Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the four ancient diagnostic principles of looking, touching, smelling and listening. Beyond the specific techniques to remove wrinkles and rejuvenate the skin is the concept of the face being a reflection of the condition of the whole body. So changes in facial colours, or swelling in particular areas of the face are early indications of imbalances in the condition of specific organs that have to be treated first before any cosmetic techniques can be attempted.
In Oriental medicine the skin is considered to be the third lung. Being the most superficial and superior organ of the body, the lungs are considered the canopy of the body. They are called "the tender organ" as they are very susceptible, like the skin, to weather changes such as wind, cold, heat, dryness and dampness. The connection between the lungs and the skin extends to acupuncture treatment as points along the lung meridian are often chosen to treat skin conditions.
The colour white is associated with the lungs, and we identify a slightly pale face as being a manifestation of qi deficiency in the lung, while a duller shade of pale may be more indicative of blood deficiency. In my experience, patients with lung diseases, like emphysema, often have a grey tinged face, which may indicate that their lungs have lost their ability to regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in their system.
The colour black is associated with the kidneys. Areas of darkness on the face, especially under the eyes, are evidence that the kidneys are not performing as well as they should. Acupuncture, in combination with herbal medicine, can, in most cases, restore the functioning of the organ and gradually eliminate the discoloration of the skin without using any cosmetic techniques.
In diagnostic terms, the colour yellow belongs to the spleen. When a person suffers from chronic weakness in the spleen function, we will often see slight yellow discoloration around their eyes, mouth or in other areas on their face. Upon questioning, the patient complains of chronic digestive problems such as bloating, loose stools and general fatigue after eating. In contrast, redness on the face is generally an evidence of heart dysfunction. We often notice that patients suffering from heartburn have redder lips than the general population. Finally, the colour green is associated with the liver, and it is common to see patients with severe chronic liver problems exhibiting a greenish tint all over their face. It is interesting to mention that, in Chinese medicine, many green foods are recommended for liver problems. For example, we use spring onions to relieve liver congestion and relax muscle tension and celery, artichokes and mint tea have long been prescribed as liver tonics.
Once the facial discolorations have been removed and the general health of the patient has been improved, we can turn our attention to these unsightly wrinkles that are causing us so much grief!
The face is not only our most visible organ, but may be the most vulnerable as well. It is important to recognise that emotional and physical imbalances are reflected in our facial expression and muscle systems. The tension and trauma from our past life are manifested in the form of lines, wrinkles and scar tissue.
It has often been said that after the age of 60 we have the face that we deserve. Like the flow of the river, which gradually sculpts the shape of its surrounding banks, the frequent expression of emotions and the activation of the corresponding facial muscle leave a permanent impression on the facial landscape, even at rest. Some older people have a constantly smiling face, while others seem to be permanently frowning.
There are many approaches to cosmetic treatments. Acupuncture will never be able to replace Western cosmetic surgery and skin implants. Also, the effects of a single facial acupuncture session will not be as quick as many of the invasive conventional treatments that use chemical peels, Botox injections and surgical intervention. Facial acupuncture can achieve remarkable results without the use of chemical injections by altering our hormonal balance, improving the elasticity of the skin and eliminating toxins.
According to the Fa Ling concepts of Chinese physiognomy, the individual shapes of our mouth, nose, ears and chin reflect our mental and emotional strength, weaknesses and personality. For example, the smile lines around our mouth are associated with the development of character and maturity through our life.
So can we change the way we look without changing who we actually are? And how far can we go with facial acupuncture alone?
We will be exploring this fascinating topic again next month.
Olivier Lejus MHSC.BHSc. is a registered acupuncturist practising in Sydney
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com