claims made by face mapping -- it actually disproves almost all of them. Face mapping, to put it simply, isn’t even slightly accurate as an acne diagnosis tool.

    Thanks to modern scientific research, we know how and why acne happens. Acne is caused by a combination of factors, including:

    • Androgens. Higher-than-normal production of androgenic hormones like testosterone can stimulate your body’s secretion of sebum, an oily substance that moisturizes your skin.

      When sebum builds up inside your pores, it can cause blockages that result in pimples and cystic acne.
    • Dead skin cells. Dead skin cells can become trapped inside your pores, causing them to become blocked more easily. This can lead to an acne breakout and the development of whiteheads, blackheads and other forms of acne
    • Bacteria. When bacteria gets trapped inside a pore that’s blocked by sebum and dead skin cells, it can cause it to become infected and inflamed, leading to red and potentially cystic acne breakouts.
    • Genetics. Some people are simply more susceptible to acne than others, either due to a naturally slow skin cell turnover process, higher-than-normal androgen levels or a family history of acne.
    • Environment. Although diet doesn’t affect acne, working in an oily environment can and often does worsen acne by contributing to blocked pores.

    None of these factors have anything to do with the causes promoted by face mapping. In fact, many of the supposed causes of acne listed on face mapping websites have no connection to acne at all.

    So, if ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese face mapping isn’t accurate or effective, why is it so easy to find online?

    One reason for the popularity of face mapping charts is that they offer easy explanations for a fairly complicated topic. Treating acne is a multifactorial process, meaning that a convenient, if not accurate, explanation is often more appealing than an accurate, complicated one.

    Part of it is also commercial. Acne face mapping guides are often accompanied by reviews and recommendations for natural health products, many of which don’t address the real causes of acne.

    What Your Acne Breakout Locations Can Tell You

    While the face mapping charts you see on Facebook, YouTube and in blog posts usually aren’t accurate, you can learn some things by paying attention to the locations of your acne breakouts on your face.

    Chin and Jawline Acne

    Chin and jawline acne is almost always caused by hormonal issues -- namely, high production of androgenic hormones like testosterone. This can increase sebum production, making it more likely for whiteheads, blackheads and other forms of acne to develop near your chin.

    Our guide to treating chin and jawline acne goes into more detail on how acne develops in this part of your face, as well as what you can do to treat it.

    Cheek Acne

    When you sleep, your cheeks spend hour after hour rubbing up against your pillowcase. This means that even a small amount of bacteria can do serious damage to your skin by making its way into your pores and contributing to infection and inflammation.

    The solution? Keep your pillowcases clean, fresh and bacteria-free by washing them at least once per week.

    Other habits that can aggravate cheek acne include frequently touching your face with sweaty or dirty fingers and holding your smartphone up against your facial skin. Neutralize these with antibacterial wipes and frequent hand washing, both of which will help to eliminate bacteria.

    Hairline/Forehead Acne

    Acne on your forehead, especially in the area closest to your hairline, can often be the result of an overly oily hair care routine.

    Pomades, hair oils and other hair products can often contain large amounts of oil. When this oil makes its way out of your hair and ends up on your forehead, it can often end up inside pores, contributing to blockages.

    Combine naturally oily skin with extra oil from hair products and it’s easy for even a fairly mild hair care routine to have major consequences for your skin.

    If you’ve noticed acne around your hairline, it’s usually worth changing your hair care routine before looking for other cases. Good tactics include switching to less oily hair care products, using a clarifying shampoo and washing your forehead after doing your hair each morning.

    Nose/Upper Lip Acne

    Acne on or around your nose can be a major annoyance. Not only can it be hard to reach using facial scrubs and other acne prevention treatments -- it’s in a central, highly visible part of your face that makes it easy for other people to notice.

    Like acne on the cheeks, acne on your nose and upper lip area is often caused by sweat and accidental contact. Throughout the day, it’s far from uncommon to touch your nose, transferring oil, dirt and bacteria in the process.

    In fact, the average person unknowingly touches their face about 15 times every hour, meaning you might transfer far more bacteria to your face than you’d expect.

    The solution? Avoid touching your nose and lips throughout the day, particularly if your hands are sweaty or dirty. If your face is itchy or oily, use an anti-bacterial wipe instead of your bare hands to minimize your risk of transferring bacteria.

    Learn More About Treating and Preventing Acne

    Dealing with acne can be a difficult, frustrating process. Luckily, there are options available to help you treat your existing acne, bring your symptoms under control and prevent any future breakouts.

    Our guide to hormonal acne covers the most common cause of acne, as well as how you can treat and prevent it. You can also learn more about effective, proven treatments for acne in our guide to science-backed acne treatments.

    Finally, our guide to cystic acne goes into detail on how the most severe form of acne develops, as well as what you can do to treat cystic acne nodules and fight back against future breakouts.

    This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.