If you’re looking to take your skin care routine up a notch, you might want to consider Ayurveda. Originally a system of medicine developed in India more than 3,000 years ago, Ayurveda is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body and spirit.
“Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old healing tradition from India, linked to the development of yoga that focuses on one’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being,” explains Dr. Natalya Fazylova, DNP, a holistic health and wellness specialist in New York. “Ayurveda has a set of fundamental principles which it uses to describe, diagnose and treat each individual body,” she adds.
Ayurveda emphasizes the universal connectedness, harmony and balance of all living and nonliving things. This means, in order to maintain optimal skin health and wellness, Ayurveda doesn’t just focus on treating the surface of skin. Instead, it encompasses other areas of life, as well including diet, exercise and relationships, incorporating preventive and curative practices such as massage, meditation and herbal therapy. Curious to learn more? Read on.
Ayurvedic Skin Care 101
Unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda uses a “whole body” approach to treat different skin conditions. “Regardless if the problem is inside or outside the body, Ayurvedic principles address it as a whole body problem, not as a separate condition,” she says.
“For example when it comes to acne, a conventional medical practitioner would most likely prescribe a client an antibiotic ointment or a topical product. An Ayurvedic specialist will look at this problem from an imbalance of one of the three doshas,” she notes.
In Ayurvedic medicine, doshas—pitta (fire), vata (air) and kapha (water)—are the energies that make up every individual and perform different physiological functions in the body. 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. Depending on your dosha, potential treatments to regain balance may involve a detox, changing your diet to avoid sugary or spicy foods and incorporating herbal supplements.
How to Take Care of Your Skin According to Your Dosha
In an ayurvedic skin care routine, your dosha type determines everything from the best foods and drinks for your diet to the type of skin care regimen you should follow. While each person has all three doshas, there is usually one or two that dominate. Some skin types may have a combination of doshas, for example, vata-pitta or kapha-vata. Your environment may also influence your skin, so your skin care dosha may change over time.
If you’re not sure what your primary dosha is, take this online quiz to find out, or see an Ayurveda specialist in your area. In the meantime, here are some tips on how to take care of your skin based on your dosha.
Translates to: “That which moves.” Vata has a direct connection with wind and air.
Skin profile: Vata skin tends to be cold to the touch, dry and delicate. They may have smaller pores or clear skin. But their dryness-prone complexion can lead to flaking and even skin conditions like eczema.
Prone to: Vata skin is prone to symptoms of early aging, including wrinkles and fine lines. This may be made worse by stress and a lack of sleep.
Best ingredients for vata skin: Essential oils like citrus, almond, chamomile and lavender. Vitamin C will also help to reverse damage and prevent signs of aging.
How to care for vata skin: Try coconut or other milk-based face masks to help balance delicate and dry skin. Avoid harsh chemicals. Modify lifestyle habits to reduce stress and make sure to get plenty of sleep.
Translates to: “Holds things together.” They are influenced by the earth and water.
Skin profile: Kapha skin tends to be normal to oily, thick and more tolerant of the sun. Pores are often clogged. The skin may be cooler to the touch, but smoother and not prone to wrinkles.
Prone to: Oily skin, blocked pores and clogging. Kapha skin may require more cleansing than the other dosha types.
Best ingredients for kapha skin: Grapeseed oil, tea tree oil, light, nourishing moisturizers made with herbs like rosemary, citrus, peppermint and sesame oil.
How to care for kapha skin: Frequent cleansing and exfoliating are necessary. Always gently cleanse your skin at the end of the day and remove all makeup before going to sleep.
Translates to: “To shine.” Associated with fire.
Skin profile: Pittas are prone to heat and oiliness. Skin tends to be sensitive and break out when unbalanced.
Prone to: Pittas may experience acne, rosacea, redness and sun sensitivity.
Best ingredients for pitta skin: Jojoba oil, sandalwood oil, aloe, geranium essential oil and neem.
How to care for pitta skin: Use essential oils and aloe to soothe redness. Avoid excessive sunlight, tanning beds and even heated rooms such as saunas and steam rooms. Use a cold compress to cool down skin.
Calm Mind, Calm Skin
Your diet isn’t the only important part of getting healthy skin, according to Ayurvedic principles. There’s also a strong connection between your body and mind, so practicing yoga and meditation are also important. “Stress and our reaction to it is one of the things that could greatly affect your health and cause various imbalances in your body, which could eventually affect the condition of your skin,” Fazylova says.
“A great stress-relieving technique is to learn and practice the power of relaxation and to calm your mind. Meditation may help you achieve a state of self-awareness and tranquility, giving your body some much-needed rest and balance,” she adds.
Dr. Fazylova also recommends the following Ayurvedic lifestyle changes to keep your skin calm and balanced:
- Aim for at least 6–7 hours of sleep at night
- Practice meditation or yoga, such as yoga nidra (state of consciousness between waking and sleeping) and pranayama (breath control)
- Eat fresh, unprocessed food and avoid fried and junk food
- Drink plenty of fluids, aim for 8–10 glasses of water per day
- Use mild herbal soaps free from harsh chemicals to wash your face
- Avoid cosmetics with synthetic ingredients like methyl, propylene glycol and petrolatum
Recommended Ayurvedic Products to Try
While Ayurvedic specialists stress treating the skin from the inside out, there are some herbal ingredients found in beauty products that may help your skin and body. See below for our top picks.