Chinese Face Reading

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Wrinkles are considered a side effect of ageing. But if you think they are inevitable, think again. Of course, with age your skin will have more sun exposure and may become dry. But the reason lines appear in the first place is the repeated stretching and pulling of skin linked with expressing the same emotions. You have almost 100 facial muscles that can contribute to facial expressions, allowing for a wide range of possible lines, yet your wrinkles only appear in places individual to you. Did you know that one of the reasons why people begin to look alike in a couple is that they share emotions and expressions?


Lines don’t have to become permanent. The secret is emotional management before your skin completely loses its elasticity. This isn’t the impossible task of not feeling or expressing anything. Emotions and their corresponding facial expressions are essential for social interactions. Besides, repressed emotions can lead to inflammation. The secret is to not over-express, to avoid getting stuck in an emotion and to let go of emotions you no longer need.


A face can tell a story. Face reading is an important diagnostic tool for practitioners of Chinese medicine. It’s useful for prevention because signs on the face can be early indicators of emerging health problems. In Chinese face reading, each area of the face corresponds to one of the five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water, and via their associated organs to one of the basic emotions – anger, joy/excitement, worry, sadness/grief, fear. We can draw an emotional map of the face. One of the reasons why acupuncture can have a rejuvenating effect is that treatment has the potential to release old trauma linked with repressed emotions engraved on the face.


Most of us have some lines we like and others we want to let go of. Below a few simple examples from Lillian Bridges’ book, Face Reading in Chinese Medicine (Elsevier, 2012). What Chinese medicine says is that which lines you keep is up to you. When we understand our past we can start facing our future. Managing emotions may involve some soul searching, but could be worth it.

  • Joy, excitement: ‘crow’s feet’, upwards from the outer corner of the eyes. Be proud of them, they show that you smile a lot and enjoy life.
  • Sadness: downwards from the outer corner of the eyes. These are harmless, unless they become sorrow lines, longer than the joy lines.
  • Impatience, frustration: the ‘elevens’, two vertical lines between the eyebrows. Try reducing them by practising deep breathing to release tension.
  • Skepticism: horizontal lines above one eyebrow. You’re not easily fooled.
  • Purpose: from the nose towards the mouth. They show that you have a life purpose, hence they are expected from a certain age.
  • Over-nurturing: vertical lines on the upper lip (not necessarily smokers’ lines!) Do you always look after others? Time to spoil yourself.
  • Fear: vertical lines on the chin. Easier said than done, but try not fearing anything at all until it actually happens.

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