The Chinese tradition of "face mapping" has long correlated the location of zits with different organ systems. Here, what your blemishes could be telling you
Does a zit on your nose mean you have a problem with your liver? Or does it just mean your friends will be calling you Rudolph this week? The ancient Chinese tradition of "face mapping" has long correlated the location of acne spots with different organ systems in the body, saying that our zits have deeper meaning beyond the fact we keep falling asleep with our makeup on. While there isn't any research to back up the specific organ systems theory, it turns out there is a lot you can learn about your health just based on where you get your next facial eruption, says Michael Shapiro, M.D., a dermatologist and Founder of Vanguard Dermatology.
While good skincare can get rid of simple pimples, to banish the really bad zits you have to heal the underlying condition first. (Start by investing in some of these Skincare Products Dermatologists Love.) Using a blend of Eastern and Western medicine, Shapiro walked us through five things your zits are trying to tell you.
1. If you have "beard" acne, you might need to get your hormones checked. Pimples along the lower cheeks and jawline—where men grow beards—can be indicative of hormonal imbalances like polycystic ovarian syndrome, one of the most common fertility issues in young women, Shapiro says. Your doctor can check your levels and help you figure out a plan to regulate them through lifestyle change or medicine.
2. If you have small pimples on your nose and cheeks, you may need to de-stress. Rosacea is a skin condition characterized by small, red bumps usually found on the central part of the face. The bumps are often mistaken for acne but Shapiro says it's a separate condition entirely and that treating it like you would treat zits will only make it worse. Rather than being caused by bacteria or clogged pores, like acne, the cause of rosacea is unknown but doctors think stress plays a big part in triggering it. So instead of heading for the extra-strength pimple cream, try signing up for a class on meditation and cutting back on the alcohol.
3. If you have huge, painful zits around your nose, you may need antibiotics. Pustules around the nose can signal a gram-negative bacterial infection, Shapiro says. And no amount of zit medicine is going to touch those bad boys. Instead, you need to see your dermatologist who can prescribe an antibiotic specific to that type of infeciton.
4. If you have zits around the edge of your face, consider putting down the iPhone. Friction acne is caused by things like hats, scarves, hair, jewelry and even your phone irritating your skin. Shapiro says he's seen a ton of cases in the past few years from phones causing breakouts on the side of the face where they're most often held. Bangs are a common culprit for forehead zits too—especially if you're always using grimy fingers to push them out of your eyes.
5. If you have cyclical acne, try going on birth control pills. If your face explodes every month, the week before your period, zits are probably triggered by hormones. But what you may not know is that birth control pills can help immensely. Shapiro says you should always mention your acne when discussing your birth control options with your doctor (don't forget to bring up these 3 Birth Control Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor). Some pills are designed especially to help control breakouts.