Pamper your Skin with Ayurveda
“Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who’s the fairest of them all?”
This famous question posed by the wicked step-mother in the fairy tale, Snow White, strikes a chord in practically all of us. For whom among us, has not stood in front of a mirror, examining ourselves and wondering how to make our skin more flawless, glowing and radiant. This quintessential quest for a better skin has been well exploited by numerous cosmetics companies across the globe. Walk into any upmarket mall and you will see cosmetic stores filled with lotions, creams, potions and serums that promise to give your skin that elusive glow. But as the dangers of plying chemicals on the skin are being increasingly red-flagged, more and more women are turning to the ancient science of Ayurveda in their bid to ensure that the glow in their skin comes only from ‘natural ingredients’.
Ayurveda’s Complexion Boosters
The Ayurvedic treatise, Charuka Samhita, lists ten drugs (plants and herbs) as Varnya Dravya, which literally means `complexion boosters’. The Samhita believes these herbs and plants act as an “instrument to restore and retain the natural hue, texture and tone of the skin.” They do not change the inherent colour or complexion, but help to remove blemishes, outbreaks and repair damaged skin. The Varnya Dravya range of complexion boosters now forms the platform for research in the world of Ayurvedic cosmetics. The drugs are Chandana (Santalum album), Tunga (Colophylluminophyllum), Padmaka (Prunus Cerasoides), Usheera (Vitteveria zizanoides), Madhuka (Glycirrhizia glabra), Manjishtha (Rubiacordifolia), Sariva (Hemidesmusindica), Payasya (Pueraria tuberosa), Sita (white variety of Cyanadondactylon) and Lata (black variety of Cyanadondactylon).
If your skin suffers from pigmentation or you have an acne attack, the solution does not lie in blindly applying lotions and potions. That is not the Ayurveda way. Our skin is a reflection of our diet and lifestyle. If these are out of sync, the skin suffers. Ayurveda has a step-by-step, holistic procedure to repair skin which involves analysis, corrective measures and healing touches. Since the aim is to identify and treat the root causes for the skin imbalance, Ayurveda may take a little time to show results. But it does offer a sustained solution.
Knowing your Skin Type
Everybody has a unique skin type and practitioners, especially in Ayurvedic-centric Kerala, will first analyze your skin type. Vata skin is dry and delicate. The skin will be cool with fine pores. Any imbalance will cause the skin to get dehydrated, flaky and dry. Taking care of Vata skin would involve drinking plenty of water, milk and incorporating healthy fats like ghee or olive oil in your diet. This would balance out the dryness that the skin is prone to.
Pitta skin is soft, warm and sensitive. Pitta signifies heat or fire and therefore the skin is prone to rashes, pigmentation and acne. Pitta skin requires including sweet and astringent tastes in the diet. Oily and spicy food should be avoided as it adds to the heat factor. Ingredients that cool the skin like rose water and coconut oil are beneficial.
Kapha skin is oily, soft, pale and thick. When the Kapha is out of control, the skin breaks out in excessive oiliness, pimples and blackheads. However, those with Kapha skin are unlikely to be troubled by wrinkles. A cleansing and toning regimen is very important for a Kapha skin. Oily, heavy foods should be avoided. Combination skins like vata-kapha, kapha-pitta or vata-pitta have their own specific dietary and lifestyle requirements. There are a lucky few who have ideal skin, known as Twak Sar or Ras Sar. Their skin will be lustrous, smooth, thin and soft.
Food for Your Skin
Ayurveda imposes dietary restrictions according to the skin type. But there are certain foods which act like a tonic to all kinds of skin. Easy-to-digest proteins like dals, milk based products and nuts give you shining skin. Eating plenty of fruits makes skin supple while grains nourish it. Spices form an important part of the skin improvement diet. Turmeric is nourishing, while cumin helps to detoxify the body. Black pepper cleanses the skin and fennel seeds purify the blood. Incorporating these spices in your daily diet can have a beneficial impact on the skin. Leafy greens add iron and calcium to your body. This nourishes the skin tissues and imparts a rosy glow to the skin.
Good skin care would mean saying goodbye to processed and packaged foods. These foods have additives and preservatives that affect the digestive fire or Agni. The undigested food ends up as impurities and toxins, known as ama. As ama builds up in the body, it blocks the pores and channels that carry nutrients to your skin. The result is dull, wrinkled skin that will age faster and will be prone to a host of skin problems.
A stress free life leads to beautiful skin. Meditation, a well-ordered daily routine, regular sleeping hours and a cool temperament can help improve skin tone.
Ayurveda Therapies for the Skin
The traditional Shata Dhauta Ghrita is a cleanser-astringent-moisturizer-antiwrinkle cream rolled into one. It is prepared by washing ghee, obtained from organic cow’s milk, with water. The ghee is washed in a specific way prescribed by Ayurveda texts. After nearly a 100 washes, it transforms itself into a soft, silky cream. The Shata Dhauta Ghrita is sometimes embellished with herbs to enhance its cosmetic/healing/repairing powers.
A favorite kitchen recipe for better skin is application of chickpea paste. Once the paste is dried, it is gently scrubbed and washed out from the face. This ancient Ayurveda practice stimulates circulation, detoxifies the skin, removes excessive oil and balances the pitta and kapha. Daily use of this paste can gift you a clear, clean skin that glows with good health.
Since most skin problems are linked to aggravated pitta, Ayurveda calls for using cooling substances on the skin. For example, tear an aloe vera leaf and apply its soothing, cooling gel to the face. Or break a coconut and apply the water directly to your skin to balance out the heated pitta. You can also blend cilantro with water in the mixer. Strain the juice and drink it to cool down inside and outside.
Pamper your skin with the ancient secrets of Ayurveda and who knows – one day the mirror might proclaim you as the “fairest of them all”!
Who knows – one day the mirror might proclaim you as the “fairest of them all”!