Skin is the sensory organ of touch. It separates us from our environment, allowing nutrients into the system and preventing pathogens from entering. The health of the skin is closely tied to the health of the digestive tract, so skin can tell us a lot about what is going on inside the body.
Ayurvedic skin care focuses on both external and internal health. Skin disease can develop when the skin is clogged with toxins and when digestion is compromised. Thus, skin improves when digestion is healthy, and the digestive tract becomes healthier when the skin is cleansed of toxins and impurities. Because it can impact overall bodily health, it is important to keep the skin healthy and clear of toxins.
Pitta skin is fair, soft, lustrous, and warm. It is usually coppery or yellowish with freckles and tends to burn easily in the sun. When out of balance, Pitta skin has a tendency toward rashes, acne, and eczema. Because skin has less of a tendency toward dryness, Pittas are less prone to wrinkles than are Vatas. Those with a Pitta skin type need to stay cool to keep the body and skin in balance.
Ayurvedic skin care for Pitta begins with nourishing the skin from the inside by eating Pitta-balancing nutrient dense diet. 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. Foods with high water content help to evaporate heat from your skin and keep Pittas cool. Diet is the best place to start to nourish the body and the skin.
Skin Care Routine
Do not use soap to cleanse the skin. Instead, make a cleansing mask using oat or chickpea flour and water. Combine to create a paste and gently press onto the face. Rinse with warm water. Use gentle skin care products for moisturizing the skin. Jojoba oil is the closest oil to skin’s sebum, and is consequently very calming and nourishing. It is also unlikely to irritate the skin.
Coconut oil is cooling and can soothe aggravated or dry Pitta skin, especially on the face. Neem oil is good for cooling skin on the rest of the body. It reduces Pitta on the skin, and is especially good to use following exposure to the sun. Aloe vera and coconut water are also helpful for cooling the skin after spending time in the sun.
Take extra care when you go out in the sun. Pitta skin is sensitive to sun and can burn easily. Hats that shade your face are the best option to protect skin on the face. If you are outside and exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, choose a non-toxic mineral-based sunscreen like Badger brand.
- Amla Berry
- Fennel Seeds – Chew a pinch of seeds after a meal to aid digestion
- Brahmi/Gotu Kola (powder|extract)
- Healthy Skin Supplement
Kapha skin is soft, lustrous, pale, and oily. The complexion is fair and bright and is not prone to dryness. Kapha skin tends to be plump and full of moisture, leading it to age slowly. The skin can accumulate more toxins, so the main focus should be on detoxification.
Ayurvedic skin care for Kapha begins with supporting skin health from within by eating a Kapha-balancing diet that is rich in nutrients. Avoid foods that aggravate Kapha. These include sweet, heavy fruits like bananas, mangoes, dates, and avocados, as well as nuts, seeds, dairy, meat, and excessive amounts of salt. Refrain from mixing incompatible foods such as milk and melon, milk or yogurt with sour foods, or fruit with other foods.
Favor all types of vegetables, aside from root vegetables, and consume plenty of legumes (except for kidney, soy, and mung beans). Spicy foods help to stimulate metabolism and improve digestion. Choose spicy vegetables like green chilis and horseradish and spices such as black pepper.
Skin Care Routine
Avoid harsh and drying soaps. Kapha skin tends toward oily-ness and can benefit from very gentle cleansing. Try a natural activated charcoal soap like Healthy Skin Supplement made with goat’s milk. Activated charcoal helps to balance oily skin and prevent acne.
Kapha skin rarely requires additional moisturizing. If your skin does become dry, jojoba oil is an excellent choice. Because it is so similar to the skin’s natural sebum, it nourishes the skin without causing excessive oil production. Jojoba is the best oil for acne-prone skin.
Like food, herbs can help to balance the body and nourish skin. Kapha skin benefits from metabolism-boosting herbs that facilitate detoxification These are some of the best Kapha-balancing herbs to support skin health:
Vata skin is thin, dry, darkish, and cool. Because it is so dry and thin, it is important for Vata skin to be hydrated and well-nourished. It is prone to damage and wrinkles if not taken care of, making people with Vata skin appear to age more quickly.
Ayurvedic skin care for Vata begins with eating Vata-balancing diet that nourishes the skin from the inside and optimizes digestion. Avoid foods that aggravate Vata, such as raw vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, dried fruits, cranberries, corn, and rye. Refrain from mixing incompatible foods such as milk and melon, milk or yogurt with sour foods, or fruit with other foods.
