Everything You Thought You Knew About Face Mapping, Debunked

If you've ever tried to self-diagnose your recurring breakouts through a quick internet search, you're probably familiar with the concept of face mapping. The popular technique tracks breakouts on different areas of the face to determine potential causes and help guide treatment. Ever since discovering this practice on one of my many rabbit hole internet sessions, I figured I knew enough to pinpoint what was causing my flare-ups. Breaking out around my mouth? I probably needed to eat more vegetables. A slew of pimples dotting my forehead? Stress was likely the culprit. But after speaking to a dermatologist, everything I thought I knew was quickly debunked.

While most of the online conversations around face mapping connect different facial zones to internal health, Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group revealed that it's more complicated than that. A better indicator of determining the cause of your breakouts is first tracking the type of acne it is, then looking at where its appearing on the face as a secondary factor. According to her, certain behavior patterns and perhaps some types of acne can be triggered by specific sources, in addition to appearing in certain facial zones. Keep reading for the dermatologist-approved way to map and treat your breakouts, and learn how Differin® Gel is a treatment for mild to moderate acne or even occasional flare-ups.

Blackheads and whiteheads on the forehead and nose

When it comes to your forehead and nose, anything that creates more oil production, whether behavioral or dietary, can lead to breakouts.

"There's a very high density of oil glands in this area, so people in humid weather, people who are exercising, or people who wear a lot of hats and headbands will usually experience a lot of little breakouts in the forehead." Dr. Nazarian said. "In addition, fatty, fried foods have been shown to change the viscosity of the sebum in your oil glands, which can clog pores and trigger acne."

Inflammatory acne on the cheeks

Experiencing acne on the cheeks? You may want to watch the sugar intake.

"While the evidence is still growing, high glycemic index foods and foods that contain natural hormones, like milk and yogurt, can cause basic, inflammatory acne on the cheeks." she noted.

Tender red bumps on the lateral face and neck

If you're experiencing deep, red lesions in a U shape around your face, hormones, potentially correlated to your menstrual cycle, could be likely to blame.

"Hormonal fluctuations is thought to affect the outside parts of the cheek closer to the ear, the chin, the jawline, and the neck," Dr. Nazarian explained.


Now that you've determined how to map your flare-ups properly, how do you treat it? Dr. Nazarian recommends starting with a gentle cleanser and following up with an oil-free moisturizer before applying a retinoid acne treatment, like Differin® Gel. For sensitive skin, we recommend using every other day or even every third day for the first couple of weeks or so, until your skin gets acclimated with the retinoid. "Retinoids work really well for blackheads, whiteheads, and inflammatory lesions, and can be used generally on facial skin," Dr. Nazarian advised. "They help regulate the skin cell cycle by dissolving blackheads." By integrating it into your skincare routine, you can help prevent breakouts before they occur to help restore texture and tone over time.