As French fashion designer Coco Chanel (1883–1971) observed, “Nature gives you the face you have at 20. Life shapes the face you have at 30. But at 50 you get the face you deserve.”
According to the Chinese art of face reading, known as mian xiang, there’s some truth to that. The Chinese believe your face is a map of your past, present and future. Over time, the changes in your face say much about your physical wellbeing, intellectual and emotional attributes and possible future challenges.
Just look at the faces of public personalities who are known for their angry outbursts: as time goes by, their faces settle in frowns and their addictions to work and alcohol give them an ashen complexion. Conversely, look at someone like the Dalai Lama, whose life devoted to compassion has given him a soft face and lively eyes.
We read faces every day. More than the words we hear, a person’s facial expressions tell us what they’re really thinking. Science has now proved what we always thought: first impressions count. Psychologist Dr Alex Todorov of Princeton University has found that we form an opinion about a person with a 100-millisecond glance at their face alone.
Chinese medicine practitioners use face reading to detect internal imbalances and illnesses, while feng shui experts read the face to discover more about an individual’s personality and to predict their future choices.
The face can be divided into zones that represent particular internal organs and personality traits. For example, the nose is associated with the heart; the cheeks reflect the state of the lungs; liver health is revealed between the eyebrows; and the lips indicate digestive health. In addition, the quality of the skin – colour, dry or oily patches and rashes – indicates internal health issues.
Proponents of face reading claim it can even help you lose weight. Britain’s former First Lady, Cherie Blair, and actor Kate Winslet both attribute their weight loss to visiting London-based face reader and nutritionist Elizabeth Gibaud. Winslet was so delighted with Gibaud’s methods that she wrote the foreword to the nutritionist’s book, The Facial Analysis Diet.
The reason face reading works, says Gibaud, is that analysing the face allows you to develop an individualised approach. No two faces are the same, so no treatments are exactly the same. “I look for markings, facial colour and skin texture. This tells me which minerals the body is lacking,” she says.
Your face can help you unlock the secrets of your health. Some of Gibaud’s basic indicators can potentially be used for self-diagnosis: open pores could mean there is too much acid in your system; lines on your forehead could mean your diet is too rich and oily; and red or puffy cheeks may indicate a dairy intolerance.
Joey Yap, a feng shui teacher and author of Mian Xiang: Discover Face Reading, tours the world conducting seminars on face reading. “Who you are reflects how you look,” he says. “Your beliefs, your attitude and your character shape how you look.” Likewise, he says, changing those beliefs and attitudes can change your appearance. He cites those who have received counselling after trauma whereby their whole face has softened. “Change your attitude and your face will change,” he says.
According to face consultant Diamanda Huynh, “Nobody has a perfect face. It is your Heaven Luck [predetermined destiny], which used to be considered unchangeable, but now there’s Botox and plastic surgery.”
I asked Yap if making cosmetic changes would affect a face reading. Could altering your facial features through cosmetic surgery change your future or your health?
“When you change how you look, you subsequently feel differently about yourself and obviously you change some of your outcomes,” he said. “But the best way to change is from your heart, because that’s free.”
Feng shui expert Jon Sandifer outlines some common health issues that can be diagnosed by face reading in his book, The Eastern Art of Face Diagnosis. He also uses the teachings of 18th-century Japanese doctor and face reader Namboku Mizuno – a proponent of the macrobiotic dietary regimen – to supplement his dietary advice. We’ve taken a sample of these symptoms from the book and devised some beauty fixes that can help effect positive changes.
Puffiness or a dark, bruised appearance under the eyes.
Kidney or adrenal imbalance.
Increase sleep and keep warm in bed. Reduce your intake of salt and caffeine and avoid ice-cold foods. Increase your intake of vegetables and hearty soups or stews.
Sleep with your head slightly elevated to prevent fluid collecting under the eyes. Use an eye cream containing caffeine (to decrease puffiness) or brightening ingredients (to reduce dark circles).
To reduce dark circles, try PerriconeMD’s Ceramic Eye Smoother, available at Mecca Cosmetica. Lancôme’s Rénergie Refill Yeux is a lightweight serum that intensely moisturises the skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Origins’ No Puffery, with its yeast extract and calming mushroom extract, helps reduce puffiness and dark circles.
For quick cover, you can’t go past Yves Saint Laurent’s classic Touche Éclat, a lightweight concealer with light-reflecting particles.
BETWEEN THE BROWS
Oily skin between the brows; deep creases between the brows; and itchy or tired eyes.
Try to get up at sunrise, as this is the time that supports the liver. Develop patience and reduce stress levels through yoga, tai chi or meditation, or take a walk outside to increase positive energy. Reduce your intake of animal fats, dairy, eggs and sugar and increase consumption of green vegetables and salads. Add umeboshi (pickled plums) to your diet, as they contain therapeutic amounts of picric acid, which is thought to support liver function. They are available from health food shops and Asian grocery stores.
Oily skin between the brows or on the T-zone indicates combination skin. Treat this section and the rest of your face separately. Using a gentle cleanser and light moisturising lotion works best. A cooling gel can help soothe tired eyes.
Estée Lauder’s Perfectly Clean Splash Away Foaming Cleanser and Fresh Balancing Lotion help rebalance the skin, deal with oily spots and soothe dry areas. For an alternative to Botox, try Dr. Brandt’s Crease Release with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a compound that helps the muscles relax, thereby reducing wrinkles caused by frowning.
Spots, redness, broken capillaries or rashes.
Lung or bronchial imbalance; allergies.
Keep your environment well ventilated and take walks in the fresh air. Breathe deeply and slowly and get things off your chest – speak up if something is bothering you.
Reduce your intake of dairy, processed flour and tropical fruits and increase your intake of rice and hard leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, watercress and parsley. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods.
Redness and rashes on the cheeks may be a sign of allergies or rosacea. Use a moisturiser with calming ingredients, such as oatmeal, or make an oatmeal face mask yourself. A dermatologist may prescribe hydrocortisone cream. For a temporary fix, use a slightly green-toned primer (to tone down the redness) followed by a mineral foundation powder, which contains inert ingredients so it won’t irritate sensitive skin.
Clinique’s Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream is a soothing moisturiser. Dermalogica’s Clinical Colloidal Oatmeal Masque can be used weekly to reduce symptoms. Revlon’s ColorStay Mineral Foundation offers quick coverage.
Dry, cracked or puffy lips or purple lower lip.
Eat slowly, chewing your food properly. Cut down on raw fruits, nuts and muesli, which may tax the digestive system. Avoid yeast products. Increase your intake of rice, especially brown, and root vegetables such as carrot, parsnip and turnip.
Moisturise your lips with a gentle lip balm and then create a barrier to keep the moisture in. Avoid overly salty or acidic foods that can irritate the lips’ delicate skin.
La Prairie’s Cellular Lip Renewal Concentrate is arguably the Rolls-Royce of lip treatments. It gently exfoliates and hydrates. Use it overnight for intensive treatment. For everyday care, try Avène’s Cold Cream Lip Balm or Clear Advance Lip Balm by Blistex – both create a barrier to prevent moisture loss.