Ayurveda for acne treatment can be an effective way to heal chronic skin breakouts. Acne is often seen as a minor health issue not worthy of much concern. But for those who have struggled with acne, it can be extremely challenging and emotionally damaging. Importantly, acne is also an indication that something is amiss with the body, especially when it occurs adults. It is related to a disruption in the digestive process, impaired liver function, and a buildup of toxins in the body. Fortunately, all of these problems can be addressed and acne can be healed using ayurveda.
The Root of Acne
Minor acne can be worsened by an imbalance of any of the three doshas, but the Pitta dosha is the most strongly involved, especially for more severe acne. Pitta acne is characterized by redness, inflammation, and excess heat. Kapha acne is related to oiliness, and Vata acne is characterized by dryness. Pitta imbalance is at the root of all acne and Pitta-dominant people are more likely to experience acne when imbalanced. However, acne can occur in anyone, regardless of dominant dosha, if Pitta is out of balance. Ayurvedic face mapping tells us where acne tends to manifest when different doshas are dominant.
Acne on the forehead is common in Vata-dominant individuals, while acne around the mouth, chin, and neck is common in Kapha-dominant individuals. In those who are Pitta-dominant, acne appears in the cheek and nose area, where much of heat originates in the face. An imbalance in Pitta is also responsible for most body acne, such as that found on the chest, back, and shoulders. Using Ayurveda for acne treatment begins with identifying your dominant dosha and any constitutional imbalances.
Pitta imbalance is at the root of all acne, though acne can manifest in different ways in those who are Vata- or Kapha-dominant. Pitta acne is the most common type of acne, and is red, inflamed, and painful. It is the result of inflammation due to blood and liver disruption caused by a Pitta imbalance. Vata acne is characterized by dryness. It usually presents in the form of blackheads or bumpy skin and is not deep or pus-filled. Kapha acne is characterized by oiliness and is usually deep, cystic, painful, and fluid-filled.
All acne is best healed with Pitta-balancing foods, herbs, and activities. While healing acne with ayurveda, it is important to continue to eat and move in a way that balances your dominant dosha, even as you work to balance Pitta.
Avoid foods that aggravate Pitta, such as spicy food, or fermented foods like alcohol, pickles, vinegar, tomatoes, and yeast. It is also important to avoid nuts, bell peppers, eggplant, seafood, and sour foods. Refrain from mixing incompatible foods such as milk and melon, milk or yogurt with sour foods, or fruit with other foods.
Favor green leafy vegetables, sweet fruits, and squash, or bitter foods such as dandelion greens. Dark grapes, sweet pineapple, sweet apples, mangoes, and figs are excellent choices that will help to balance Pitta and cool the body. Diet is the best place to start to calm and heal acne with ayurveda.
Drink teas that cool and calm Pitta:
Pitta-Balancing Tea Recipe:
Yoga is central to ayurveda and is the ideal exercise for balancing Pitta and targeting the inner organs for improved circulation and detoxification. Practicing yoga is an essential part of using ayurveda for acne healing. Early morning or evening practice is best, as mid-day heat can further aggravate Pitta. It can be tempting for those who are Pitta-dominant to try to work at full capacity, but it is best to move slowly and stop when you have reached about 50% of your maximum effort.
If you are Kapha-dominant, it can be helpful to continue Kapha-balancing activities that are a little more vigorous, such as brisk walking. Be sure to do all activity in the morning when it is still cool, so as not to aggravate Pitta.
Pitta skin is sensitive, congested, and easily inflamed. Cool water is best, and gentle soap is generally ok, but should not be used every day. Neem and aloe soap is a great option. Rinsing the face on most days is sufficient. The skin can heal and balance itself naturally once you stop cleansing daily with harsh soaps.
Vata acne is characterized by dryness. It usually presents in the form of blackheads or bumpy skin and is not deep or pus-filled. Vata skin is typically thin and dry, so it is best to avoid foaming soaps and cleansers and hot water, which can irritate the skin. Instead, use tepid water to rinse the face. Oil cleansing using sesame oil or coconut oil is a great alternative to soaps.
Because Kapha skin tends toward oiliness, soap and warm water work well for cleansing. Activated charcoal soap helps to balance oily skin and can work well to heal Kapha acne.
Turmeric and Sandalwood Mask
Combine turmeric and sandalwood powder with just enough water to make a paste. Spread on the affected area once per day. Wash off after 15 minutes.
