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Facial Reflexology vs. Foot Reflexology :: 13 key differences

“To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.”

William Blake

Lots of people have heard of 'reflexology' but usually they're thinking of the most popular kind - on the feet. We can thank the research of an American ear nose and throat specialist, Dr. William FitzGerald, as well as the incredible work of a woman called Eunice Ingham, for the popularity of foot reflexology the West today (great summary of modern methods >>> here). However, there is evidence to suggest that foot reflexology has been practiced around the world for thousands of years - from the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs to ancient China and Mayan ruins.


Similarly, Facial Reflexology is both an ancient and a recent phenomenon. Dien Chan Zone - the method I practice and share was born in Vietnam where, as a legacy of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine (closely linked to Traditional Chinese Medicine), the local people have practiced vigorous facial massage to maintain wellness for thousands of years. By now, much of the logic regarding this cultural habit has been lost, but following the war a group of acupuncturists investigated a selection of ancient maps to decipher a method that would both make sense of this heritage and liberate the masses to care for themselves with greater understanding.


Years later, 'Dien Chan' (meaning diagnosis via the face) is an official part of the Vietnamese medical system (mostly reserved for emergencies and cases of extreme pain). Meanwhile, that invasive, brief and painful original technique has been developed and adapted over the last twenty years in Italy (by my teachers at the International Academy of Italian Facial Reflexology) to bring its benefits to the service of Western people who require greater care, gentleness and time in the treatment room.


Today their method Dien Chan Zone® is unique worldwide. It is unrelated to any other Facial Reflexology or technique and offers incredible understandings which redefine the mainstream definition of 'reflexology' as well as broaden the scope for reflexology as a functional and relevant therapy. Here are some of the key differences between facial and foot reflexology in this regard:

  1. Immediate results: reflexology engages with the nervous system in the body so by working in proximity to the brain and sense organs the results from working on the face tend to be much faster. For example it might 3 sessions (over 3 weeks) of foot reflexology to achieve an improvement in the case of chrnoic back pain. With Facial Reflexology most people will experience an improvement after just one 30 minute session. And of course, most people comment on how they've 'never been so relaxed' as they were during treatment.

  2. Autonomy: this Facial Feflexology is revolutionary because can be applied in complete autonomy by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Because of the easy access we each have to our faces throughout the day we can all learn to use the simple and intuitive maps of Dien Chan Zone to treat ourselves and our loved ones using fingers or modest tools. There are no counter indications and training classes start at just two days. Though it is possible to stimulate the reflex zones of one's own feet (especially for young, flexible people), treatment this way will never be optimum as it requires us to bend at the ankle, knees, hips, and solar plexus disrupting the very flow of qi (or energy) that we aim to rebalance.

  3. Self care: reflexology is more effective the more it is applied. Therefore, at the end of every treatment Dien Chan Zone practitioners provide a personalised reflex map with instructions so that receivers can continue to treat themselves at home unaided. Used consistently this strengthens results and empowers people to quite literally take their health into their hands.

  4. Amazed receivers: because the results are so much faster, receivers are often astounded by the changes that can take place internally within such short periods of time. And because they are using the reflexology on themselves they are empowered to observe the motions of their nervous system more closely. It is not unusual to have medical test results reversed within weeks and it is common that even without doctor's supervision, they are certain of the benefits from treatment.

  5. Emergency uses: in addition, with advanced knowledge of the maps Dien Chan Zone can even be used as a means of first aid to help women in labour, choking diners, panic attacks and people stuggling in the street with pain. I have yet to hear of another natural method with the same breadth of application.

  6. More maps: the Dien Chan Zone method utilises over over 30 different maps overlapped on the face offering therapists multiple ways to treat the same symptom. This super-charges results and allows treatment as usual even for men with beards or patients with bandaged foreheads.

