Your Face Type

The practice of Chinese face reading is at least 3000 years’ old. If you see a skilled Chinese Medicine practitioner they can read your face like a map of your life and health history. But first, let’s talk about some basic Chinese Medicine terminology. Don’t worry, you don’t need to get bogged down in these concepts, but it will help you understand the correlations later.

Qi/Chi: The Chinese character for Qi shows a rice pot bubbling away on a fire. The steam that comes out is the Qi! So, Qi is an insubstantial force that moves along the acupuncture vessels and relates to the functioning of our internal organs and communication within the body.

Jing: Often translated as Essence, this is our prenatal energy, stored in the Kidneys, that comes from our parents. Jing is responsible for the life cycle: reproduction, growth, maturation, and the withering of life.

Shen: Shen is the sparkle in your eye, the animating force, often translated as Spirit.

Xue (Blood): Blood is a liquid that flows, with Qi, through the vessels to nourish the entire body.

Jin/Ye (Fluids): There are other fluids in the body besides Blood; they lubricate our organs, tissues, muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. The creation and distribution of fluids is very important in Chinese Medicine and dryness is often a big factor in aging of our skin and body.

Yin: In the body, the yin is the cooling, moistening, juicy and substantial processes and structures.

Yang: In the body, the yang is the warming, drying, activating and moving processes and structures.

Together Shen, Jing and Qi are known as the Three Treasures. That means we need to take good care of ourselves and not deplete our resources, our Treasure, so we can live a long and healthy life. Having an abundance of these three treasures manifests in a youthful, radiant appearance.

In Chinese Medicine the Five Element theory is a way of understanding nature, human beings as part of nature, and how to cultivate health throughout the seasons of the year. Western Medicine seeks a single cause for disease. Chinese Medicine is based on patterns found in nature and teaches us how to live a good life. Each face shape correlates to a different one of the Five Elements (also commonly translated as the Five Phases).

Collage of Feng Shui destructive cycle with five elements (water, wood, fire, earth, metal)

  • Water
  • Wood
  • Fire
  • Earth
  • Metal

The diagram above illustrates the Five Phases and how they interact and balance one another within Chinese medical theory. Each of the Phases (or Elements) consists of at least two organ/meridian systems:

Water: Kidney/Bladder

Wood: Liver/Gall Bladder

Fire: Heart/Small Intestine (and also Pericardium/Triple Burner)

Earth: Spleen/Stomach

Metal: Lung/Large Intestine

The shape of your face can indicate your constitutional type. Most people actually do not have a face shape that is purely one Element, but rather a combination of two or more, which reveals personality characteristics, physical attributes, heredity factors, and health issues or strengths. The colors that relate to each Element don’t have to do with pigmentation of the skin, but rather are a kind of hue or cast to the skin that exists separately from skin color.

Water face

The Water face is full with with chubby cheeks and a softness about it. The pure Water face is rare and may have a blue or black hue to it. The sense organ related to Water is the ears and large ears may indicate a particularly strong constitution. The Water Element is strongly represented in the chin, hairline or upper forehead, the philtrum and under the eyes.

The Water person often has a quiet power about them, with a lot of stamina or willpower. Kidney Qi is the foundation of energy for all the other organs and much of Chinese Medicine is geared toward nurturing the Water Element to ensure a long and healthy life. The energy of Water is the deep power and wisdom in the dark stillness; the potential of the seed lying dormant underground during the cold, long winter, ready to give birth. Out of balance the Water person may person may have chronic UTI’s, low back or knee pain, lethargy or fearfulness or they may over-use their strong willpower.

Wood face

The Wood face is long with a long nose, broad forehead and narrow cheeks. The Wood Element is strongly represented in the eyebrows, temples and jawline. The sense organ associated with Wood is the eyes. There may be a slight greenish hue to the face.

The person with a Wood constitution is always working to bring their vision to fruition and may struggle with anger or irritability as obstacles are thrown in their path. The dynamic of Wood is the energy of the blade of grass pushing up through the concrete path: vision, intention, planning, inexorable movement. The Wood out of balance may manifest in migraines, menstrual issues, tenon issues, and depression.

Fire face

The Fire face has narrow cheekbones, a pointed chin and may have a long face. The sense organ connected to the Fire Element is the tongue, influencing speech. The Fire Element is strongly represented in the expression of the eyes (sparkle!), the tips of all the features, and in curly or red hair. There may be a slight reddish hue to the face, or absence of red where you would expect to see it.

The Fire person may have a sparkly, laughing personality or may instead have a flat tone to their voice and absence of laughter when you would expect it. The power of Fire is the energy of the Summer–flourishing, blooming, joy, exuberance. The Fire out of balance may manifest as anxiety, insomnia, cardiovascular issues.

Earth face

The Earth face is square and possibly short with a strong jawline. The features may be large or exaggerated. The skin may have a yellowish hue. The sense organ connected to the Earth is the mouth. The features that strongly represented in the Earth Element are the lower cheeks, mouth, bridge of the nose, the area above the upper lip and the upper eyelid.

The Earth person is often a giving person and out of balance can be needy. The Earth Element is the energy of the harvest time, the sharing of bounty. The Earth out of balance may manifest in edema, weight gain, digestive issues, and worry.

Metal face

The Metal Face is oval with a broad forehead, high cheekbones, prominent nose and intelligent eyes. The skin is often pale with perhaps a white predominant color (again this does not have to do with pigmentation). The sense organ connected to the Lung is the nose. The major features associated with Metal are the nose, the cheeks, pale color, and moles.

The Metal Element is associated with the Autumn, the time of letting go, of moving inward and contracting. It is associated with the refining process, as in refining precious metals. We’ve gathered the harvest and now we turn it into something beautiful. The Metal person is often focused on matters of the spirit, morality, beauty. In the work world these methodical people can suffer from perfectionism and too much attention to detail when out of balance. Metal issues may show up as asthma, allergies or eczema