Chickpea and Clay Mask
Combine all dry ingredients with enough rose water to make a paste. Spread over the affected area and let mask sit for 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water. Repeat 2-3 times per week.
Neem and Tulsi Mask
- 1 Tablespoon Chickpea Flour
- 1/2 tsp dried Neem Leaf Powder
- 1/2 tsp dried Tulsi Leaves
- 1/4 tsp Triphala Powder
- 1/8 tsp Turmeric Powder
Combine all ingredients with enough water to make a paste. Apply to the skin and let mask sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Repeat 1-2 times per week.
Ayurvedic Herbs and Supplements for Healing Acne
Along with Pitta-balancing activities and dietary changes, ayurvedic supplements are an effective tool for healing acne.
- Aloe Vera juice – Aloe vera is astringent and sweet. Pacifying to pitta and kapha, it balances the digestive system and helps to calm skin inflammation. Drink 1/2 cup twice daily until acne clears.
- Neem Tablets – Neem is a cooling, astringent herb. It is pacifying to both pitta and kapha and eases skin inflammations, cleanses the liver and blood, and detoxifies the body.
- Liver Formula – The liver is the center of detoxification, and healthy liver is essential for skin and overall body health. Detoxifying the liver is essential for balancing pitta. Banyan Botanicals has formulated a supplement with a combination of pitta-balancing herbs that are bitter and cleansing.
- HealThy Skin Formula – Banyan Botanicals designed a healthy skin formula that nourishes skin from the inside out to calm the skin and pacify pitta.
- Pitta Digest – Proper digestion is essential for clear, healthy skin and for properly-functioning organs throughout the body. Pitta digest helps to maintain a healthy stomach and digestion.
Other Methods for Treating Acne
Probiotic Skin Care
Air pollutants, chlorinated water, toxic skin products, and harsh cleansers can can damage the delicate balance of bacteria on the skin. Sometimes, even a balanced body can experience some acne if the skin microbiome is not restored to a healthy state. Probiotic skin products are an excellent tool to help balance and restore skin bacteria. I have had excellent results with Mother Dirt products, especially the AO+ mist.
Use it after showering and before getting dressed to give the skin microbiome a boost and to help bring the skin microbiome into long-term balance. If you live in a city or another area with a lot of air pollution, it is good to use the mist regularly in order to maintain a good bacterial balance on the skin and continue to prevent acne breakouts. This is best used in conjunction with ayurveda for the treatment of acne, so that both the skin and the body as a whole can become balanced.
Low Histamine Diet
Acne can be aggravated by high-histamine foods for those with histamine intolerance. Avoiding foods that are high in histamine can heal skin aggravation and acne. The following is a list of the foods that are highest in histamine and the most helpful to avoid:
- Fermented foods – alcohol, kombucha, sauerkraut, soy sauce, foods containing yeast, etc.
- Citrus fruits – lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.
- Smoked or cured meats – Bacon, sausage, etc.
A low histamine diet is highly compatible with ayurveda. Many of these food guidelines overlap with Pitta guidelines, which I believe is one of the reasons following a low-histamine diet was so helpful for me in healing acne.
Supplements for Histamine Intolerance:
- Quercetin – A naturally-occurring antihistamine that is present in black tea, apples, cherries, and berries.
- Vitamin C – Increases DAO, which in turn decreases histamine
- SAM-e – May help break down histamine through methylation
- Magnesium – A deficiency in magnesium can decrease the threshold for allergic reaction
- Vitamin B6 – Cofactor of DAO, helps to break down histamine
- Zinc – Anti-inflammatory and constrains histamine release
For more information on histamines and histamine intolerance, the Low Histamine Chef is an incredible resource.
Most cosmetics contain toxins that can seep into facial pores and into the bloodstream, worsening toxin buildup. Makeup also covers the skin, preventing it from breathing and not allowing the natural detoxification process through with the skin clears itself. Makeup and many other skin products can make acne worse, so it is helpful to go as often and for as long as possible without using cosmetics. If you must use makeup or skin creams, choose products that are safer and do not contain harmful chemicals. These are a few good options:
Ayurveda is a powerful tool in healing and balancing the body in all aspects, and using ayurveda for acne treatment can have a profound effect on the skin.
Please reach out with any thought or questions in the comments. I would love to hear from you!