Often referred to as “the science of life” and “the mother of all healing,” Ayurveda looks at the whole being (body, mind, and spirit) to find the underlying sources of imbalance and disease, as opposed to simply treating symptoms. This holistic approach provides a practical, intuitive way of looking at skin and the care you provide it.
From increasing your digestive fire to detox your skin from impurities to eating foods that feed your skin and hair, Ayurveda can greatly enhance your overall appearance and wellness factor. The first step? Determining your dominant dosha.
Dosha is a Sanskrit word used in Ayurveda to describe one’s unique body-mind constitution. There’s no one-size-fits-all, even when it comes to a so-called healthy lifestyle because what may be beneficial for one dosha could potentially be detrimental to another. For example, if you’re primarily a vata dosha (the air and space type), then eating a raw food diet may be too cooling for an already cold and airy system, weakening your digestion and potentially causing excess dryness ... even constipation.
It’s important to know your dosha so you can implement traditional balancing practices to enhance your positive attributes and also lessen or reverse the more negative aspects of your physiology and even character. Here's a very simplified way of understanding the three main doshas (keep in mind that this is a very general guide and it is possible to be a combination of two or more doshas):
Vata: This is the air and space type. An agile, thin frame with dry skin and hair are all common physical traits. It’s said that most people in the West need balancing in this dosha as it’s often associated with an overactive mind. Vatas desperately need stillness, a regular meditation practice, and silence for balance.
Pitta: This is the dosha associated with fire and transformation. Pitta skin tends to be warm or hot to the touch with a red or pink undertone. Their hair may have a reddish tint with a tendency toward thinning hair or balding. Pittas often suffer from inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
Kapha: The skin of someone who is primarily Kapha tends toward oily and moist. The Water-Earth elements make up the Kapha dosha. They typically have a thicker bone structure with full, oily, and wavy or curly hair. Because Kapha holds a tendency toward stagnation it’s important to use herbs and oils that are invigorating and non-comedogenic.
Here are four steps to incorporate Ayurveda into your new radiant skin care routine:
1. Garshana (dry brushing)
Dry brushing is great for lymphatic drainage, circulation, detoxification, and exfoliation. Here's how to do it:
- Start at your feet and use a friction-like motion to brush each area of the body working your way up toward the heart (to promote purification and circulation). Use long strokes on the longer parts of the body like the calves, thighs, forearms, and upper arms.
- Move in a circular motion around joints.
- Be gentle in the sensitive areas of the body such as the breasts, armpits, and belly, but these areas should not be avoided — just use lighter pressure with shorter strokes.
2. Abhyanga (full-body oiling)
Not only is our skin our largest organ, but it also absorbs oils through the pores to lubricate, hydrate, and nourish joints, organs, and deep layers of the epidermis. Practicing a daily self-massage is not only good for our overall health, it’s also a simple yet profound self-love practice. Here's how to do it:
- Take a warm, organic oil and slather it on from head to toe. Then, start at the top of the head and scrub the scalp with the oil as if lathering shampoo. Oil your face with circular motions and leave no area of your body untouched.
- Moving all the way down to your feet, spend quality time on each area of the body with a firm friction/rubbing motion.
- When you're done with your oiling, leave the oil on your body and jump into a warm/hot bath or steam room. The heat opens up the pores, allowing your body to release impurities in the system and let the oils penetrate deeper.
3. Facial steaming
Steaming is a cornerstone to good health in Ayurveda. The trick is to apply a pure oil to clean, dry skin first. The oil enters through the pores, binds with the amma (toxins) and then is expelled through the pores, detoxing the entire body. Once your skin is clean and ready, it's time to steam.
While steaming with simply a bowl of hot water will definitely benefit your body and skin, adding an herbal blend to the mix is even more beneficial. My favorite is dashamula, a traditional 10-herb blend used in conjunction with heat or steam treatment. Here's how to do it:
- Place two tablespoons of dashamula or another blend in water in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Very carefully place the pot on a table and sit closely in a chair with a sheet or towel over your head and the pot of steam. Breathe normally and allow the steam to penetrate the pores.
- Alternatively, you can strain that same dashamula water and place it into a hot bath and soak for 10-15 minutes. If you opt for a bath and don't have any herbal blends, a simple salt soak will also do wonders.
4. Neti pot and pranayama (breathing exercises)
Neti pots are used to treat many ailments, but one of its greatest uses is to clear the nasal cavity of any debris and mucus that prevents proper oxygen flow to your entire body. Try using a neti pot with Himalayan sea salt in the morning followed by some pranayama exercises to send fresh oxygen to all your cells for glowing, radiant skin.