“According to traditional Chinese medicine [TCM], there are 12 major pathways of energy in the body called meridians, which reflect the twelve organ systems,” says Lily Talakoub, MD, a dermatologist in McLean, Virginia. It’s through these meridians that qi (aka life energy) flows. As a result, if something is amiss below the surface, those who study TCM believe that there’s a good chance it will show up on your face.
The 12 major meridians are lung, large intestine, stomach, spleen/pancreas, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, heart governor, triple heater (AKA hormones), gallbladder, and liver. “These meridians are running up and down throughout the whole body, including the face,” says Calabasas, CA-based board-certified dermatologist Anna Guanche, MD. “That is why an interrupted flow of energy in a certain meridian can consequently cause a slowing down or malfunction of a certain organ, which frequently shows on the part of the face corresponding to that particular meridian.”
Depending on who you ask, the facial meridians can change a bit in terms of what they correspond with. However, most commonly, the areas of your face connect with the below organs.
- Forehead: bladder and intestines
- Temples and ears: kidneys
- Between eyebrows: liver and stomach
- Nose: heart
- Under-eye area: kidneys
- Upper cheeks: stomach
- Lower cheeks: lungs and liver
- Nasolabial folds: large intestine
- Upper lip: hormones, heart, and spleen
- Chin: bladder, hormones, kidney, and stomach
- Jawline: stomach
Since each organ has its own physiological and invisible energy functions, it’s important to know how to work with them. Cecilia Wong, a celebrity facialist who employs TCM in her treatments, says that when meridian points are stimulated, energy flows smoothly. “Face and body are oxygenated, balanced, and well-circulated," she says. "Stimulating facial meridian points can also help rejuvenate the skin, prevent wrinkles, and lift/tone the complexion.”
Meridian massage can lift sagging skin, minimize fine lines, and restore a healthy glow.
Another way to understand this concept is like this: Say you’ve been breaking out on your nose. According to TCM, as well as Ayurvedic medicine, you may want to take a closer look at your heart health, including everything from blood pressure to a poor diet. After all, your nose could be signaling you to something occurring deep within your organs.
By catering to your meridians, you may be able to see impressive results. “The claims are that meridian massage has been shown to improve circulation by 400 percent and smooth fascia and facial muscles, which lifts sagging facial contours and re-contours the face,” Dr. Guanche says. “In addition, the improved circulation evens skin tone and texture to boost radiance.” For younger skin, she points out that benefits include reducing acne conditions, diminishing dark eye circles, and providing a healthier glow. For mature skin types, she notes that meridian massage can lift sagging skin, minimize fine lines, restore a healthy glow, and improve the skin’s natural ability to absorb nutrients.
It’s important to remember, however, that this philosophy doesn’t fall under the study of Western medicine. While many people who study TCM fully back the methodology of meridians, more research is needed to better understand any connections, says NYC-based dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD. She does agree that what's happening on the outside is a reflection of what’s occurring on the inside. “We know that stress on the body can show up on the skin, whether it is through breakouts or flare-ups of certain types of skin rashes such as eczema or psoriasis," Dr. Garshick says. "A fundamental part of good skin is maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle as well as understanding how to deal with stress so that you don't see the effects on your skin."
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