Dear Sasquatch: Acne Decoding Charts
Have you seen this meme going around Facebook about “Decoding Your Breakouts”? Is there any truth to any of this?
This image doesn’t include any source information, probably because none of it is based on any actual studies. I found it reproduced here with a bit more info about its basis:
Face mapping, which is fast taking centre stage at most clinics nowadays, combines Ayurveda and ancient Chinese medicine with cutting edge dermatologists’ prescriptions to explain how certain parts of your face are connected to other areas of your body.
Ah yes. Ayurveda and ancient Chinese medicine. That explains why this concept is so similar to acupressure and similar woodoo claims about points on the body somehow corresponding to organs and such. You know, massage your big toe to prevent a heart attack or something like that.
There’s really no trace of “cutting edge dermatologists’ prescriptions” in the face map. That was probably added to give some air of scientific legitimacy to this.
Of course, there really is no scientific legitimacy here beyond some of the advice just being common sense good advice for your health—don’t smoke, do eat more green veggies, drink enough water. But as far as the numbered parts of the face corresponding to problems with other parts of your body, such as your kidneys, liver, or heart, well, this would mean a disproportionate number of teens would be regularly suffering from severe organ failure. That alone is reason enough to be skeptical of these claims.
Although zits form for a few different related reasons, the causes do not differ for different parts of the face. The treatments that are most effective for a particular breakout depend on the cause, so different treatments will work better for different people, and even in a single person, different treatments might work better for different breakouts.
Humans are constantly producing new skin and shedding the old skin cells. The oils in our skin, called sebum, help with this shedding, but we do not all slough off the old skin at an even rate. Sometimes the oils and old cells remaining clog our pores (i.e., our sebaceous hair follicles), trapping the oil inside as well as bacteria.
In the meantime, our bodies are still producing fresh skin and oil, and our immune systems attack the trapped bacteria, so the clogged follicle begins to swell. The whole process actually take a few weeks on average before we see the pimple form.
Teens, women getting their period, and sometimes pregnant women tend to be more prone to acne because of increased hormone production, specifically the hormone androgen. This hormone enlarges the glands that produce sebum, which means more oil and therefore more of a chance of the pores getting plugged.
So treatments target the bacteria (such as antibiotics), the inflammation (antimicrobials), and the dead cells themselves (retinoids). I also read recently about a treatment involving a virus that attacks the bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, being researched at UCLA.
In the end, though, acne has nothing to do with how much chocolate or greasy food you eat or some connection between the middle of your forehead and your liver. Don’t send away for that secret zit decoder ring. Pimples really are just skin deep.