If you want a clear complexion without slathering your face in harsh chemicals, look to the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda
Breaking out in spots? Got itchy-as-hell eczema? You’re not alone. Statistics show that 54 percent of women have some sort of facial acne, and a whopping 15 million Brits are living with eczema. And while you can apply the latest lotions and potions, there’s the possibility that your complexion troubles aren’t purely skin deep. Instead, it may be that your skincare, diet and hormones, and even the state of the weather, are all interconnected – the net result is showing up on your face.
This is, according to Ayurveda, a holistic eastern medicine that dates back 5,000 years to the Himalayans in northern India. Ayurvedic practitioners look to the mind, body and environment – and how these elements change over time – to find a balance that will lead to healthy skin. “Our skin is an expression of our health and environment,” agrees Sebastian Pole, ayurvedic practitioner at Pukka Herbs (pukkaherbs.com). “When we’re tired or unwell, it can look grey and dull, but exploring how herbs can deliver internal changes can lead to lasting improvements.”
Skincare is a big part of the ayurvedic tradition – it is thought to provide an insight into internal health. Caring for the skin is a daily ayurvedic ritual, which begins with self-massage, followed by cleansing and exfoliating with ayurvedic herbs. Rasayanas (rejuvenating herbs and practices, such as ashwagandha and full-body oiling) are used to support the skin as it ages. “Ayurveda targets the root cause of a condition, rather than just treating the symptoms,” reveals Sebastian. “If your skin is red, irritated or inflamed, Ayurveda would promote incorporating antioxidantrich herbs, such as turmeric, and drinks like green tea into your diet. These can fight off harmful toxins that otherwise damage and age skin.”
Burgeoning in popularity, Ayurveda’s holistic approach to health is arguably more relevant to today’s fast-paced society than ever before – a society in which causes of stress, sleep deprivation and poor diet can all lead to skin troubles. “Ayurveda teaches us that we each have a unique mind-body type known as our dosha,” adds Sebastian, “By identifying your dosha, you can better understand your skin type.”
There are three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha. These are the basic building blocks of who we are, and they’re key to ayurvedic skincare treatments. At birth, we’re born with the perfect doshic balance (prakruti) but habits, climates, behaviours, diets and other lifestyle changes can lead to an excess of one type of dosha. An ayurvedic practitioner can identify which type of doshic energy is dominant in your body, or you could find out by taking the ‘What’s Your Ayurvedic Dosha’ quiz at naturalhealthmagazine.co.uk.
When identifying skin health, ayurvedic practitioners look to complexion qualities and conditions to identify a doshic skin type. Abida Halstenberg, founder of ayurvedic skincare company Samaya (samayaayurveda. com), reveals the main things to look out for. Identifying these traits will help you to recognise your own dosha type and how to balance it.
Vata is dominated by air and space, so vata skin tends to be dry, thin and dehydrated. It’s at its most vulnerable in windy weather, during which times rough patches of skin might develop. Eczema is an example of a vata skin imbalance. See panel, right, for more details.
Pitta is governed by fire, so pitta skin tends to be oily and more likely to suffer a breakout when out of balance. Fiery pitta skin is often characterised by a reddish tone, and inflammatory rashes are a common concern.
Kapha is dominated by water and earth, so kapha skin tends to be moist. When kapha skin is out of balance, there may be clogged pores and excess oil. Kapha skin can be greasy but it doesn’t burn easily.
There are dual dosha skin types, such as vata-pitta (dry and sensitive), kapha-pitta (oily and sensitive) or vata-kapha (dry with an oily T-zone). If you have a dual type, ayurvedic practitioners recommend altering your diet and skincare according to the seasons.
Suffer from skin bothers? The ayurvedic approach can help by settling internal imbalances while soothing topical issues. Here, Abida reveals the practices that could calm complexion troubles.
You’re suffering from… Rosacea
Try… a pitta-pacifying diet that favours cool and nonspicy foods. Take saffron, shatavari, gotu kola, aloe and turmeric supplements, plus drink fennel or tulsi tea.
You’re suffering from… Eczema
Try… a vata-pacifying diet, which will include soups and stews, plus water-rich fruits and vegetables, to replenish moisture levels. Add turmeric, amla, tulsi and ashwagandha to your diet. Neem oil can be used to reduce itchiness.
You’re suffering from… Fine lines
Try… using naturally active plant extracts mixed into oils [such as those containing vitamin C and sesame oil]. These are fantastic because their molecular structure is relatively close to our skin, so they naturally penetrate deeply. Massage the oils into skin to promote blood circulation, helping to firm and tone.
You’re suffering from… Acne
Try… using turmeric, almond, neem and sandalwood topically on your skin [via an oil, for example]. It may also help to include more coriander and cumin in your meals, plus to follow a pitta-pacifying diet.
In Ayurveda, the vata dosha is ruled by the air and ether elements. Due to the combination of two air elements, these effects transpire to dry and dehydrated skin, which can then translate to an overall dull complexion. Turmeric is recommended for vata skin (used on the exterior) due to its natural skin brightening properties. Turmeric contains an active called tumerone, which not only brightens and enhances the skin, but it also reduces inflammation on the exterior and interior of the body. This versatile ingredient is the key component in Urban Veda’s Radiance skincare range, which also harnesses the elasticity-restoring benefits of liquorice and hydrating punch of aloe vera and goji berries.
Harnessing the brightening and antiinflammatory powers of turmeric, this clever oil can pep up vata skin types using the power of papaya and a plethora of herbs and seeds to heal blemishes and boost elasticity.
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