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Customizing Your Skin Care Regimen
Secrets from Ayurveda
By Vasu Nargundkar
The ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda is creating waves in the
world of natural skin care. Industry leaders are touting the
benefits of ayurvedic herbs like Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) and
spas offering ayurvedic rejuvenation therapies are sprouting up
across the country. Says Rama Kant Mishra, ayurvedic expert and
formulator of the M.Spa line of spa-quality ayurvedic skin care, "I
am not surprised by this trend. Ayurveda has sophisticated knowledge
to offer in the realm of herbal approaches to skin care-ayurvedic
formulations are often complex combinations of different types of
herbs that offer the benefits of both synergy and balance, so that
the final product is potent and highly effective without damaging
Mishra cautions against a fragmented approach to skin care. "Just
incorporating an ayurvedic herb or extract in a cosmetic product does
not make it ayurvedic," he says. "An herb can have powerful healing
properties; but used alone or in inappropriate combinations,
sometimes it does more harm than good. Gotu Kola, for example, has
been shown to enhance collagen synthesis, but when not used in
combination with other balancing herbs it can cause skin irritation."
Know Your Ayurvedic Skin Type
The first step in the holistic Ayurvedic approach to skin care is
finding out your ayurvedic skin type.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha are ayurvedic psycho-physiological principles
called doshas. They govern all the activities of the mind and body
and determine the physical characteristics and emotional and mental
tendencies of every human being. These three principles are
combinations of the five elements - Vata, for example is mostly air
and space, Pitta is mainly fire and water and Kapha is primarily
earth and water. A person's ayurvedic skin type, therefore, can be
Vata, Pitta or Kapha, or sometimes a combination of two of these
"Further, a person can be born a certain skin-type, but over time,
that type may change because of external factors such as climate,
diet and lifestyle habits or environmental pollution.
Such "imbalances" should also be taken into account when choosing a
skin care program," advises Mishra.
Vata skin is in general dry, thin, cool to the touch, easily gets
dehydrated, and is very vulnerable to the influence of dry windy
weather. Pitta is mostly fire, so the Pitta skin type tends to have
more breakouts, photosensitivity, less tolerance to hot food, less
tolerance to fieriness in temperament. Pitta skin looks ruddy, and is
warm to the touch. Pitta skin types tend to be more prone to
freckles and moles than the other skin types. Kapha dosha is
predominantly water and earth, so Kapha skin tends to have all the
qualities of water and earth -- it can be greasy, thick, and more
tolerant of the sun.
"Combination" skin can be Vata-Pitta, skin that is both dry and
sensitive, Kapha-Pitta, or oily and sensitive skin, and Vata-Kapha,
skin that is generally dry with some oily zones. The ayurvedic
approach to caring for combination skin takes into account
environmental and seasonal factors. For example, a person with Vata-
Pitta skin would follow the recommendations for Pitta skin in summer
and Vata skin in winter. The Kapha-Pitta type would follow Pitta
recommendations in summer and Kapha recommendations in winter. The
Vata-Kapha type would be best served by generally following Vata
guidelines, with extra cleansing of the oily zones.
Caring for Vata Skin:
"For Vata skin to stay youthful, skin care products used should be
very nurturing," says Mishra. "They must include some essential oils
or herbs in combination which can nourish the skin and rehydrate it,
otherwise it may be susceptible to wrinkles and premature aging."
A Vata-pacifying lifestyle -- like going to bed on time, eating three
regular meals, and following a regular daily routine -- are essential
components of a holistic approach to Vata skin care, as are eating
foods that help balance Vata and nourish the Vata skin.
Here are some suggestions for caring for Vata skin:
Provide added nourishment to your skin by including organic milk,
whole grains and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
Drink lots of lukewarm water everyday for internal hydration.
Eat plenty of sweet juicy fruits, they help cleanse the body from
within and provide hydration as well.
Include a little healthy fat such as Ghee (clarified butter) or olive
oil in your diet for added lubrication.
A warm oil self-massage is excellent for keeping skin lubricated.
Use a gentle, all-natural moisturizer to keep facial skin hydrated.
Provide added deep lipid support with facial oil.
Get plenty of rest so your mind as well as your body have the
opportunity to recharge.
Use a gentle, moisture-balancing cleanser and splash your face with
water several times when you cleanse.
Caring for Pitta Skin
"The Pitta skin type needs both cooling and nurturing," says
Mishra. "Use skin care products that help enhance resistance to the
sun. Avoid tanning treatments and therapies that expose your
delicate, sensitive skin to steam for extended periods of time."
The ayurvedic herb Flame of Forest can help protect Pitta skin from
photo-sensitivity. But like other ayurvedic herbs, it needs to be
used in combination with other herbs for a balanced effect on the
To care for Pitta skin, follow these guidelines:
Stay away from harsh, synthetic cosmetics; they can damage your
sensitive skin and cause break-outs.
Avoid hot spicy foods and an excess of deep-fried foods, they add
heat to an already fiery constitution.
Eat lots of sweet juicy fruits and have some rose petal jam in cool
milk every day. The rose is considered cooling for mind, body and
Use a cooling oil, such as coconut oil, for the daily massage.
Cook with cooling spices such as fennel and licorice.
Take extra care to protect your skin when you go out in the sun.
Use gentle, natural skin care products for cleansing and moisturizing.
Provide added lipid support, such as a facial skin oil, every other
Kapha Skin Care
"Kapha skin, because of its thickness and oiliness, is more prone to
accumulate ama -- toxins under the skin. People with Kapha skin need
to do detoxification on a regular basis, both internal detoxification
and external detoxification to flush toxins from the skin," says
Scrubbing the skin with a gentle exfoliating clay can help external
cleansing. Kapha skin types may also need to take herbal formulations
to cleanse the skin from within.
Some suggestions for caring for Kapha skin:
Avoid too many sweet foods or deep-fried foods, they add to the
oiliness in the skin.
Exercise everyday to improve circulation.
A daily warm oil massage can also help circulation.
Eat plenty of organic vegetables and fruits to help cleanse the body
Cleanse your skin twice everyday; exfoliate with a mud-mask at least
once a week.
Cook with warming spices such as ginger and black pepper to stoke the
digestive fire and inhibit the accumulation of ama inside the body.
Note - This information is educational and is not intended to replace
standard medical treatment or advice.
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