Favor fats and oils, which nourish the skin and soothe digestion. Choose cooked vegetables, especially asparagus, beets and carrots. Include sweet fruits such as bananas, mangoes, cherries, and papaya. Flavor your meals with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, or cumin.
Skin Care Routine
Avoid using any soap-based cleansers, especially on the face. Soaps will worsen dryness and accelerate aging. Try oil-cleansing instead, or gently rinse the face with warm water. It is very important to moisturize Vata skin. Sesame oil or Ghee help to balance Vata skin and increase suppleness.
Use rosehip oil to slow aging. Rosehip oil nourishes and moisturizes the skin and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. It can also help scars to fade more quickly.
Like food, herbs can help to balance the body and nourish skin. These are some of the best Vata-balancing herbs to support skin health:
Avoid using soap unless absolutely necessary. Soap removes the skin’s protective mantle and disrupts its delicate microbial balance. This disruption can cause increased body odor and cause or worsen skin disease. Especially avoid using soap on diseased skin areas.
For further cleansing and purification, make a skin mask out of oil and flour. Mix a half cup of oil with one cup of chickpea or barley flour and a half teaspoon of turmeric. Add enough water to make a thick, spreadable paste and apply it evenly over the body. Let dry until it begins to crack, then rinse it off with cool or slightly warm water.
Regular oil massage is an important part of Ayurvedic skin care. Massage is helpful for maintaining the health of the skin and overall body. Frequent self-massage is wonderful. It is also very beneficial to seek professional massage on occasion. Massage helps the skin in a number of ways. It keeps the skin soft and supple and improves blood circulation to improve the efficiency of metabolic waste removal.
The ideal type of massage and the best of oils to use depend on your constitution.
Don’t know your Ayurvedic constitution? Discover it here.
Pitta types benefit from receiving a variety of different massage types to keep the mind occupied. Try, acupressure, shiatsu, Swedish, and other techniques are all beneficial. Pitta tissues are very tender and prone to irritability. Regular massage helps to prevent aggravation.
Olive oil, coconut butter, coconut oil, and sunflower oil have cooling properties, and are beneficial for those with a Pitta constitution. Add a few drops of lavender or sandalwood oil to whichever oil you use. Another option is to use a pre-blended oil. I have been really happy with this Pitta massage oil, which is formulated for Pitta skin.
Deep-tissue massage with firm hands is best for Kapha. Strong fingers and harsher techniques help to awaken sluggish circulation and promote the elimination of cellular wastes.
Oils should be used sparingly or not at all. For some lubrication, use drier oils like sunflower or safflower oil. Mustard oil can be used in the winter. You could also try this Kapha massage oil, which is an oil blend specifically formulated for Kapha skin.
Massage is more important for Vata than for Pitta or Kapha, as touch is most acute in Vata. Vata types need to be touched more than other people, and touch is especially therapeutic. The use of oils on the skin helps to prevent damage to delicate Vata skin and is an essential component of the Ayurvedic strategy for managing Vata-caused conditions. Weekly massage is best, ideally at the same scheduled time and day of week.
All oils are good for Vata, especially sesame, almond, mustard, or castor oil. If you are looking for a pre-made blend formulated for Vata skin, I highly recommend Vata massage oil from Banyan Botanicals. When performing self-massage, work in the direction your hairs grow to help oil get into the hair follicles. Vata skin tends to be dry with closed hair follicles, and this technique helps to relieve dryness and open hair follicles.
Many skin conditions are traditionally treated in Ayurveda using blood letting. The most common are urticaria (hives), eczema, acne, rash, scabies, and chronic itching. For many people in western cultures, blood letting can sound scary, archaic, and/or unscientific. However, there is a good deal of historical precedent and medical reasoning to support its effectiveness.
For thousands of years humans experienced substantial blood loss on occasion due to the dangers of everyday life. Although blood loss sounds like a bad thing, it likely helped to detoxify and balance the body. One excellent example is the tendency to over accumulate iron in the blood. Men in particular are at risk of developing iron levels that are too high.
One of the only ways to address the issue of excess iron is to remove some blood from the body. Other toxins can build up in the body as well, and can be removed through the loss of some blood.
