Besides being our largest organ, our skin is our best protection against the ravaging effects of the external elements. Therefore we want to do everything we can both internally and externally to keep our skin functioning optimally. Long before there were hundreds of different lotions to choose from at the local market, the people of ancient India consulted the wisdom of Ayurveda to care for their skin. Traditional methods using plenty of oil are still the perfect way to keep your skin, and your whole body, hydrated and healthy.
Women in rural India today can still be seen fetching mineral clays from the riverbeds to use as skin cleansers. Many natural foods stores in the West now sell purified clay in the beauty aisle. When combined with Ayurvedic herbs such as neem, turmeric, and sandalwood, you have an ideal cleanser and exfoliant that gently removes toxins from the skin. You may make a paste with the herb/clay mixture by blending it with water, milk, or yogurt, depending on your skin type. Drier skin will receive more moisturizing benefits by using the yogurt blend. Click here to purchase my favorite Ayurvedic skin care products made of clay and herbs according to traditional recipes.
Daily self massage with oil serves as the foundation of Ayurvedic body care. This is called abhyanga in Sanskrit and its benefits extend deep beyond the skin. Massaging warm oil into the skin, with particular attention to any joints that pop and crack, nourishes the superficial layers while lubricating the muscles and connective tissue as well. Abhyanga also calms the nervous system and pacifies wind in the body.
It is important to choose a massage oil that is appropriate for your Ayurvedic constitution. Vata (wind) people benefit most from using sesame oil, while Pitta (bile) types should use sunflower oil, and Kapha (phlegm) people may choose sesame or sunflower. Perform abhyanga just before a bath or shower because the hot water will help the oil penetrate to the deeper layers.
Ultimately the health of our skin depends on our overall internal health. Drinking enough clean water, eating a diet abundant in fresh foods and beneficial oils, and getting sufficient sleep all contribute to healthy, radiant skin that reflects a balanced environment within.