Experts explain the science behind face mapping.
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acne face mapping traditional ayurvedic practice
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Welcome to The Spot, a monthly column tackling acne and our relationships to it. Here, we ask women how they deal with blemishes at home—and consult with skin care experts to find out what really works.

Where would we be without Eastern and Ayurvedic beauty practices? For those who aren't familiar, ancient rituals from the East have major influences on the West, such as jade rollingGua Sha, rice water rinses, and face mapping. The latter is an ancient Chinese theory that suggests that breakouts are a reflection of what's going on in your body internally, and depending on where you're breaking out, you can pinpoint what's causing it.

The practice of face mapping can be allusive if you have acne-prone skin. Ahead, we spoke with two skincare professionals to learn more about acne face mapping, including how it works and how you can use it to better understand your breakouts.

What is acne face mapping?

Acne face mapping is an ancient Chinese theory that suggests the location of your pimples represents the organs affected, explains Los Angeles-based esthetician Zaida Gordon, who uses acne face mapping with her clients at her acne center called SkintegrityLA using Face Reality Skincare. "It's the body's way of showing us what's going on inside," she explains. However, it's not widely accepted in the West.

Since face mapping is an Ayurvedic tradition passed down orally, there haven't been many scientific studies proving or disproving the method. However, Dr. Nazarian explains that there are patterns that suggest it can be useful to treat breakouts.

How does acne face mapping work?

Different regions of your face can be broken down and associated with certain organs in the body. Depending on the location, the below chart explains what certain breakouts can say about your internal health, according to acne face mapping:

1. Forehead:

Gordon explains that acne above your eyebrows can indicate stress in your digestive system, such as the gallbladder, small intestine, and bladder. "For example, if your body is dehydrated or isn't eliminating toxins well, these toxins may show up on your skin as acne or inflammation," she says.

Additionally, your hair products can also cause breakouts in this area, says Dr. Nazarian. "I often recommend a product with salicylic acid to penetrate oil glands and improve the blocking of pores," she says.

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2. T-Zone:

Breakouts on your T-Zone are common as there are many oil-producing glands in the area, explains Dr. Nazarian. According to acne face mapping, it can also be a result of an imbalanced kidney or spleen. "Too many unhealthy foods or alcohol consumption are often to blame," says Gordon. You can try reaching for a product that contains retinol for breakouts in this area, suggests Dr. Nazarian.

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3. Cheeks:

Cheek acne relates to your respiratory systemEnvironmental factors such as pollution, smoke, and even a dirty cellphone can also create pimples on the cheeks. Dr. Nazarian recommends incorporating a mild exfoliating wash with glycolic acid to decrease acne production. 

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4. The perimeter of the face:

These areas include your hairline, jawline, and chin. "Many people find that this is where they break out when their hormones fluctuate each month," says Dr. Nazarian. Look for products with benzoyl peroxide, which is another acne-fighting ingredient that can help clear skin.

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Is acne face mapping effective?

It can be. Acne is a tricky thing to treat as there are so many factors that influence it and it's unique to each person. However, despite the lack of studies done on this subject, our experts agree it can be a helpful start to deciphering the cause of your breakouts.

At the end of the day, though, acne is individualized. "Since acne is nearly always multifactorial, dermatologists don't usually treat solely based on location," says Dr. Nazarian. So, if you're experiencing repeated breakouts and aren't seeing any improvements despite using over-the-counter treatments, it's best to consult with your doctor for a more tailored plan.