What your face is trying to tell you about your health

Facial diagnosis has been used in China for thousands of years to understand what’s happening in the body; acupuncturist and Chinese herbal medicine practitioner Emma Quine explains what to look for.

Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but it’s your face that reveals what’s really going on in your body.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (and many other holistic practices) the face has often been used as a means to decipher what’s going on inside the body.

With TCM in particular, this is often paired and cross-referenced with other forms of diagnosis including looking at the tongue, palpation (a method of feeling with the fingers) and checking pulses to get a clear reading of overall health.

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What is your face trying to tell you?

According to Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner Emma Quine, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the face works as a kind of map to the rest of the body, with different areas (or “channels”) correlating to parts of the body. Here are just some of the things you can learn from the face:

Puffy eyes and sagging jowls

This combination, combined with horizontal lines on the bridge of the nose (between the eyes) is often linked to having a sluggish or impeded digestive system.

“These people often crave sweets, are bloated and prone to worry and can often get a foggy mind or have low energy,” says Emma.

Dark under-eye circles

In Chinese medicine the under-eye region corresponds to kidney function, so permanent dark circles may indicate kidney deficiency.

Emma explains, “This could be inherited from parents or due to a hectic city lifestyle (or ‘burning the candle at both ends’), which can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue”.


They’re not just about clogged pores. According to Emma, pimples indicate “internal heat” (redness), “damp heat” (if red and also pussy), or “internal dampness” if they’re blind pimples. Also, where they are on the face tells a story about what needs addressing.

“There are several channels (or meridians) on the face and where the blemish is can indicate imbalances connected to those organs,” says Emma.

Vertical frown lines

If these are present above the inside edge of eyebrows it can be linked to liver imbalance, which Emma says can relate to emotional blockages, irritability or anger.

“The deeper the lines, the stronger the liver stagnation that needs to be balanced,” she says.

The eyes

Definitely not one to be overlooked, Emma explains that in TCM the eyes house what they refer to as “Shen” – or spirit. They also give an immediate indicator of someone’s health – for example a red sclera (the usually white part of your eyes) can be linked to liver or stress.

So your face has revealed itself… what next?

Interestingly, although the face provides a map to bodily health, you don’t actually treat these ailments solely through the face.

Emma says that these imbalances need to be addressed holistically, and her recommendation would be through a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, ear seeds, diet and lifestyle changes.

“There are, however, local face points on the various channels that can also help address deeper issues, for example a large intestine point near the nostril can help clear heat from that organ and improve digestion,” she says.

On the flip side, if you want to treat something on the face itself, some of the most effective points to do so are on the hands and feet!

What the ears have to say

Just a short stroll from the face is another body part that is extremely important in Chinese medicine – the ears.

Emma says the ears along with the face are considered a “microsystem” in TCM, with points that correlate to the rest of the body. These ‘points’ can be stimulated to target the main organ systems, and leave-in ear seeds can also be placed to help with everything from stress to headaches.

This is also the entry point for vagus nerve stimulation too, a treatment which can also help with anxiety, stress and digestive. Evidently, they’re not just glorified earring hangers after all!