Ayurvedic Skin Care
How ancient rituals translate into modern client care
by Annette Figueredo
AYURVEDIC SKIN CARE THROUGH THE AGES
Natural Ayurvedic skin care dates back as far as the Aryan period BCE, when groups of Indo-Aryan natives migrated into Northwestern regions of India, and with them came ancient beautification secrets. Elaborate drawings of women adorned in beautiful garments can be found in ancient caves, displaying the use of cosmetics and what is believed to be scents of Jasmine, Sandalwood and Rose. Early rituals of skin rejuvenation depict herbal preparations using Turmeric, Saffron and Nettle Leaves.
One of the earliest surviving Ayurvedic texts dating back to the year 500 AD, Ashtanga Hridaya, provides herbal formulations for facial treatments that can be used at the end of each season in order to cleanse the accumulation of toxins before the next season begins. This practice restores balance to the skin and prevents the buildup of ama, or toxins, beneath the skin’s surface, which will eventually lead to premature aging and deterioration of healthy skin if left untreated.
SKIN AS THE GATEKEEPER
Ayurveda describes the skin as the largest organ of the body, since it is a major channel of absorption and secretion. The skin indirectly affects all bodily systems due to the constant flow of energy and fluids absorbed and secreted through it. The skin absorbs every ingredient we place on it including oils, lotions, compresses and salves. Once absorbed, these substances are broken down by the body to be filtered through the bloodstream and nourish all cells of the body.
Likewise, we can eliminate toxins through the skin by way of healthy and unclogged sweat glands. Our skin is the physical shield of defense between one’s inner world and the outer world, and is one of the body’s major gateways between what comes in and what comes out. Since the skin is a major guardhouse for what is permitted to enter the body, we realize the all-important role our skin has in keeping us healthy. It is a remarkable realization that one can affect health in a positive way by refining one’s skin care regimen.
must remove internal stress, while also protecting our skin from environmental exposure. Internal balance and beautiful skin will follow.
Historically in Ayurveda, gentle methods that work along the body’s innate rhythms are favored over drastic measures that shock or create a jolt to the body. Chemical peels and aggressive cleansers can strip away the natural enamel of the skin. They can be harsh, especially for dry or sensitive skin, leaving the skin unprotected. Extractions are not necessary in Ayurvedic skin care. Utmost care is taken to avoid aggravation of the skin, understanding that when the skin is naturally restored to a balanced state, the blemishes and impurities beneath the skin are naturally cleared out without the need to pinch and probe. Unique herbal properties gently work to heal the skin without harmful side effects.
During an Ayurvedic facial, rather than feeling squeezed and poked, the person feels total relaxation and a profound sense of serenity. Natural scents of Ayurvedic herbs and plant essences reach the olfactory nerve and sedate the nervous system. Aromas of pure essential oils and raw natural ingredients are grounding and harmonizing. A typical Ayurvedic facial may include applications of chickpea flour, fennel, honey, turmeric, manjhista, nut oils and Sandalwood. One of the criteria in Ayurvedic skin care is that if you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t place it on your skin.
TREATMENT APPROACH BY DOSHA
To customize an effective approach per client, you must first identify which Dosha is out of balance. Here’s a quick reference for identifying key characteristics and imbalances that occur by Dosha, and the corresponding approach that will energetically bring each skin type back into harmony:
VATA SKIN (ETHER + AIR)
Thin, dry, rough, flaky, dull, and prone to dry patches from dead skin build-up. Complexion is usually colorless or whitish-greyish in color. Dryness tends to present itself everywhere, not just in a combination pattern. This skin type is most prone to dark circles, dry eczema and premature wrinkles and aging. Dry lips, brittle nails, dry scalp and dandruff are also indicative of Vata imbalance.
The goal is to hydrate, moisturize, repair cellular damage and promote skin cell turnover. To this end, specialized Ayurvedic formulations might include a combination of highly regenerative oils and herbs like Foraha, Frankincense, Gotu Kola, Rose, Borage, Avocado, Evening Primrose, and Rosehip.
One should incorporate more routine into daily life, hydrate regularly, consume plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and avoid dry foods.
PITTA SKIN (FIRE + WATER)
Pitta skin is more oily in the T Zone area (typically dry elsewhere) and typically manifests as sensitive skin, prone to redness, rosacea, acne, inflammation, breakouts, rashes, itchiness, hives, moles and pigment discoloration.
The Ayurvedic approach is to cool and soothe the skin, avoid unnecessary stimulation, and control the sebum aggravated by excessive heat in the body. Ingredients are anti-inflammatory and healing for sensitive and sunburned skin. Formulations contain Rose, Lavender, Chamomile, Neem, Calendula, Gotu Kola, Amla, Ashwaghanda, Cucumber, Aloe Vera and Coconut Oil, all of which are incredibly soothing for Pitta skin.
Pitta types should stay out of direct sun, and avoid situations with excessive heat like hot yoga. They need to cool off regularly, drink coconut water and avoid salty, spicy and sour foods, which will only increase an already red-hot fire constitution.
KAPHA SKIN (EARTH + WATER)
Kapha skin is thick with oil everywhere (versus a combination pattern). Kapha skin tends to get congested, puffy and sluggish. The Kapha tendency is to hoard and accumulate. On the skin, this shows up as water retention, puffy eyes and cystic acne.
To balance Kapha skin, use ingredients that detoxify, stimulate lymphatic flow, balance the sebum and eliminate toxic build-up. Ayurvedic formulations include herbal powders of Coriander, Manuka, Manjhista, Triphala, Lemongrass, Papaya Leaves, Juniper Berry, Camphor, Black Pepper and Neem. Kapha skin types should avoid dairy, eat spicy foods and use naturally astringent products and lighter oils.
Turmeric is a wonder ingredient used in Ayurvedic facial formulations and is beneficial for all three doshas. It is well known for its cleansing effect on the blood. Turmeric is commonly used in Ayurvedic lepas (facial masks and applications) to even out skin tone, detoxify the skin, and provide a beautiful glowing complexion. Other tridoshic herbs for the skin include Neem, Manjhista, Gotu Kola, Saffron, Nettles, Chandan (Sandalwood) and Rose.
With this unique Ayurvedic philosophy, we can develop a customized skin care approach to balance the Doshas, promote skin cell regeneration, assist in proper elimination of toxins and ultimately slow down the aging process. The result is beautiful, glowing skin that indicates a happy, healthy and fulfilled person.