“We get the faces we deserve: inappropriate diet, persistent negative emotions, drugs, toxins and stress all contribute to lines, congestion and colours on the face.”

— Coco Chanel, quoted in Chinese Face Reading for Health.

Aspects of her personal and public life before and during France’s Vichy-collaborationist WW II period—Chanel was an avowed anti-Semite and suspected Nazi-sympathizer—have cast her entire history in a more controversial light than an otherwise illustrious career might have dictated.

Her purported human failings aside, Chanel’s innovations and enduring imprint in the fields of beauty and design are considered unique and unsurpassed.

It is not clear what medical knowledge she was exposed to, but Coco Chanel was ahead of her time in proposing such apt connections between physiology, psychology and cosmetology. (Actually, the quote in its entirety, according to one source, reads: “Nature gives you the face you have at 20; life shapes the face you have at 30; but at 50 you get the face you deserve.”)

Remarkably, Chanel’s decades old medical-cosmetology insights are currently reflected in a wealth of related information offered online and in print media:

For example, suggested healthier dietary choices to help avoid aged-related dryness, brown spots and wrinkles include the Mediterranean diet (olive oil, leafy greens and other vegetables, fruits, healthy fats (in fish and those containing omega-3 fatty acids), lean meats (for collagen-supporting protein), fewer carbs (to reduce aging effects of cortisol) and avoidance of allergenic foods.

Negative emotions like worry, anger, depression, fear and anxiety can cause deep wrinkles, lines and creases as well as dryness, dullness, flakiness, rosacea, acne and psoriasis; whereas positive emotions like happiness and joy improve circulation, suppress inflammation and encourage healthy skin. One dermatologist, author of the book, “Forget the Face Lift” confirmed her belief that “laughter is the best medicine.”

Drugs: The actual faces of drug addiction and substance abuse can now be viewed online thanks to anti-drug initiatives mainly run by rehabilitation clinics. These include photos of methamphetamine users who exhibit facial sores, tooth decay, dry skin and accelerated aging; opioids addicts with flushing and red bumps, skin abscesses, cellulite and scabs (heroin causing a loss of skin radiance and a dull and wasted look; oxycodone: bloodshot eyes, flushed skin, bluish tint, saggy skin); cocaine: typically inflamed, reddish, sometimes collapsed noses; alcohol: general dehydration and dry skin, rosacea (blushing, flushing, bloating, redness), bloodshot eyes, small pupils, dark circles, aged appearance; tobacco (containing corrosive tars and nicotine, a highly addictive drug): premature aging, brown spots, crow’s feet, wrinkles, loss of “glow”, scarring, warts, cataracts, hair loss, unhealthy mouth and teeth, psoriasis, pre-cancerous changes; marijuana: similar changes when smoked although cannabinoids may actually improve some skin conditions when used topically or ingested orally. (Not FDA recommended). Most adverse effects are considered reversible.

Toxins found in toothpaste, dermatologic products, unpurified water, deodorants, cleansing products and environmental chemicals typically cause irritant or allergic contact dermatitis, cracked skin, scarring or corrosion; toxins can be avoided or counteracted by various liver detoxifying (hi-fiber) foods and drinks (fruit juices, herbal teas) and “fat-cleansing” exercise (lipolysis, producing discharge of toxins.)

Stress—typically driven by emotion and mediated through neurochemical processes—can break down tissue throughout the body, including the skin. Evidence of stress can be seen first in excessive perspiration and moisture, accompanied sometimes by flushness or redness, then dehydration and dryness and flaking of skin. Dark circles, puffiness, bloating, bags or “crows feet” around eyes, fine lines on forehead; also, premature greying, baldness or “picking away” of hair; blemishes, rashes, hives. Recommended treatments include well-balanced diet consisting of generous amounts of green leafy vegetables such as spinach (high in folate, which produces calming effects of dopamine), tryptophan containing foods such as turkey, fish, nuts like cashews and pistachios, seeds, tofu, lentils, beans, oats—all of which promote feelings of satiety and well-being, blueberries which encourage immune system production of stress-fighting “killer cells”, and “calming” foods such as avocado, yoghurt and dark chocolate.

Most stress reducing regimens also seem to include proper hydration, exercise, yoga, meditation, spiritual practices, counseling when appropriate—and avoidance of excessive carbs and alcohol, so-called recreational drugs and smoking.

It’s no coincidence that Coco Chanel was quoted in an article on Chinese Face Reading. Indeed, another website devoted to beauty, fashion and décor, states: “The Chinese believe that your face is a map of your past, present and future. Over time, the changes in your face say much about your physical wellbeing, intellectual and emotional attributes and possible future challenges.”

“Just look at the faces of public personalities who are known for their angry outbursts; as time goes by, their faces settle in frowns and their addictions to work and alcohol give them an ashen complexion. Conversely, look at someone like the Dalai Lama, whose life devoted to compassion has given him a soft face and lively eyes.”

Joey Yap, an author on Feng Shui and Mian Xiang (Chinese Face Reading) says, “Your beliefs, your attitude and your character shape how you look. Likewise …changing those beliefs and attitudes can change your appearance.” In fact, Yap credits “counseling after trauma” with creating changes “whereby their whole face has softened.”

But Yap also believes, along with others, that cosmetic changes, such as in plastic surgery, can cause internal attitudes to change: “When you change how you look, you subsequently feel differently about yourself and obviously you change some of your outcomes. But,” he said, “the best way to change is from your heart.”

Correlation between Chinese Face Reading for Health and Western Medicine is only beginning, yet there are therapeutic claims of success by some Western practitioners employing theories of facial analysis derived from East and West: Britain’s former First Lady Cherie Blair and actor Kate Winslett were reportedly benefitted in their dieting programs by a London-based nutritionist and face-reader utilizing German biochemical principles; a Feng Shui author of The Eastern Art of Face Diagnosis bases his nutritional advice on an 18th century Japanese macrobiotic dietary regimen.

(In addressing such beauty problems as puffy, dark and bruised areas under the eyes, deep lines and oiliness between the brows, and spots, redness and broken capillaries or rashes on the cheeks—both sources cited above advise dietary changes and various anti-inflammatory and non-allergenic topical agents, based on the client’s facial diagnostic profile.)