Lecture: Chinese Medicine Approach to Skincare

We always focus on treating our skin externally. But in Chinese Medicine, problems with our skin usually means there is something wrong inside. In fact, as practitioners, we often use the skin as an indicator of what is going on inside.


Disclaimer: The organs theory is very different from Western Biomedicine. Therefore when you see things like “Lungs are responsible for the skin” it does not mean the actual Lung organ but the Lung Qi and/or meridian. There may be overlap of what they do, but it does not mean the same thing. In fact it may be easier to think of them as A, B and C rather than associate them with conventional organ names.


In Chinese Medicine there are 4 main organs that affects our skin. The Lungs, Spleen, Kidney and Liver.


When we think skin, the first organ that comes to mind is the Lungs in Chinese Medicine. The Lungs directly governs the quality of our skin and is responsible to the opening and closing of our pores. It likes to be moist and dislike heat. That is why things that tend to be good for our lungs is moistening and cooling. This is what we tend to focus on in skincare. Always moisturizing on the outside, but we can moisturize our skin from the inside as well. My favorite picks to nourish our skin is pears, snow fungus and honey.


Spleen is responsible for our digestion and ability to get rid of waste. If it does not work correctly, waste builds us and can cause a lot of problems, including skin problems. We often hear that what we eat does not correlate to our skin problems. This is far from the truth. The reason why research cannot firmly point out what foods can cause skin problems is because different foods causes different problem dependant on your body’s constitution. What may cause problems in yourself will be different from the person next to you because you metabolize and process foods differently. General rule of thumb does exist, things like dairy, fried oily foods, and alcohol are culprits to many skin problems. Please visit an acupuncturist to find out what constitution you have for more details. People with oily skin, pimples with pus suffers from the Spleen inability to get rid of the waste accumulation. Also people who tends to bruise easily has a Spleen weakness component.


Onto the one that most people can relate to: anti-aging. As we get older, it is natural to get wrinkles, for our skin to lose its elasticity, and lose it youthful glow. Although it is a natural part of life, we can definitely control the rate it happens. The Kidneys in Chinese Medicine is our “Life Gate”. When we no longer have any Kidney Qi, we are no longer alive. Think of it as our coin bank of how long we get to live and how healthy. When Kidney Qi becomes lower, our hair greys, our skin thins and sags, our teeth falls out, our bones becomes brittle. So maintaining our Kidney Qi is very important to maintain your youthful skin. General rule of thumb: black color foods like sesame can help support your Kidney Qi. Obvious lifestyle choices makes a big difference: sleeping, stress management, exercise, eating right are all good ways to maintain your Kidney Qi coin bank.


The last main organ that affects your skin the the Liver, especially in females. The Liver is closely related to a women’s menstrual cycle. This is the reason why there is something called Hormonal Acne. When you have hormonal acne, it means there is some sort of imbalance in your menstrual cycle. Yes it is common to have hormonal acne, but it is an indicator that there is something wrong. Our Liver is also fairly easily affected by our stress level. That is why in times of high stress, our cycle becomes problematic and our hormonal acne becomes worse. Therefore finding ways to manage your stress like exercise, meditation and regular acupuncture treatments is so important.

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