Acne face mapping: What the pimples on your face could mean

Is it possible those pimples that seemingly reoccur in the same spots are trying to tell you something?

Written by
Marni Dixit
Medically reviewed by
min read
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Acne is a common skincare concern and 50% of Australians have had it at some point in their lifetime. If that’s your case, or you have acne-prone skin, chances are that you’ve tried a number of treatments to get rid of it – and likely achieved varying results. 

With so much information, some of it wildly conflicting, it can be tough to figure out who's telling the truth. So, is it possible those pimples that seemingly reoccur in the same spots are trying to tell you something? Face mapping believes so.

Here's everything you need to know about acne face mapping.

What is acne face mapping?

Face mapping comes from ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and links specific locations of acne on the face to health issues you may be experiencing in your organs or systems elsewhere in your body.

However, there is little scientific evidence to support face mapping and the correlation between health issues in your organs and where you might experience a breakout.

While Chinese and Ayurvedic face mapping may be a controversial topic in the dermatologic world, there are undoubtedly specific factors that could be the reason behind acne breakouts in certain areas of your face.

These could be due to lifestyle factors or hormonal changes.

Chinese face mapping vs modern acne face mapping

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the face is viewed as a map, with each section of the face connecting to a different organ. TCM believes that when there is an imbalance within the body, it can surface as a pimple or perhaps redness or dryness of the skin.

For example, if you were to break out on your chin, you may have a hormonal issue. Or if it was on your cheek, this may mean your lungs were affected.

Chinese face mapping isn't based on science or modern medicine but instead on the belief that one's qi, or energy, flows to and from organs using invisible pathways. Modern acne face mapping acknowledges that certain areas of the face may be more prone to breakouts for various reasons.

What do your breakouts mean?

Forehead and nose (T-zone)

If your breakouts are more focused in your T-zone — your forehead, nose and chin — it's likely due to excess oil (sebum) production, which is common in these areas of the face.

One study of over 900 people with acne found a link between sebum production and the amount of acne they had within their T-zone. It also found that younger people are more likely to break out in the U-zone (the cheeks and chin), while older people will be more likely to break out in the T-zone.

If you experience breakouts in the T-zone, Chinese face mapping would point to something happening with your liver or heart.


Acne on your cheeks, which is known as acne mechanica, could be caused by friction or rubbing on the skin. For example, this could be due to holding dirty phones to your face, rubbing your face on your pillow, or wearing a helmet or piece of equipment that might rub against your skin.

If we were to look at Chinese face mapping, it would suggest something is happening with your lungs, respiratory system and kidneys.

Jaw and chin

Acne on the chin or jawline has been linked to fluctuations in hormones such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle. However, some researchers have challenged this idea, suggesting there is no evidence to suggest your hormones are behind chin acne.

Research has also found that many people who suffer from acne don't actually have any hormonal abnormalities.

Instead, increased sensitivity of the oil glands to hormones could explain these breakouts. In Chinese face mapping, acne on the jaw and chin represents issues with your hormones and stomach.

Hairline and temples

Should you experience breakouts around your hairline and temples, this could be caused by certain hair products. For example, if you're using oily hair care products, they can spread to the skin on the face and block pores, resulting in an outbreak.

These types of breakouts are common in both men and women. If this is where you commonly experience breakouts, it's essential to keep these hair products away from your face if possible.

Chinese face mapping would suggest your digestion is to blame for these issues.

What causes acne?

Acne occurs when your hair follicles are plugged with sebum and dead skin cells and can lead to whiteheads, blackheads or pimples. While it's most common in teenagers, it can affect people of all ages.

You may be experiencing acne because of excess oil production, hair follicles blocked by oil and dead skin cells, bacteria and inflammation.

Acne will usually appear on your face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders as this is where most of your oil (sebaceous) glands are located.

Hormonal changes during puberty can cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and create more sebum. This can also occur later in life, particularly for those going through menopause.

Certain medications can also change your skin and cause acne, these include those that contain corticosteroids, testosterone or lithium. While stress doesn't cause acne, it's important to note that increased stress can worsen acne if you already have it.

