If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the skin is the window to health. Your skin’s appearance indicates quiet a lot about your internal health condition. In Chinese Medicine we practitioners gain much insight by examining the shape of our patients face, the colour of their complexion and where lines, marks, lesions and breakouts are located.
Chinese Medicine views the skin as an extension of the lungs. The lungs provide nourishment to the skin and hair via its function of dispersing Qi (our vital energy) and spreading fluids to the skin. They also regulate the opening and closing of the pores and sweating. An example of the connection between the lungs and skin is as follows. More often than not asthma patients also suffer from the skin aliment eczema.
A healthy complexion looks luminous and lustrous with good colour tone representing a good balance of Qi and Blood flow. When a patients complexion is dry and withered or overly moist in appearance this may indicate that imbalances are occurring within the organs and along meridians (energy channels).
Let’s look at Skin Colour & Breakouts according to Chinese Medicine
Complexion colour gives us insight into organ health, conditions and syndromes.
A green colouring around the mouth region will depict a disharmony of the liver and gall bladder. Liver disharmony also shows up as hyperpigmentation (excess melanin/colour in the skin) and brown circles around the eyes. In this case it is important to consider whether the patient recently experienced anger or frustration in their life and obviously diet must be addressed i.e. too much alcohol, fatty fried foods etc.
Bright white complexion is connected with the lungs hence indicating a lack of Lung Qi or respiratory issues as well as grief, loss, pain or loneliness.
A sallow complexion is connected to the spleen. Here the patients diet may be incorrect (over consumption of cold, raw, greasy, fried or dairy) or their emotional state (lack of balance of thoughts, obsessive thoughts, worry) is in upheaval.
A yellow hue around the mouth can be linked to a stomach disharmony.
Darkness surrounding the eyes is often indicative to kidney issues either on a physical level or emotionally via the emotion of fear. Puffiness under the eyes is also connected to the kidneys.
A red, blotchy complexion is linked to the heart and indicates heat. Sensitivity, rosacea as well as couperose are signs of heat. Is there an imbalance of joy in the patient’s life? Is the heart in need of nurturing?
Another important element in face and skin diagnosis in Chinese Medicine is the location of lines, wrinkling, sagging and breakouts.
Upper forehead – The forehead corresponds to the lungs in Chinese Medicine. Heat of the lungs manifesting as breakouts on the forehead can be caused by one’s emotional state, the emotions of sadness & grief in particular. Heat in the lungs is also caused by smoking or/and a respiratory issue. If breakouts are occurring into the hairline (lets say above the brows) we look at the Gall Bladder, which is related and paired with the liver (more on the liver below).
Ears– The Kidneys manifest in the ears in TCM. When kidney health isn’t optional, you may get large, painful pimples in and around the ears.
Be sure to drink lots of water (1.5 to 2 litres) to flush out impurities and also be mindful not to consume too much sodium i.e. salt. Other bad habits which impact on the kidneys are
-Not emptying out the bladder when required
-Consuming too much alcohol and coffee which cause internal heat and most importantly dehydration
-Not allowing enough rest time especially too many late nights impacts kidney health.
Eyes, Orbital Bone, Between Brows – This area relates predominately to the liver. Oiliness, redness, flakiness and breakouts between the eyebrows can indicate that your liver is in need to some TLC. Eliminating fried, greasy foods and decreasing dairy (or all together) is very useful. Obviously the elimination or at minimum cutting back on Alcohol consumption is very important as it has such an impact on Liver health. Look at consuming lots of greens in particular bitter greens and drinking dandelion tea or taking milk thistle tablets as they are great at supporting the detoxification role of the liver. As is drinking warm water and lemon first thing in the morning. The emotion related to the Liver is anger and one may find that after an emotional period be it involving anger, irritation and frustration skin breakouts occur. In this case its important to take some time out and go for a walk, run or do a yoga class which focuses on relaxation of the heart and soul.
Upper Cheeks – This area corresponds to the stomach as the stomach meridian runs through here. Obviously diet plays a huge roll here. Consuming heating foods in excess such as chill, too much animal protein (meat), alcohol, coffee, greasy oily foods all cause heat within the stomach therefore being mindful of the amount you are eating is important. Over eating and not metabolising food well are also be causes here.
Lower portion of the cheeks also relates to lung health.
Jaw Line – Once again here we look at stomach issues as well as teeth or gum issues.
Chin – Skin issues in this area often are a reflection of hormonal imbalances in particular in the case of women. This can be due to menstruation, birth control and also in some cases allergies or intolerances to soy, which have been shown to have an impact on hormones. Emotional or physical stress can cause hormonal imbalances, which manifest on the skin. Get plenty of sleep and make a habit of doing a relaxing form of exercise such as yoga, which really focuses on the mind body connection.
Also it’s important to look at elimination here, as the centre of the chin is related to the small intestine and large intestine. If we are not eliminating everyday, wastes build up in our body and eventually start to show in our face be it breakouts, puffiness and oedema.
Sagging cheeks, skin jowls & a double chin are related to the spleen and in particular damp accumulation. Once again diet must be addressed here.
My Skin Health Tips
- Eat Clean or JERF (just eat real food). Steer clear of processed, packaged foods. Eat an array of vegetables & berries for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Nuts and seeds (essential fatty acids, & protein), healthy fats from avocado and olive oil, organic chicken and grass fed meat packed with protein. Fish in particular salmon is packed with omega 3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and decreases cortisol (stress hormone) in the blood.
- Steer Clear of SUGAR!!!! It causes systemic inflammation and the breakdown of major skin proteins collagen and elastin by attaching to fibroblasts (collagen & elastin producing cells) causing cross-linking leading to lines & wrinkles.
- Green tea isn’t only packed with antioxidants (polyphenols) but is heat clearing. Therefore in the case of acne, breakouts and skin heat conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis drink a couple of cups daily.
- The skin as part of the lung can be nourished by dry body brushing. Dry body brushing increases circulation in the lymphatic system and hence stimulates detoxification. Dry brush your skin prior to your morning shower.
- Drinking 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily goes without saying. It’s so important to hydrate your skin from within.
- DON’T SMOKE!!! Smoking a single cigarette causes cutaneous vasoconstriction for up to 90 minutes, hence a pack a day smoker remains hypoxic for most of each day. Smokers are also 5 times as likely to have wrinkled facial skin than non-smokers.
- Some of my favourite skin loving supplements are Vitamin C for its antioxidant properties and collagen boosting action. Zinc is amazing for healing up scaring and maintaining collagen and Vitamin E for its antioxidant properties protecting skin cells.
- Sleep is imperative for skin rejuvenation and health as most of our skin repair occurs at night while away from damaging UV rays. Tired skin is always noticeable!
- Uv Exposure leads to the breakdown of collagen and elastin and of course skin cancer via UVA, UVB & UVC rays. I’m not suggesting avoiding the sun all together as sun exposure is important for Vitamin D absorption and the release of happy hormones. Just don’t sit outside for hours on end.
Learn to love the skin you are in and it will love you back.