The Complete Guide to Ayuervedic Skincare
Origins of Ayurveda
Ayurveda begins in the spirit. Ayurveda is said to be an “eternal science” that was first experienced by Brahma before being passed on through meditation to ancient Indian mystics. Beginning all the way back in 3300 B.C., the Indus Valley civilization cultivated many of the foods we now associate with an Ayurvedic diet such as rice, mung beans, urad dal, ginger, and turmeric. This civilization later shifted to the Ganges where the Aryas people lived and practiced positive spirituality as directed in the Vedas. Many herbs used in modern Ayurvedic medicine were first described in the Vedas centuries ago.
Ayurvedic medicine rose to prominence in India during the 6th century BCE, defined by the major thought streams of Buddha and Mahavira. Indian healing methods spread as they gained a reputation of spiritual clarity and reason in contrast with the superstition that used to hound them from other cultures. Despite invasions from groups like Genghis Khan and the Mongols, as well as Mughal conquests later on, Ayurveda stayed mainstream in India, remaining the top choice of medicine for the majority of the population.
With the invasion of British colonists in the 17th and 18th century, Ayurvedic medicine saw a decline in popularity motivated by Western medicine’s intolerance. Many of the traditional teachings of ancient Indian medicine were unfortunately silenced except for in peripheral rural towns.
India remained under British rule until the mid twentieth century. With political and personal freedom, traditional medicine was allowed back into mainstream culture. This coupled with a renewed Western interest in Yoga and Ayurvedic teachings has brought Indian healing practices back into some of the prominence they once enjoyed pre-colonialism. Today, Ayurvedic medicine is gaining popularity in the United States as people look for different ways to heal their bodies. And where better to look than a culture with centuries of experience and success.
Understanding Ayurvedic Medicine
Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic healing systems. The basis behind it comes from the idea that you must balance the mind, body, and spirit in order to attain health and wellness. Everything in your body must be balanced. If anything disrupts this balance - wrong diet, habits, lifestyle, incompatible food combinations, seasonal changes, repressed emotions and stress factors - you get sick.
Ayurveda denotes that each person is made of five basic elements found in the universe: space, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements combine in the body to form three life forces or energies known as doshas. The doshas control how your body works.Each person is born with a unique blend of the three doshas, and each dosha controls a different body function. When your doshas are imbalanced, you develop health issues as a result.
1. Vata dosha - space and air
The Vata dosha is believed to be the most powerful of all three doshas. It controls basic cellular functions as well as your mind, breathing, blood flow, heart, and ability to get rid of waste through your intestines. Common disruptors for this life force include lack of sleep, grief, and not allowing enough time to digest between eating.
2. Pitta dosha - fire and water
This controls your metabolism, digestion, and certain hormones linked to your appetite. It can be disrupted by consuming too many sweet or spicy foods and extended periods in the sun without protection.
3. Kapha dosha - water and earth
The role of this life force is to control muscle growth, body strength and stability, weight, and your immune system. It can be disrupted when your sleep schedule is thrown off (by things like sleeping during the day) or by consuming excessive amounts of sugar or salt.
The purpose of Ayurveda is to balance these life forces. A practitioner may do this by first assessing which life force is out of balance, then developing the treatment to cleanse your body of undigested food which can lead to illness. This healing process also cleanses toxins from the bloodstream. A large part of achieving internal balance comes from balancing all aspects of your health from exercise to sleep to diet to emotions. Part of this process is known as “panchakarma”.
During any step of panchakarma purification, you also need to develop certain lifestyle and diet practices to get the full benefits of Ayurveda. The basis of the diet and living restrictions is to create a relaxed body environment so that your system can focus on cleansing.
Understanding Ayurvedic Skincare
Ayurvedic skincare involves internal and external processes which aim to balance your skin. There are three different skin types - which go hand in hand with your distinct Ayurveda body type - which each have their own set of healing procedures and balancing efforts: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vata skin is often dry and can be aggravated by cold and windy weather. To alleviate this, keep to regular meal times and maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Pitta skin is soft and sensitive, and it’s also more prone to moles and freckles. Use ayurvedic herb blends to help with photosensitivity and avoid spicy foods which might aggravate your skin. Kalpha skin tends to be oily and more prone to blackheads and excessive oil from larger pores. To reduce the oiliness and collected toxins, it’s recommended that you detoxify regularly. For external cleansing, use a gentle exfoliant, and use an herb blend to help detoxify internally.