You have likely heard in the past that chocolate or processed foods causes acne, but thankfully this isn't true, and these foods have little effect on acne. Having acne also doesn't mean that your skin is 'dirty', so please don't go cleansing your skin with harsh and irritating soaps and don't scrub too hard!

Cosmetic products also shouldn't cause acne if you're ensuring you're removing it regularly and choosing non-comedogenic oil-free makeup that doesn't clog pores.

Types of breakouts

There are a number of different kinds of breakouts you may experience, they include:


Comedones, also known as basic acne lesions, are hair follicles that have become clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. Comedones can develop into blackheads or whiteheads. These are likely caused due to non-comedogenic makeup or skincare products.

Blackheads and whiteheads

Blackheads are comedones that remain open at the surface of the skin. While many believe they appear black due to dirt, this is not true.

Blackheads appear black due to the irregular reflection of light coming from the clogged pores. Whiteheads are just comedones that are closed at the surface of the skin.


Cysts look similar to boils and are large, pus-filled lesions prone to scarring. These are generally considered a more severe form of acne and should be seen by a dermatologist.


Papules are inflamed comedones that appear as small red or pink bumps on the skin. They are usually sensitive to the touch, and picking or squeezing them can often make them worse and lead to scarring.

If you experience papules regularly, it's recommended that you see a healthcare provider as this could also indicate more severe acne.


Pustules, similar to papules, are inflamed pimples that look like a whitehead with a red ring surrounding them.

While it may be tempting, you should avoid touching these pimples and leave them to a dermatologist to prevent scarring.


Nodules are large, inflamed bumps that develop deep in the skin. They are often firm and painful and can lead to scarring.

A health practitioner is the best port of call when it comes to treating these as over-the-counter treatment may not be powerful enough.

Is acne face mapping accurate?

As mentioned previously, there is little scientific merit to Chinese acne face mapping. However, more modern face mapping holds more weight in the scientific community.

Unfortunately, there is currently a lack of scientific research to prove that face mapping is an accurate way to discover why you may have acne in certain places.

Dermatologists are unlikely ever to refer to an acne face map when identifying where your acne may be originating from. If you have cystic acne, you should consult with a doctor who can pinpoint a medical reason for your breakouts.

How to treat acne

There are a number of ways you can treat acne — from clinically-backed formulas to changing your pillowcases regularly.

Spot treatments

Pimple patches are a helpful spot treatment to have on hand when treating active zits.

Not only do Software's AHA/BHA Pimple Patches prevent you from picking at your breakouts, but these handy spot treatment stickers work to remove dead skin cells and unclog the affected pore, control acne-causing bacteria and dry out excess oil in the zit to reveal visibly clearer skin in just two hours.

Pop on a pimple patch when you feel a breakout brewing and the combination of AHAs and BHAs will help nip it in the bud.

Lifestyle changes

If you're experiencing breakouts, one of the most important things to remember in treating acne is to wash your face with a gentle cleanser once or twice a day and after exercising and sweating.

All the products coming into contact with your skin should also be non-comedogenic to prevent breakouts, so ensure any skincare or makeup products follow this rule.

You should also avoid touching your face frequently and ensure you're sleeping with clean sheets and pillowcases. Keeping your hair off your face can also help reduce acne, especially if using oily or waxy hair products.

Some women have also seen great success in treating their acne with birth control pills, which might be something you want to discuss with your GP.

Prescription formulas

If you've tried non-prescription acne products and haven't seen any improvement, it's time to see a practitioner to speak about prescription medication to control your acne and prevent scarring. This is where we come in.

Software brings prescription-grade skincare to your door, with personalised formulas that are more effective than anything off the shelf.

Simply complete our online consult and share your skin goals with your Australian health practitioner. From here, your practitioner will formulate a personalised skincare prescription, which is then compounded by our partner pharmacy and delivered straight to you.

You can track your skin results with Software and check in with your practitioner at any time. It's never been so easy to ditch acne for good.

Image credit: ShotPot via Pexels

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