You are unlikely to find a conventional medical practitioner who will perform bloodletting to detoxify the body. However, there is a safe, modern, and very socially-acceptable form of bloodletting that people regularly participate in: Donating blood. Though not a cure-all, donating blood can help with the maintenance of healthy iron levels. It can also be part of an Ayurvedic strategy for treating skin conditions and maintaining healthy skin.
Treating Skin Conditions
Ayurvedic skin care starts from within the body, with dosha-balancing foods and activities. Beyond that, there topical treatments that can help to treat some common skin conditions.
Hives and Rash
Baking Soda – Baking soda can be used to calm hives, rash, and skin infections. Add half a cup to a bath, or combine with water to make a paste and apply to affected area.
Turmeric – Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as a paste on bruises to treat pain, swelling, and inflammation. Combine Turmeric powder with water and a pinch of salt to make a paste.
Aloe – Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory and can help to cool the inflammation that contributes to redness and swelling. Massage aloe vera gel into skin until dry, then rinse with water.
Sandalwood and Turmeric – Mix equal parts sandalwood and turmeric powder with enough water to make a paste. Apply to affected area and leave on skin for 15-20 minutes before rinsing to help cool inflammation and calm acne.
Check out this post for more information about ayurvedic acne treatment.
Neem Oil – Apply oil directly to the affected area and leave on the skin. Neem helps to calm and heal eczema.
Aloe Vera – Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory and can help to ease discomfort associated with eczema. Very gently massage aloe vera gel into the skin on affected areas.
Check out this post for more information about Ayurvedic treatment for eczema.
Anti-Aging Ayurvedic Skin Care
Food and Movement
As with other aspects of Ayurvedic skin care, effective anti-aging routines begin with nourishing food and constitution-balancing movement. Start by avoiding processed food, added sugar, and trans fats. If you are looking for more specific dietary suggestions, take a look at the pages for Pitta, Kapha, and Vata.
It is also important to stay active and keep blood circulating in order to nourish cells throughout the entire body. Regular walking and yoga are excellent for any constitution. Kapha types can benefit from more vigorous activity and have excellent endurance potential. Pitta and Vata are better off pursuing activities that are more gentle. Vata benefits from relaxation and Pitta from exercise that is not too heating.
Herbs can be an excellent supplement to nourishing diet and movement in slowing down the skin aging process. There are several herbs that can improve skin elasticity and suppleness.
Gotu Kola – An excellent herb for the treatment of skin conditions, gotu kola can also help slow skin aging. It promotes collagen synthesis and balances all three doshas.
Amla – Amla has antioxidant properties that prevent cellular damage, and can help to prevent wrinkles and skin dullness.
Turmeric – Turmeric is an essential tool for promoting health and preventing skin aging. It is anti-inflammatory and very high in antioxidants, which helps to prevent cellular damage and to slow down the skin aging process.
Yashtimadhu – Licorice is particularly beneficial in preventing UV damage, due in part to its impressive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Shilajit – Helps to promote a youthful physical constitution and younger-looking skin. Helps with diminishing physical and mental stress, which prevents cellular and skin aging.
Topical herbs and tonics are another component of Ayurvedic skin care for anti-aging purposes. Many can help to slow the development of fine lines and wrinkles and can help skin to maintain volume and suppleness.
Neem Oil – Neem has impressive rejuvenative properties. It is full of antioxidants that protect skin cells from damage. It is also high in vitamin E and fatty acids, which can help to restore skin elasticity.
Lavender Oil – A few drops of lavender can be added to water and applied to the face. It helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and its anti-inflammatory properties help with the treatment of acne and sunburn.
Rosehip Oil – Rosehip oil is impressive in its ability to fade the appearance of scars, fine lines, and wrinkles. It nourishes skin, giving it a healthy glow, and is an incredible for its anti-aging capabilities.
Honey – Skin aging stems in part from insufficient moisture. Honey is a wonderful moisturizing agent that is full of minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids that prevent cellular skin damage. It also has antibacterial properties that can help to prevent and heal acne. It is important to use raw honey, as heat destroys honey’s beneficial properties.
There are many components to Ayurvedic skin care. What you put in your body is the most important aspect of internal and skin health, so it is valuable to know your constitution and engage in practices that are the most balancing and nourishing. Topical and herbal treatments are also valuable tools in achieving optimal skin health. Ayurvedic skin care has multiple components, all of which can help you achieve your healthiest, most youthful-looking skin.
Do you have any thoughts or questions? I would love to hear from you in the comments!