  7. Multireflexology: in its full application Dien Chan Zone is a multireflexology which allows us to work anywhere on the body - yes, there are effective reflex zones on the hands, feet and ears... but also the fingers, arms and legs! In additon we use 'mudras' or specific hand positions to treat internal imbalance away from the face too. These areas can be treated using various tools from moxibustion and cupping to balms, salompas and gua sha. In Italy, my teachers also developed a beautiful and powerful Facial-Cranial reflexology which is applied at the top of the skull and offers yet another therapeutic opportunity.

  8. Reflexology not acupressure: some reflexologists work with meridian points and I've heard it posited that reflex zones on the feet are equated to these. Dien Chan Zone maps differ drastically from meridian points (though of course there is some overlap). But, for me acupressure (the stimulation of meridian points) and reflexology (the stimulation of reflex zones and points) are two very different and separate techniques, not to be confused and not to be combined.

  9. 'Similar Form' over Zone Theory: I'm getting a little more technical to provide clarity for practitioners. Although there is some crossover with Fitzgerald’s Zone Therapy, Dien Chan Zone maps are instead determined by a distinctly Vietnamese understanding we call 'Similar Form'. Basically, this infers that parts of the body which are similar in form to other parts of the body, have a reflex connection. For example elbows and knees, eyes (area around socket) and breasts, back and nose... By using these maps we begin to literally see our bodies in the face (and on the hands, feet, arms, etc) making this method uniquely eye-opening and perspective expanding.

  10. Different energy: both working on the feet and working on the face offer an intimate connection between therapist and receiver. In terms of chakra connection, Facial Reflexology places the operator at the crown chakra of their receiver - the most spiritual and meditative energy centre in the body. Because eyes are closed and there is no talking during treatment, this therapy provides an entirely relaxing and peaceful experience for both participants.

  11. Face reading: foot reading is an incredible art and can reveal so much about a person and their health. But, there's a catch! You can't perform a reading without having your target first oblige you a peek and second remove their socks and shoes. Meanwhile, with an understanding of the reflex maps on the face (remember that they overlap and so google image results for 'face reading' are extremely limited), you can develop your capacity to interpret both personality and health condition every day, with every face you see. The face reading module is a favourite on the Advanced Course, but can be explored by all Operators from day one. We always say on the first day of our beginner classes "things will never be the same again".

  12. Beauty benefits: everyone's preferred by-product of Facial Reflexology is the improvement it makes to our skin and appearance! This is a bonus to normal treatment as working in loco on the face naturally boosts circulation of blood, lymph and other vital fluids as well as energy. Improved 'glow', better skin function and reduced fine lines are pretty much unavoidable and it's always interesting to see just how much faces change after just two days on the Operator Course. I will note that my own long term acne-prone skin has improved drastically (and I know how to deal with it when there are outbreaks - with my treasured Facial Gua Sha) and my entire face shape has slimmed and sculpted over the past three years. So whilst 'beauty' itself never our primary intention with this technique we can target the underlying cause of acne, eczema and other skin conditions or facial marking to aid prevention in the future. Likewise, we can add the signature Dien Chan Zone Beauty Massage (with fingertips and/or Gua Sha) to treatment combining the ancient Eastern tool of crystal gua sha to lift muscles, treat eye bags and target specific lines.


  1. #reflexologyforall: with Foot Reflexology (depending where you live) it can take years to train to a 'professional' standard. Meanwhile, the preference of my teachers, who are both self-decleared free spirits is for short and intense classes so that students can learn by doing. And of course, their school is structured to encourage and support ongoing learning. The basic course is just two days after which successful candidates are free to work on whomever they chose. Included in the cost is yearlong access to monthly classes in Milan (and online) developed so that practitioners may gather to ask questions, get answers and experience treatment exchange between peers of all levels. Whatsmore, the first class is open to absolutely everyone! People from all walks of life come together to create a diverse class with various skillsets and degrees of understanding. Together we go further and together we can bring the extraordinary benefits way beyond the reflexology treatment room.

So there you go... I hope this short post leaves you informed and I hope it's clear what I mean when I say that this technique is utterly unique within its genre. I've yet to find anything like it so as the only native English speaker trained to teach, I've really no choice but to share. My heart knows this gift must be spread far and wide.

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