Dermatologist-Reviewed Articles

What Is Ayurvedic Skin Care?

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The popularity of Ayurvedic skin care serves as further evidence that the beauty industry is always seeking inspiration from around the world. While Indian cosmetics used to be associated with patchouli and other heady scents, the latest breed of Ayurveda-inspired skin care draws upon the 5,000-year-old Hindu system of medicine that emphasizes using herbs and other natural ingredients to treat and nourish the skin, inside and out.

Ayurvedic Skin Care

Ayurvedic skin care principles revolve around eight herbal ingredients, each targeting a pillar of skin care. As described in Ayurveda, these eight foundational herb groups are:

  • Vayasthapana, for age-defying skin nourishment
  • Varnya, herbs such as sandalwood for a brighter complexion
  • Sandaniya, plants that promote cell regeneration; Vranaropana, for wound healing
  • Tvacha, which includes skin-nurturing gotu kola and rose petals
  • Shothahara, anti-inflammatory herbs
  • Tvachagnivardhani, herbs that affect enzyme imbalance and skin metabolism
  • Tvagrasayana, antioxidant-rich herbs to slow down the aging process

Key Ingredients

The amla fruit and the gotu kola plant are particular cornerstones of Ayurvedic skin care. Amla, or emblica officinalis, promotes collagen production and helps prevent photo-aging by inhibiting exposure to ultraviolet rays, reports a 2010 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Centella asiatica, commonly dubbed gotu kola, has also been used for hundreds of years. This anti-inflammatory plant similarly encourages collagen synthesis and strengthens the skin, reports a 2013 study in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology.

The Ayurvedic Philosophy

Ayurvedic skin care is inseparable from the larger world of the Ayurveda, particularly its philosophical underpinnings. The Ayurveda emphasizes the universal connectedness of all living and nonliving things. To maintain this harmony, the Ayurveda advises practitioners on diet, exercise and relationships, encompassing preventive and curative practices including massage, meditation and herbal therapy.

The Three Doshas

The Ayurvedic system divides three key qualities of physiological functions into doshas known as vata, pitta and kapha. The fire element pitta, which rests in the small intestine, is associated with digestive and metabolic function. “Pitta” lends shine to the eyes, hair and skin. “Vata,” composed of space and air, is seated in the colon. It is believed that vata rules thoughts and emotions. Seated in the stomach, “kapha” regulates immunity, internal lubrication and circulation, and the delivery of nutrients to the body. Earth and water-based kapha is key to healing. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that each individual has a unique balance of the three doshas, and that these doshas are constantly fluctuating based on diet, exercise and personal interaction; dosha imbalance, it is believed, leads to everything from changes in physical appearance to serious disease.

The Ayurvedic Regimen

Because the Ayurveda encompasses mind, body and spirit, many products come as part of a “nutricosmetic” family, combining diet, supplements and cosmetics. If you’d rather stick to skin care products, you can adhere to longstanding Ayurvedic traditions by seeking those with proven natural components like vitamins A and E, alpha-lipoic acid and antioxidant-rich green tea. You can find traditional Ayurvedic ingredients in skin care products including oils, extracts, powders and creams. Ayurvedic skin care regimens encourage their application via oil rubs and facial masks to encourage healthy blood flow and enhance the skin’s glow.

This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.

Dermstore Editors

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