As a holistic wellness philosophy, Ayurveda seeks to heal the entirety of the person: spirit, emotion, mind, and body. Imbalances and complications in these four arenas tend to manifest quite differently based on the nature of the complication and the individual constitution of the sufferer. For many of us, stress, poor diet, and general imbalance are evident in our physical appearance. We may appear tired or dull, with brittle hair or a negative expression. But perhaps the most common way in which ill health manifests in our appearance is through skin complications like acne, irritation, eczema, and more. Thankfully, looking into Ayurveda for skin can help you design an overall wellness routine that will improve your skin from the inside out.
Your Dosha and Your Skin
We all possess our own unique balance of the three doshas, or life force energies. According to Ayurveda for skin, the health of your skin is actually one of the primary physical indicators of your doshic constitution.
Vata dominant individuals tend to have skin that is dry, thin, and sensitive. Vatas rarely suffer from enlarged pores and are less prone to irritation, but their dry skin can make for premature aging. Kaphas are quite the opposite, as their oily complexion renders them far less susceptible to wrinkling. However, their thick skin and large pores still leave them vulnerable to acne and eczema. Pitta skin is fair, neither dry nor oily, and quite sensitive. Pittas are more likely to possess “combination skin,” which is susceptible to breakouts when oily and irritation when dry. Pitta-dominant individuals are also heat-sensitive and therefore suffer from heat-related skin conditions, like rashes, sunburn, and breakouts.
Your skin is, in a state of doshic balance, an indicator of your dominant dosha. But it can also be an indicator of imbalance. A predominantly kapha individual with extremely dry skin may be suffering from excessive vata energy. And a predominantly vata individual with oily skin and pimples may indicate imbalanced kapha. Thus, Ayurveda for skin holds that pacifying imbalanced doshas and restoring doshic balance is the ultimate method of healing. Following a diet and lifestyle that compliments your dosha will promote health and vitality in every aspect of your life, thereby improving your complexion.
In seeking to balance your doshas for the explicit purpose of improving your skin, don’t neglect the impact of the season. You will need to take measures to balance pitta in the summer or in equatorial climates. Cold climates and winter seasons require the pacification of the vata dosha.
Ayurvedic philosophy stipulates that one should only apply topically what one would ingest internally. The rationale: the skin is an organ and, like the internal organs, absorbs and assimilates that which it comes into contact with. Thus, Ayurveda for skin recommends discarding any products with harsh chemicals. Chemical additives exacerbate the pitta dosha, generating heat that disrupts the enzymatic behavior of skin cells and results in dry, sensitive skin.
Instead, use natural products on your skin. Coconut oil, unlike other oils, is moisturizing yet cooling and light. It is therefore suitable for dry kapha, hot pitta, and heavy kapha. Sugar, a natural exfoliant, facilitates detoxification and can be blended with herbs and essential oils for additional benefits. Raw milk, like coconut oil, cools inflammation while gently cleansing the skin. Neem and tea tree oils are drying and cooling, which is great for irritated pitta or kapha skin. And aloe vera, whether taken internally or used externally, works wonders for the skin. Taken internally, aloe vera promotes detoxification, whereas external use soothes inflammation and moisturizes.
The Importance of Detoxification
Ayurveda for skin maintains that detoxification is integral to a healthy complexion. In a healthy, balanced body, the digestive system efficiently eliminates ama, or toxic material, from the colon. However, sluggish digestion and poor diet can lead to the accumulation of ama in the digestive tract. When these toxic compounds are assimilated, they must be eliminated through the lymphatic system. But when the lymphatic system, too, is functioning sub-optimally, they are expelled through—you guessed it—your skin. The result? Acne, pimples, and blackheads.
There are several detoxification methods that Ayurvedic medicine embraces. One of the most critical among them is dry brushing. Dry brushing not only polishes the skin, but it also promotes detoxification through intercellular processes, thereby preventing future breakouts. It also boosts circulation, producing a natural, healthy glow. Kapha types can handle tough bristles, whereas sensitive pitta and vata types may require a gentle dry brush.
Ayurvedic massage is another excellent detoxification method. The healing oils used in Ayurvedic massage effectively balance the doshas and nourish the skin externally. But, like dry brushing, they also stimulate internal processes that reduce future breakouts. Specifically, Ayurvedic massage stimulates the lymphatic system, promoting detoxification.
Regular exercise, too, improves lymphatic circulation to promote detoxification. It also prevents the buildup of vata, which can cause dryness and wrinkles. As always, be sure that you are performing exercises that are appropriate for your dosha.
The Role of a Healthy Diet
Diet is an absolutely essential component of Ayurveda for skin. That’s because a healthy diet both minimizes the ingestion of toxic compounds and encourages the elimination of ama.
Of course, which foods will help improve your complexion largely depends upon your dosha. Warm, oily foods will nourish vatas’ dry skin and improve their weak digestion to prevent future breakouts. Kapha and pitta, however, might benefit from fresher, cooling foods.
Generally speaking, consuming easily digestible high fiber vegetables is great for skin health. Carrots, cucumber, daikon, lettuce, fennel, and asparagus tips are particularly good for hydrating and nourishing skin. Nuts and seeds contain anti-inflammatory omega 3’s and ama-eliminating fiber, both of which are essential for good skin. Avoid consuming leftover foods, which often contain harmful bacteria that can cause breakouts. Consume spices like turmeric, coriander, fennel, and cumin, while avoiding irritating ginger, garlic, and red pepper.
Periodic fasts and detox diets can do wonders for the skin. They are especially critical for kapha types, whose innate detoxification systems tend toward weakness. Always be sure that you are only performing fasts and detoxes that are suitable for your dosha.
Stress and Ayurveda for Skin
Research in recent decades has steadily unveiled the insidious effects of chronic stress. Stress can impact every aspect of your health, from physical performance and mental acuity to emotional wellbeing and complexion. That’s because stress impacts both the digestive tract and the adrenal glands, resulting in poor digestion and hormonal imbalances. And both digestion and hormonal health are particularly critical to skin health.
According to Ayurveda for skin, certain types of stress affect the doshas differently. Mental stress disturbs the subdosha of kapha that governs moisture, leading to dry skin and aging. Emotional stress activates pitta subdosha, causing acne and sensitivity. Physical stress can activate the vata dosha, causing dryness. Taking care to minimize the form of stress associated with your specific skin condition will not only improve your complexion. It will also help to balance your doshas more broadly, improving every component of your health. Positive forms of stress reduction include yoga, meditation, exercise, and pranayama.