I was inspired to write this post by the story I read the story of a lady that struggled with cystic acne, so painful at times that she couldn’t touch her own face. Doctors gave her antibiotics but the antibiotics gave her yeast infections. She eventually heard about Pratima Raichur, an ayurvedic consultant in Manhattan and the author of Absolute Beauty: Radiant Skin and Inner Harmony Through the Ancient Secrets of Ayurveda
A few weeks later, she found herself in front of Raichur, who was holding a magnifying glass to the lady's face, and “reading” her skin. Raichur diagnosed her with a pitta imbalance (which causes acidity and liver congestion) and a sluggish colon burdened with ama (toxic residue). Raichur told her that to heal her skin for good, she needed to address the root of her problem instead of simply managing the symptoms. “Pratima told her that the skin is just a mirror for what’s going on inside”.
After a 21-day home detox and three months of lifestyle changes, herbal supplements, and an ayurvedic skincare regiment the lady's acne had dramatically cleared. Within about a year, she says, it was completely gone.
Raichur showed her how to apply an acne-specific face mask made with red sandalwood, neem, and lodra herbs; exfoliate her skin with lentil powder; and moisturize with a warm, nourishing oil massage.
All of Raichur’s treatments are “edible,” she explains, because the skin—the body’s largest organ of absorption—eats whatever you put on it. “Think of your beauty products not as cosmetics but as food,” Raichur tells her clients. “If you cannot eat it, do not use it on your skin.”
Ayurvedic beauty care is highly individualized. “Ayurveda shows us that the formula to achieve balance is different for each person, depending upon his or her innate body type and temperament,” Raichur writes in Absolute Beauty. “As a result, there is no single type of treatment that can work for everyone, because not everyone is born with the same type of constitution or the same type of skin.”
"One of the first things Pratima did was change my diet,” the lady recalls. “It turns out I was eating all the pitta-aggravating foods . Pasta, cheese, tomatoes, garlic, onions.” The lady learned to substitute cooling drinks like aloe vera juice and coconut water for coffee..
She toned down heating spices like garlic, oregano, and salt, and turned up cooling ones like parsley, dill, and mint. And she began to eat more vegetables and fruit, while avoiding pitta-aggravating nightshades and citrus.
Melanie Sachs, author of Ayurvedic Beauty Care , says “Ayurvedic beauty is about loving the skin you’re in, about learning how to bring out your best and be your best.”
Raichur furthermore says "How do we do this? By addressing imbalances on the physical, mental, and spiritual levels, says Raichur. According to ayurveda, all skin diseases are due to imbalances of the five elements: air, earth, water, fire, and ether.
Much of ayurveda revolves around techniques designed to keep your doshas, vata, pitta, and kapha , in balance.
Ayurvedic Beauty Secrets
“Ironically, many of us think that being beautiful will make us happy, but the truth is the other way around,” she writes. “Without happiness, lasting beauty is an unattainable goal…. And if you want to be beautiful, you must first create a whole and happy inner life.”
Eventually, Raichur says, such an inner life leads to a state of consciousness called sat-chit-ananda, a Sanskrit term she translates as “a state of pure unbounded happiness” and identifies as “the essence of Vedic beauty.” All ayurvedic practice is designed to help us reach this elevated state through a healthy balanced life-style infused with spiritual practice.
Raichur also says “Stop worrying about aging. Make the best of what you have, and the best will come to you.”
Her advice? Slow down and stick to a routine. Eat healthy, nourishing food in a mindful manner. Drink plenty of fluids, practice good sleep hygiene, and give yourself a full-body oil massage every day—it’s one of the best vata-pacifying, anti-aging practices in the world. Together, these activities can pave the way to lasting beauty.
Ayurveda maintains that the ultimate secret to radiant beauty is ojas. Loosely translated as “that which invigorates,” it is one of the three subtle vital essences that promotes health, well-being, and vitality.
How can we replenish ojas? Raichur explains: “By creating a lifestyle that is in harmony on all three levels—physical, mental, and spiritual. That means eating properly, breathing properly, thinking properly, and using the right oils and herbs for your constitution. Harmony creates health, health creates peace of mind, and peace of mind gives you a healthy glow.” She recommends a two-pronged approach to ayurvedic beauty—an external routine and an internal routine.
Ideally, you should work with an ayurvedic beauty professional who can custom-tailor a program to your specific needs (or, at the very least, try taking dosha tests and consulting ayurvedic books with body-mind beauty practices suited to you). In the meantime, you can experiment with these tips and homemade recipes from experts. They’re safe for men, women, and children of all skin types.
Ayurveda outlines three steps to beautiful skin: cleanse, nourish, and moisturize. That sounds like standard operating procedure in the West, but not really. While Americans use soap to cleanse the skin, Raichur (a chemist by trade) writes that “soap can dry the skin and alter its pH balance, causing it to become more alkaline.”
Ayurveda suggests using ubtans (pastes made from herbs, flours, and legumes) to cleanse and exfoliate the skin, and then nourishing and moisturizing with organic unrefined oils.
To cleanse: Make an ubtan by mixing equal parts chickpea flour (a gentle natural exfoliant) and dry milk powder (which is nourishing for the skin) in a jar. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons into the palm of your hand, add water to make a thin paste, and scrub lightly over wet skin in the shower. Rinse off and pat dry.
