First impressions about people can be quite profound. When meeting someone we draw conclusions about them from the way they look. The face alone can reveal volumes of information about a person as this is the most unique part of the body from which we express ourselves.

Face reading, or physiognomy (Greek for interpreting nature), is a global art with historical references in ancient Chinese, Japanese, Ayurvedic, Greek, Latin and medieval literature. It has been an integral part of Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, described in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine in 2600 BC. Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Avicenna also wrote of the art. Since the 1930’s macrobiotic practitioners have used face reading to determine dietary needs. A 2009 article in New Scientist reported that face reading is undergoing a revival inspiring new research.

The face is the most revealing, sensitive and responsive part of the body, controlled by over 40 individual muscles. The appearance of the hair, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, chin and ears tell a story about our past, present and future potential. Health status, emotional and mental traits, and spiritual development are displayed in the face, and our face can visibly change with life experience.

Chinese doctors can evaluate 70% of a person’s health just by looking at the face. Chinese medicine looks at the chi or life force energy of the person. They consider the balance of yin energy (feminine, passive, moist, cold) and yang energy (masculine, assertive, dry, hot) as expressed in the face. The Chinese believe that before age 35 your face will reflect genetic history and family conditioning, while after the age of 35 “your face belongs to you” and will reveal life choices.

The face can be divided into 3 stages or parts. The top portion, representing our childhood, begins at the hairline and extends to the eyebrows. The middle section correlates to our middle years and goes from the eyebrows to the bottom of the nose. The third stage, signifying our older years, is from the tip of the nose to the bottom of the chin. Ideal balance exists when each of the three parts of the face is of equal length.

In Chinese face analysis the predominant element is evident in the shape of the face. A Wood type face is long and rectangular with a long nose and ears revealing an assertive, active natural leader. Wood imbalances occur in the liver and gallbladder stimulated by anger or frustration. The Fire type face is heart shaped with prominent cheekbones, narrow chin and pointed angular features. Fire types are emotional, enthusiastic, charismatic, creative and social. Fire rules the heart and small intestine where issues may develop when they are depressed or have no creative outlet. The Earth type face is full and thick with a wide mouth, thick eyebrows, wide fleshy nose and ears, and jowls. Earth people are stable, traditional, security conscious and agreeable, however too much worry will create imbalance in the stomach and spleen. The Metal type face is square and symmetrical with refined features. They are mentally driven, intellectual, strong-willed and elegant. Metal rules the lungs and colon where health issues develop when under stress. The Water type face is round with soft features and large eyes and ears. They tend to be quiet, gentle, articulate, clever, and may prefer to be anonymous. Unexpressed emotions may lead to kidney and bladder problems or hypertension.

Certain zones in the face are associated with different organs and glands. The kidney zone is located under the eyes and on the ears. Bags under the eyes indicate water retention.

Dehydration will show up as darkness under the eyes, and redness indicates blood stagnation. Dark flecks under the eyes signal kidney stones. Large ears are a sign of a strong constitution, while small ears indicate a delicate constitution.

The adrenal zone is the inner corners of the eyes beside the nose. A dark or bluish color there indicates that the adrenals are overworked and fatigued. The liver zone is the area under and between the eyebrows. Vertical lines between the brows show liver stress from pent up anger, digestive difficulty and toxic buildup. The stomach zone is located on the upper part of the upper lip, while the small intestine zone is on the lower part of the upper lip and the lower forehead. The upper lip should be the same width as the bottom lip. If it is smaller there may be digestive problems due to enzyme deficiencies. A raised or red lower forehead indicates mucus plaque buildup in the small intestines. The large intestine zone is an area that covers the upper forehead, the upper cheeks, and the lines from the bottom of the sides of the nose to the corners of the lower lip. Excessive buildup of waste in the colon will create a swollen or protruding lower lip, with dark spots if there are parasites. If the upper cheeks are swollen or hard the colon may be congested with solidified fat. A red or protruding upper forehead may signify colitis.

The lung zone is located on the center of the cheeks and on the nostrils. Red cheeks may indicate respiratory infection, while grayness results from toxins that drain energy. Nostrils reveal the constitutional strength of the lungs and are directly proportional to the size of the lungs. The spleen zone is on the temples and inner side of the bridge of the nose. Dents, swelling, or puffiness by the bridge of the nose are a sign of spleen imbalance. Pimples on the temples indicate excess dietary sugar, fat, or gluten sensitivity.

The tip of the nose is the heart zone. Redness or swelling of the nose tip may signify high blood pressure, a congested heart or circulation issues. A whitish nose tip is a sign that there may be inadequate blood flow to the heart causing fatigue, fainting or irregular heart beat. A cleft at the end of the nose may show an imbalance in the size of the two sides of the heart. The pancreas zone is on the bridge of the nose. A horizontal line across the bridge of the nose may indicate hypoglycemia, with a deeper crease occurring with diabetes. The ridge down the length of the nose represents the spine. A nose that curves to one side may indicate scoliosis.

The reproductive zone is located on the chin and the philtrum, the small vertical cleft centered between the tip of the nose and the top of the upper lip. Discoloration, puffiness, moles or blemishes in these areas indicate toxicity, congestion of the reproductive organs, and possibly tumors or cysts. A deeper, prominent philtrum shows strong fertility, intuition and creativity. A horizontal line may form in the philtrum after a hysterectomy or vasectomy, while a vertical line may form after abdominal surgery or a C-section. A cleft in the chin indicates excess sexual energy or bladder issues.

