While it’s common to get acne on your back or chest, the place that we most often see pimples is on our faces. Figuring out what causes acne can be tricky, but preventing breakouts can be a bit easier to manage with a proper acne treatment plan. You might have heard about acne face mapping, an ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicinal concept that ties the pattern of acne on your face to your overall health. While it’s not rooted in modern medicine and hasn’t been backed by scientific research, you can still assess the main causes of your pimples depending on where they develop on your face. We cover the basics of face mapping below along with the more accurate causes of facial acne, according to real doctors.
What is acne face mapping?
Acne face mapping is a technique stemming from ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine that claims that breakouts in different areas of your face are triggered by different factors within your body and overall health. For example, if you have acne on your chin, face mapping implies that there is a buildup of toxins in your intestines.
Most maps divide the face into 10 or more different zones to pinpoint what lifestyle and dietary changes you should make to avoid breakouts. Some causes include bad sleeping habits, not getting enough vitamins or fiber, drinking too much caffeine, smoking and more.
While making these lifestyle changes would likely promote better overall health, there’s no science that proves that these will also improve acne on different parts of your face. However, you can still use the different acne zones to identify what the real culprits actually may be.
So what actually causes acne?
Thanks to modern science and medicine, we know that acne is caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Androgens - these hormones cause the sebaceous gland to create more sebum, an oily substance that keeps your skin moist. An overproduction of sebum can cause blocked pores that lead to pimples and cystic acne.
- Dead skin cells - clogged pores are what ultimately leads to acne. In addition to sebum, dead skin cells can clog pores and turn into blackheads, whiteheads and pimples.
- Bacteria - bacteria getting trapped in pores that are clogged with sebum or dead skin cells can lead to infection, inflammation and possibly cystic acne breakouts.
- Genetics - if you have a family history of acne, it’s possible that genetics play a role in your breakouts. You might also produce more androgen than normal or a naturally slow skin cell turnover rate, both of which can make you more susceptible to acne.
- Certain medications - some contraceptives, antiepileptics, antidepressants and excessive B vitamin use can cause acne. Anabolic steroids can also lead to acne.
- Medical conditions - PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a complex hormonal condition that affects up to 13% of women of reproductive age. One of the side effects of PCOS is adult onset acne in women.
- Pregnancy and menstrual cycles - changes in hormones that occur through pregnancy or with menstrual cycles can cause acne in women of all ages.
It might be tempting to use a face map to determine what’s causing pimples on your face, but the reality is that acne treatment is something that a licensed doctor or dermatologist should be providing based on your personal symptoms and experiences. While hormonal blood tests may be used to diagnose PCOS in women, there is not a specific hormone blood test that can identify the cause of the hormonal acne that appears in the related facial mapping zone.
With that said, you can still divide your face into the different map zones and make changes to help manage your breakouts if you seem to be getting pimples in the same spots regularly.
Acne on cheeks
If you’re developing acne on your cheeks, it could be due to your pillowcases or your phone - especially if it’s always on the same side. Persistent acne on one side of your face typically can be attributed to bacteria on your phone, pillows and touching your face throughout the day.
To help manage acne on cheeks, wash your pillowcases regularly (at least once per week) and consider wiping your phone down with antibacterial wipes. It can be hard to break habits like touching your face, so washing your hands frequently can help minimise acne-causing bacteria.
Acne on chin or jawline
Acne on the chin is a very common place for blemishes to appear, and the reason actually does somewhat align to ancient face mapping: hormones. When your androgen hormones produce more sebum than normal, the oily substance makes it more likely for whiteheads and blackheads to develop around your chin or jawline.
Hormonal acne changes can happen during a menstrual cycle or with new birth control medications, or even with stress triggers. Talk to your doctor about your persistent chin acne and they can prescribe a personalised treatment plan to help manage your breakouts.
Acne around mouth
Pimples around your mouth and upper lip are often caused by sweat and touching your face, transferring oil, dirt and bacteria to your acne prone areas. There’s no need to panic and start counting how often you unknowingly touch your face throughout the day; on average, people touch their faces 15 times per hour.
So what can you do to manage acne around your mouth? Try to limit how much you’re touching your face, but if you can’t shake the habit, wash your hands frequently to reduce the possibility of transferring dirt and bacteria. If your face is itchy, try an antibacterial wipe instead of using your bare hands.
Pimples on hairline and forehead
Hairline and forehead acne can often be because of oily hair care products and routines. This area along with your nose is referred to as the T-zone and can be quite prone to acne, regardless of age or gender. If you commonly get pimples on your hairline or forehead, have a look at what hair products you’re using regularly.
Oily or waxy gels, pomades and other hair products designed to smooth hair can cause acne. In addition to avoiding these types of products, you can also try a clarifying shampoo or washing your forehead after doing your hair each day.
While face mapping is a popular topic, it’s not necessarily rooted in science. However, there are clinically proven acne treatment plans that can be prescribed to help manage pimples on your face. Start your online visit with a Rosemary online doctor today.
- Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene (June 2008) - A study quantifying the hand-to-face contact rate and its potential application to predicting respiratory tract infection
- Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (June 2015) - Treatment of adult female acne: a new challenge