To nourish & moisturize
Make a body oil by mixing 1 ounce of almond oil with 10 drops of essential oil appropriate to your prakriti: for dry “vata” skin, use sweet orange or geranium; for sensitive “pitta” skin, jasmine or sandalwood; for oily “kapha” skin, lavender or bergamot.
Warm your bottle of oil in hot water for a few minutes, and then prepare to give yourself an abhyanga (self-massage with oil). Raichur explains, ayurvedic body massage is “one of the most effective means of slowing the skin’s aging process…. It works to purify, nourish, and tone the body on a deep cellular level.”
The same principles—cleanse, nourish, and moisturize—apply to facial care. You can tailor your regimen to your prakriti by reading instructions in ayurvedic beauty books, or try this simple, five-minute routine recommended by Melanie Sachs.
1. Bathe your face thoroughly with warm water. “Dead skin cells will soak up the water like little sponges and plump up, which makes them easy to remove,” she says.
2. Make an ubtan with 2 tablespoons of oat flour and 1 tablespoon of water. Bend over the sink, dip your second, third, and fourth fingertips into the ubtan, and gently press the paste onto your face. This removes the dead skin cells without stripping the skin of its natural oils.
3. Put some plain water or rose water in a spray bottle and spritz the face a few times to moisten the skin.
4. While the face is still wet, apply a thin coating of jojoba oil to seal in the moisture. According to Sachs, jojoba oil is closest to the skin’s sebum; as a result, it is highly unlikely to cause irritation.
Exercise & Sleep
Ayurvedic experts suggest exercising at least five times a week until sweat forms along the spine and under the arms. Exercise promotes sweating (which rids the body of toxins), increases circulation, and calms the mind.
Sleep is an integral part of ayurvedic health, and I think we all know it is important anyway, I don't think we need to expound any further here.
My personal note: The greatest breakthrough of my wellness is learning about "Sleep Cycles". I wrote and article that can be found here
Yoga is the "latest craze", especially on the West Coast where I now am. If possible, one might want to consider joining the "fad", since Ayurvedic wellness suggests to incorporate a yoga practice into your day (if you haven’t already). Yoga helps circulate the lymph and blood, tones the muscles, and helps you connect with your breath—three actions that improve your beauty on subtle but important levels.
Make time for pranayama (yogic breathing exercises). Raichur notes, “Respiratory changes affect the skin and body as well as our moods and affects skin's vitality and glow.”
Ayurvedic beauty practices recommend that one might want to consider some form of meditation, but my humble advice is to not jump into meditation as a hardcore ritual, but gently try to slow down the mind in everyday circumstances, like when driving. In my opinion again, there is no specific required method of meditation, just as God doesn't require us to hold our hands a certain way when we pray.
I believe it should be personal choice how to approach it, but perhaps my opinion is biased because straight meditation does not work for me. Although I can quiet my mind for that half hour when alone, when I get back to the real world, my mind is all over place. So, I try to slow my mind down in the real world as opposed to a controlled environment or scheduled meditation session.
Home Spa Treatments
For dry or sensitive scalp: Massage 1 teaspoon of warm oil (in hot weather, coconut oil; in the colder months, sesame) into your scalp for 10 minutes at bedtime. Wrap your head in a hot towel and leave on for 5 to 10 minutes. If you have sensitive “pitta” skin, do this practice once a week; for dry “vata” skin and dandruff, do it twice a week.
For oily scalp: With your head down, dry-brush “kapha” hair 50 times from the roots to the ends to evenly distribute the natural oils.
Heat 17 ounces of coconut oil in a wok until it is hot, but not smoking. Remove from the stove and add a handful each of dried hibiscus, holy basil, and marigold petals, along with 1 teaspoon of black tea leaves. Steep for one day, strain into a glass jar, and apply to your hair once a week, letting the oil soak in for at least 15 minutes before lathering several times with regular shampoo to wash it out. Short on time? Just warm up coconut oil—it’s cooling and hydrating in the summertime.
For eyestrain: The book recommends soaking cotton pads in rose water (which is cooling) and placing them on the eyelids for 10 minutes.
For dark circles: Place a slice of apple on each eyelid for 10 minutes. Apples, she says, “are rich in assimilateable minerals such as potassium, vitamins B and C, and tannin, all of which assist in eliminating dark circles.”
For puffy eyes: Apply a compress made with a weak solution of sea salt and water for several minutes. Keeping the eyes closed, rinse them with cool water to wash away the salt before it stings. “The salt draws water away from the tissues and leaves the eyes looking fresh.”
For wrinkles: Apply a light coating of almond or olive oil 20 minutes before bedtime to soften the skin. Wipe off gently with a wet cotton ball before going to sleep.
Perhaps the most compelling argument for ayurvedic beauty care lies within its ancient philosophy: authentic lasting beauty radiates from the inside out. “We can learn a lot about inner beauty from Eastern systems,” says Kim Inglis, author of Ayurveda: Asian Secrets of Wellness, Beauty, and Balance. “Their tenets not only help in self-esteem and spiritual matters, they result in external beauty as well."
Going back to the first lady I mentioned above, with the painful cystic acne, she now says: “I’m forty-one,” she says, “but people tell me I look like I’m thirty. I have a stressful life, but I have no wrinkles, no acne. I only use edible products on my skin, and I live a healthy lifestyle.”
text from this article in part from YogaInternational~stay healthy~