You might have seen a face mapping post before. For those of you that haven’t face mapping is a theory that correlates the location of your breakout to a corresponding internal organ or issue – kind of like reflexology. Usually we see face maps based upon TCM, so today I want to show you Ayurvedic face mapping and how it differs.
Here is an example of a very basic – dare I say westernized – TCM face map:
Most of the face maps you see are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) face mapping or the Mishio Kushi theory. Today, I wanted to show you something a little different – the basic Ayurvedic breakdown of the face.
Dosha Map of the Face
Ayurveda – as you may know – uses “doshas” or energetic types to characterize an individual. There are 3 doshas – Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Vata is represented by the elements of Air and Ether/Space. Pitta is represented by Fire and Water. Kapha is understood through the elements of Earth and Water.
In Ayurveda, each dosha governs a different portion of the skin: Vata governs the top third – the forehead and the temples. Pitta governs the middle third – the cheeks and the nose. Kapha governs the bottom third – from the base of the ears and top of the lip down to the jaw and neck.
Face Doshas Explained
Even with healthy skin, we can see the correlations.
Vata is associated with movement, restlessness and anxiety. Its qualities are thin, light, cold, dry, airy, frazzled, dreamy. And you might notice that the forehead skin is relatively thin and taunt compared to the rest of the face. It is also the place where worry or stress (Vata emotional imbalances) wrinkles might show up.
Pitta is associated with fire, combat, aggressiveness, competitiveness and perfectionism. Its qualities are hot, fiery, irritated, angry, competitive, proud and embarrassed. That is why the cheeks and the nose are the most common places to find redness in the face. When we blush, it blooms first on our cheeks, then spreads. The nose is often the first place that inflammation and broken capillaries occur. Cheeks and nose may also turn red with anger, a Pitta governed emotion.
Kapha is associated with slowness, steadiness, lethary, inertia, stamina and loyalty. Its qualities are thick, viscous, fluid, heavy, wet. That is why the skin on the lower third of the face is thicker. When people pinch cheeks they grab the meaty part right above the jaw. When Kapha is balanced it aids the skin in retaining elasticity, youthfulness and hydration.
Vata Acne and Imbalance
Now let’s look at the type of acne that shows up in each dosha.
Forehead acne aggravated by Vata excess tends to present itself as tiny milia, or as blackheads. In general, the skin feels congested and bumpy, but the acne tends to be small and dry, not deep or pus-filled.
Forehead acne points to a Vata imbalance and two very common culprits are dehydration (too much air and dryness) and constipation (lack of movement and too much dryness). Vata acne is also a common sign of stress, scatteredness, overwhelm or worry. Vata acne is usually not caused by oil as you would expect, but from the opposite: systemic dehydration.
Dehydration is combatted in two ways – obviously you should increase your water and fluid intake, as well as add vegetables and foods rich in fluid (especially soups) to the diet. Decrease dehydrating foods such as alcohol, coffee, soda and salt. The other thing you should do is add lots of healthy fats – oil is the other part of the equation. Healthy fats include Omega 3s, like fatty fish, flax, chia, avocado, grass-fed ghee, hemp seed and olive oils.
If you are still constipated (eliminating LESS than 2x per day), add more water, more FIBER, and consider taking a teaspoon or two of castor oil at night on an empty stomach before bed.
You must deal with the stress. The best way to combat Vata stress is to do things that make you feel grounded and stable. Routine and ritual are huge. Meditation and gentle yoga are also great.
Topically, gentle exfoliation, water-based moisturization, oil massage and oil cleansing are all recommended. Ingredients to look for include ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and Sodium PCA or any other hydrophilic (water-loving) substance that can help draw water to the skin. Basically, the goal is 2-fold – increase water in the skin, and KEEP it there, ie, support the skin barrier so it is not quite so permeable and leaky.
(We use a very sophisticated hydrating complex in our Potentci Hydrating Milk which includes beet sugar which draws water to the skin; an extract from a bacteria found in the Antarctic that has shown incredible re-moisturizing properties; ceramides – necessary for a healthy and plump skin barrier, phytosterols – the plant form of cholesterol, another crucial component of a healthy skin barrier; glucosamine, which helps the skin manufacture it’s own ceramides; and several oils chosen for their beneficial fatty acids and nutrient profiles. Check out Potentci.)