As with all of Ayurvedic care, there needs to be an internal and external balance for proper healthy skin.
The Ayurveda diet focuses on the foods for your body type. Some types should avoid cold food, and always avoid processed foods and animal products. Focus on eating nourishing foods like vegetables, spices, and healthy fats.
Exercise is also something that is specific to your body type, but the main focus for all exercise is to reduce stress while improving circulation. Try yoga or going for a brisk walk, something that is not too rigorous while still using energy.
Calming your mind with 15 minutes of morning meditation can also calm your skin.
4. Ayurvedic skincare products
Skincare products can take all the benefits of ayurvedic medicine and put them into bottles for you to use based on your skin type. They are completely natural and rely on things from the earth to rejuvenate and heal your skin.
Benefits of Ayurvedic Skincare
Because everything is interconnected, the benefits of Ayurvedic skincare are varied and all encompassing. Starting an Ayurvedic diet can improve our digestion by consuming more foods that are easier for your body to break down. By reducing the amount of inflammatory foods you ingest, an aggravated intestinal system is allowed to heal. Once you’re healed on the inside, you will see results on your skin. Surface inflammation goes down and your skin will have the glow that comes from being internally healthy and well balanced.
In addition to intestinal balance, the Ayurvedic diet and external care routines can help balance your hormones. We know lots of skin irritations and acne comes from stress, so reducing stress will reduce the irritation. An Ayurvedic diet is meant to balance your mood and hormone levels so that your body can better cope with a changing environment. That means when winter comes around with lower temperatures, drier air, and less sunlight, the precautions you took in summer and fall will help you maintain balanced levels in your body and your skin won’t be so susceptible to breakouts. Here’s a few foods to try to start your Ayurvedic diet:
Nuts and seeds
There’s a whole other side for topical treatments. Ayurvedic medicine relies on lots of herbs and oils for maximum results. Traditional Ayurvedic formulas normally contain between ten to twelve powerful herbs. Sesame oil and neem powder are a few that you might encounter. Try oil pulling with coconut or sesame oil to improve your gum health. Remember, everything is connected, so a healthy mouth translated to healthy insides which means healthy skin.
Another traditional Ayurvedic practice is “Abhyanga”, a self massage technique meant to clear out toxins. This massage can decrease the signs of aging, promote circulation, impart muscle tone and vigor, and even improve sleep. It will soften and smooth your skin, too.The techniques you use when massaging can specifically move the lymph, which aids in detoxification.
Like all aspects of Ayurveda, there are specific instructions depending on your type. Each massage should last 15 - 20 minutes with warm oil, but the type of oil and frequency you do this will depend on your skin type.
Vata: 4-5 times a week using sesame, almond, or a Vata-balancing oil
Pitta: 3-4 times a week using a coconut, sunflower, or a Pitta-balancing oil
Kapha: 1-2 times a week using safflower or a Kapha-balancing oil
Start by applying the warm oil to the crown of your head and massaging with circular motions around your scalp. Another perk of the self massage is that it can be great for hair growth. Continue the circular motions down your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws, making sure nor to forget the earlobes. Use long strokes on your arms and legs, but circular motions on the joints. Then move to your chest and abdomen, following the path of your intestines in a big square. Massage your feet last, spending a few minutes doing whatever feels best. Then let the oil soak for a couple minutes before hopping into a warm bath or shower.
Ayurvedic medicine is ancient but by no means outdated. Taking the time to balance all aspects of your health and emotions is important to achieving actual wellness. Whether you’re looking to get rid of your acne or get better sleep or you’re just feeling down, Ayurveda has a process to help you become more focused, healthier, and happier no matter where you start.
Christiana Sinacola is a content writer at Mirra Skincare, NeoReach, Covve, and more. She works as the Director of Content for NeoReach and has a passion for literature. Christiana is bringing insights and critical knowledge to her writing to drive impact for companies.