What Does Your Face Say About Your Health?

Woman's Face

When you meet and greet other people, the first thing they see is your face. Depending on how you feel and the circumstances of the meeting, you may be smiling, laughing, frowning, or portraying some other facial expression. Without using words, you are letting people know how you feel at that moment. But what does your face say about your health?

Your face and your health

Your face can reveal a lot about what's going on inside your body. According to the ancient art of face reading (Mien Shiang), it is possible to know what's going on inside the body by studying the face, if you know what to look for.

Here are 13 messages your face could be sending you about your health.

Read about what your skin says about your health

Brown patches: These patches may be triggered by birth control pills, hormone therapy, or pregnancy. In some cases, they may be associated with thyroid problems or stress.

Cheek breakouts: If you experience discoloration or patchiness on your cheeks, you may be experiencing a problem with poor metabolism or poor absorption of folic acid or iron. Another possibility is poor lung function and shortness of breath, so pay attention to your breathing.

Chin and jawline breakouts: Skin issues in these areas could be a sign of a hormone imbalance. Sometimes women who did not have acne as a teenager develop this problem as an adult. It tends to be worse during menstruation, stress, and menopause.

Cracked lips: Both hot and cold weather can cause cracked, dry lips, and they can be treated with lip balms. However, cracked lips also can be a sign of dehydration or a reaction to medication, such as steroids.

Fine white hairs: This condition has a name—hypertrichosis lanuginosa—and is characterized by excessive fine white hairs that typically develop on the face. These hairs are sometimes called a "malignant down" and is a sign of an internal malignancy, especially colon and lung cancers.

Hair loss: If you are losing your eyelashes or eyebrows, as well as patches of hair on your head, it may be a sign of alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles.

Read about female hair loss: causes and treatment

Moles: These bumps or spots on the skin are typically dark brown to black and harmless. However, if they portray certain characteristics, you should have them checked. Are they asymmetrical, jagged around the border, uneven in color, larger than a pea, and/or changing in appearance? Time to check in with your doctor.

Puffy eyes: Most of us think of puffy eyes as being a sign of not getting enough sleep, and that's one cause. But puffy eyes also can be an indication of eating too much salt or hormone changes. Simply getting older is also a cause because the muscles that support the eyelids grow weaker. Puffy lower eyelids may indicate impaired kidney function.

Sores: Outbreaks of one or more sores around the lips and mouth are usually cold sores, which are associated with type 1 herpes virus. Although they can be unsightly, they usually go away on their own and aren't serious. Cold sores typically appear when we are stressed, sick, or fatigued.

Unexplained darkening or tanning of the skin: If you haven't been exposed to the sunlight yet have a tan or darkening skin, it could be a sign of Addison's disease. This condition is characterized by an underactive adrenal glands that can't make enough of the hormone cortisol. Therefore the brain steps in and makes too much of a hormone called ACTH, which increases pigmentation of the skin.

Unwanted hair: Chin hair is for men, but women can get it too. In younger women, it may be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome and should be evaluated by a physician.

Yellowish eyes and skin: This is a sign of jaundice, when there is an accumulation of bilirubin in the body. This orange-yellow pigment can mean a viral infection (e.g., hepatitis, mononucleosis), problems with your gallbladder, liver, or pancreas, or alcohol abuse.

Yellow spots on eyelids: There's a fancy name for these yellow bumps on the upper and lower eyelids, xanthelasmata. They are composed of cholesterol and are harmless themselves, but they also can signal your risk for heart disease.

Bottom line

Changes to your facial skin can signal a wide variety of health issues you may not even know are occurring. If any of these changes are happening to you, it's time to contact your physician to determine if you have any underlying health concern that can be resolved.

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Christoffersen M, Tybjaerg-Hansen A. Visible aging signs as risk markers for ischemic heart disease: epidemiology, pathogenesis and clinical implications. Ageing Research Reviews 2016 Jan; 25:24-41
Daley K. 28 things your skin reveals about your health. Best Health


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Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently, she lives in Tucson, Arizona.