Pitta Acne and Imbalance
Story – I have never ONCE broken out on my nose and cheeks until…I did. And I swear to you it was the result of me being more angry and frustrated than I have ever been in my life. It happened directly after we had extremely unwanted guests stay with us for two whole weeks. While they were here, there was constant tension, fighting and passive aggression. (I’ll spare you the details). But moral of the story? This is one clear cut case where emotion was the SOLE cause of this acne!
Cheek and nose acne tends to be red, inflamed and painful. It may also appear as milia surrounding the eye. Or cluster around the nose and top lip.
The liver, the blood and the stomach and small intestine are all governed by Pitta, and it is a good bet that if you are breaking out on your cheeks and nose, you are also breaking out in other places as well.
Topically, we must be more gentle with this type of acne than any other. Soothing and lightly moisturizing are key. No exfoliation or drying of any sort. Anti-inflammatory botanical gels and lightweight serums. No super active ingredients.
Internally, we must support both the liver and the digestion. There are many great liver supplements. I personally love Reishi, but Milk Thistle is popular as well. Eating cooling and healing foods is important. Ideally drinking aloe vera juice and grass fed bone broth daily is recommended.
Acne on the cheeks, especially if it is rash like and has been diagnosed as acne eczema is also likely caused by a food intolerance or insensitivity. Same goes for acne around the nose and upper lip. Take an objective look at your diet. ANYTHING could be the culprit. Are there any foods you eat very consistently and feel like you could not live without? These might be the very thing that is aggravating your digestion and causing your acne!
Note: acne around the mouth may in fact be perioral dermatitis. So rule that out first.
To purify the blood, the liver must be in good health, so take care of that first. Make sure you are eliminating regularly, and drinking lots of water, eating lots of good fats and lots of fiber. Ground flax seed gives you both fiber and good fats and is great to sneak in whenever possible. Same with chia seeds.
Taking a super-green supplement like Spirulina or Chlorella is also a good idea. Staying away from greasy, spicy, salty, processed foods and eating smaller, blander meals is recommended.
Milia around the eye is an indicator of adrenal fatigue and under-active thyroid. REST and DESTRESS are your best bets here.
Kapha Acne and Imbalance
Lower cheek, chin and jaw acne tends to be deep, large, cystic, fluid-filled, painful and slow to resolve, reflecting the slow, fluid, heavy qualities of Kapha. Even blackheads in this area tend to be “meatier” and more oily than those in the other section of our face.
Looking at Kapha acne can also give us insight into what internal imbalance might be causing it. Fertility is governed by Kapha, which is why a lot of times cystic breakouts along the jaw, chin and lower cheeks can be traced to a hormonal imbalance, or a health issue such as PCOS.
A diet rich in Kapha-aggravating foods may also be the culprit. Kapha foods have heavy, sticky qualities to them, and include all sugars and flours, all creamy and damp foods including and especially dairy. Surprisingly Kapha aggravating foods also include yeasts and fermented foods including wine, vinegars (even Kombucha!). Soy, shellfish, fruits (bananas especially) also aggravate Kapha! Diets rich in Kapha foods can cause candida and candida overgrowth should also be considered a prime suspect in cystic chin and jaw acne.
Another clear indication of Kapha-aggravating diet being the culprit is pus-filled lower cheek breakouts. Definitely eliminate or reduce dairy, sugar, wheats, carbs, and thick, creamy, damp foods here. If you are already eliminating all these things, you may need to go further and eliminate soy, fermented foods, shellfish, fruits, rice and oatmeal. You may also need to INCREASE bitter, astringent tastes, so taking a supergreens supplement is something to consider.
Finally, Kapha governs the lymphatic system. A big key to keeping the Earth and Water of Kapha in equilibrium, or balance, is motion. A beautiful metaphor is thinking of mixing earth and water. If they go unstirred, the heavy sand sinks to the bottom and the water rises to the top. It is the constant stirring action that brings balance to this dosha. Our lymphatic fluid will quickly stagnate if we do not move. Unlike our blood, the lymph fluid is not pumped through the body – the only things that move it are exercise and gravity. So even though Kaphas may not like it, if you are getting cystic pimples towards the back of the jaw, base of the ears especially (where two large lymph nodes are located) exercise and movement is a must – preferably early in the morning.
This is just Ayurvedic Face Mapping 101 – wait till you see the more detailed breakdown!
In beauty and bliss,