Skincare

Face mapping: What the acne spots on your face mean, according to a dermatologist

Face mapping has garnered a lot of attention on social media but can the spots on your face actually reveal more about what’s going on inside your body? We asked a dermatologist to explain all…

Face mapping is nothing new. In fact, skincare experts from La Roche Posay suggest that the ancient practice originated in China over 3,000 years-ago. It’s based on the idea that your skin – as the body’s largest organ – also reflects your inner health. By looking at the specific areas in which blemishes, acne spots and skin inflammations appear on your skin, you can theoretically then link these areas to corresponding parts and functions of the body. 

But, as with a lot of traditional Chinese medicine practices, the rock solid evidence which backs up these claims can be limited. This means people often fall into two camps: the ‘wellness-backed’ believers vs. the ‘scientifically-proven’ truth-seekers. 

So how much evidence is there to really back up this ancient practice and is there a place for it in our modern skincare world? We asked Skin 55’s consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto to decode the practice of face mapping and reveal the truths behind acne placement. 

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When it comes to spots, is face mapping (where they breakout) meaningful?  

“Traditional face mapping for acne or spots originates from ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic principles,” explains Dr Mahto. “The technique claims to address the ‘root cause’ of spots, which as a concept appeals to many in this chaotic world otherwise surrounded in uncertainty.

“However, western medicine does not recognise traditional face mapping as an effective diagnosis or treatment tool for acne and there is little scientific data to support its use.”

What do spots on your forehead mean? 

“Spots often occur in areas of the body with the highest density of sebaceous or oil producing glands. This includes the face, chest and back most commonly. 

“However, it is recognised that certain hair styling products such as pomades, gels or waxes may lead to clogging of pores on the forehead. Having certain hair styles such as a fringe can also cause rubbing of the hair against forehead skin potentially leading to irritation and breakouts (acne mechanica).”

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What do spots around the eye area mean?

“It is unusual to get acne on the upper and lower eye lid but small keratin filled bumps known as milia can occur at this site. These are small white bumps or cysts where dead skin cells have become trapped. 

“They are different to blackheads or whiteheads and may occur as a result of heavy eye creams being applied to the eye area as well as sun damage.”

What do spots on your nose mean?

“Facial spots occur on the nose due to this being a site with a high density of oil glands. It is not a marker of internal organ damage. Sometimes spots on the nose may not be related to acne but due to another inflammatory skin condition called rosacea

“If there is uncertainty about the underlying cause, then advice should be sought from either your GP or consultant dermatologist.”

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What do spots on your cheeks mean?

“Spots on the cheek occur as this is a common site with a high density of oil glands. Sometimes use of mobile phones on one side can lead to acne underneath due to heat from the phone and occlusion causing blockage of pores.”

What do spots on your neck, chin and jawline mean?

“There is some data to suggest that acne which flares around the time of menstruation – otherwise colloquially known an “hormonal acne” – often has a tendency to affect the lower half of the face or ‘U-zone’, ie the chin and jawline. 

“This is a misnomer in some ways as nearly all acne has a hormonal component to it, regardless of where in the menstrual cycle women notice flaring of their skin.”

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What do spots in your hairline mean?

“Hairline acne could be due to hair styles or styling products, such as pomades, gels or waxes. These products may lead to clogging of pores on the forehead. Similarly, having a fringe can also cause rubbing of the hair against forehead skin potentially leading to irritation and breakouts.”

Can certain foods help with acne?

“For the vast majority of people, diet does not have a significant impact on acne or spot formation. In a small, select group of people, data suggests that dairy or refined sugars may be a problem so limiting these from your diet may be of benefit.

“This will not help everyone and ideally discussion should take place with either a dietitian or nutritional professional before embarking on strict exclusion diets.”

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What products can help with acne?

“Regardless of site, over-the-counter skincare ingredients good for acne include salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, niacinamide, zinc and vitamin A. If things do not improve with OTC products then seek help early from your GP or dermatologist for prescription agents.”

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