Each facial feature represents an aspect of our personality. The forehead represents mental/spiritual focus and is divided into three levels. The top third or celestial level represents a person’s spiritual ideals. The middle human level reveals social beliefs and ego, and the bottom earthly level just above the eyebrows is associated with logic and practical matters. The level that is most raised or prominent has the greatest influence in the personality. Typically a horizontal line will occur in each level. If all three lines are distinct and unbroken, then the person possesses a balanced relationship between the spiritual, ego and earthly aspects of life. Missing or broken lines indicate a lack of focus or issues in those levels. Deep clear lines suggest good health and sound judgment.

A large high forehead indicates an intelligent academic mind, while a short forehead shows an organized precise mind with good memory for facts and figures. A square forehead denotes self-discipline and confidence. A flat forehead profile is the mark of independence, while a rounded profile shows initiative and ability to work well with others. Good listeners and communicators may have a sloping profile. A strong thick hairline is associated with vitality, reliability and longevity. A receding hairline or thinning hair points to creativity and strong sexuality. A widow’s peak indicates changes in career.

The eyes reveal openness and emotion. People with large eyes are yin, sensitive, emotional, creative, intuitive and easy to get to know. People with small eyes are yang, practical, private, focused and detail oriented. Upward slanting eyes indicate high ambition. Frequent blinking is a sign of sensitivity, playfulness, and minds that flit from one thought to another. Wrinkles at the outer corners of the eyes are joy lines, while deep lines below the eyes may indicate restraint. A truly joyful smile causes the eyes to wrinkle up and sparkle.

The shape of the eyebrows also has significance. Large thick eyebrows are yang and a sign of strength, indicating a forceful, driven, active personality. If the brows are close together or joined these traits are emphasized with a more aggressive approach to life. Fine, thin eyebrows are yin, expressing sensitivity, kindness and discipline with a tendency to be easily overwhelmed. People with brows spaced far apart are yin, curious, creative, and may lack confidence. Downward sloping brows are yin indicating a gentle, shy temperament and a need for peace and harmony. Upward sloping brows are yang, aggressive, ambitious and may be confrontational. A person with one brow higher than the other is sensitive, compassionate, and may have mood swings. Brows that are straight and horizontal indicate a balanced, down-to-earth person with steady emotions. Consistent thickness in the brows is a sign of good health. Brow hairs that grow in many directions point to a restless mind. Brows that are long and flow in one direction are a mark of a long happy life and a balanced thoughtful person. If the brows are thinner over the nose and thicker at outer edges the person may be indecisive and have a great need for security. If thicker near the nose and thin at the periphery they may be stronger at birth and weaken as they age unless they take care of themselves.

The nose is the most variable feature on the face and is a marker of power, wealth, knowledge and sexuality. A wide or flat nose is a sign of varied interests, sociability and a good friend and lover. A small and narrow nose shows emotional self-control, seriousness and frugality, while a long narrow nose indicates a person who is emotional but focuses emotions on just a few aspects at a time. If the nose is large and prominent, it shows a driving force with emotional highs and lows. A soft bulbous nose tip indicates a yin person with strong feelings on issues. Those with a cleft at the nose tip thrive on emotional extremes. A small upwardly sloping nose indicates a generous nature but cautious about commitment. A Roman nose with a downward sloping tip is a sign of strength, courage, vitality, ambition, leadership and clear-thinking. A bump on the bridge of the nose shows a strong, impatient, generous character with a high standard of living. Large or flared nostrils indicate independence, multi-tasking ability and self-sufficiency, while people with small nostrils focus on one thing at a time and enlist others for help. When one lies, the nose does actually enlarge slightly.

Lips are the vehicle for the expression of our thoughts, emotions, and sensuality. Full lipped people find it easy to relax and enjoy themselves, but can be lazy, while thin lips are a sign of hard-working, responsible, goal-oriented people. People with wide mouths need a wide range of experiences and become bored easily, while small lipped people can be introverted, critical, and strong-willed. People who leave their mouths slightly open may find it hard to concentrate, while deep vertical creases in the lips indicate long-term stress from overwork. A bigger lower lip shows a contented, relaxed nature that seeks entertainment, while a bigger upper lip indicates an emotional, generous, sensual nature with a love of luxury. People who have a wide U-shape at the top center of the upper lip have a strong drive to succeed.

Full prominent cheeks are evident on a yin person with emotional highs and lows and a need to share. Yang sunken cheeks appear on a person who is serious and responsible and tends to become depressed. A strong square chin and jawline is yang denoting willpower, strength and vitality, while a small chin indicates an adaptable personality that can walk away from situations that are no longer working for them.

The ears are very important in face reading as they represent the entire body. Divided into three zones, the top third portion represents the intellect, the middle zone refers to the ability to communicate and the lower zone symbolizes the desire for self-enjoyment. The largest zone has the greatest influence on the person’s character. Large ears are a sign of vitality, strong sexuality and the ability to cope with stress, while smaller ears denote a physically sensitive nature. Ears that prominently stick out from the head belong to people with strong opinions and denote stubbornness, while ears that are flat against the head show sensitivity and good listening ability. Long earlobes symbolize wisdom and longevity.

Face reading can be a wonderful tool for relating effectively to others. Some excellent books on the subject are “The Practical Art of Face Reading” by Simon G. Brown and “The Wisdom of Your Face” by Jean Haner. Learning how we “face” the world can help us evolve to our true potential.