Ayurvedic Skin Care, Part II
In Ayurvedic Skin Care, Part I we explored the health risks associated with almost all commercial cosmetics, lotions, and nail products. According to Ayurveda, anything used in, on, or around us becomes absorbed into our bodies down to the cellular level, affecting our health and well being (for better or worse). Therefore, Ayurveda promotes the use of natural, edible substances, even for topical use.
Our skin mirrors our internal health, especially our respiratory, circulatory, and immune systems. Our intake (food, water, breath, and perceptions) and our lifestyle choices (timing and amount of sleep, timing and content of meals, appropriate exercise, and our daily routines) can nourish our skin from the inside out.
Start With Your Dosha
Skin has a tremendous power to restore, replenish, and heal itself, and we can assist our skin’s natural inclination toward health by using natural, edible products. As always, Ayurveda begins with our dosha.
Imbalanced Vata skin will be overly dry, imbalanced Pitta skin will have outbreaks and rashes, and imbalanced Kapha skin will be overly oily. As you begin to tailor your skincare to your dosha, you’ll include ingredients that have the opposite qualities from your dosha (referring to the 10 Tattvas, or pairs of attributes).
Since we’re using the rule of thumb that we would eat anything we use on our skins, we begin in the kitchen, making our own fresh products.
Grandmother’s Skin Tonic
Grandmother’s Skin Tonic is a tea that you drink. Warm 1 c. milk*, and add 1/2 tsp. ghee, 1/4 tsp turmeric, and a few threads of saffron. The temperature should be warm, but cool enough to put your whole little finger into the mug. Once the honey has passed the “pinky test”, it’s safe to add 1/2 tsp. honey (honey should not be heated, cooked, or baked because cooking destroys the ester bonds which eliminates the nutritional value).
For Cleansing, green gram powder (also called mung bean flour) works well for all doshas. Mix one tsp. with 2 tsp. milk*. Imagine your face goes from your collarbones to your hairline and ear to ear, so whatever you apply to your face, you apply to your whole throat as well. Gently massage in circles for about 2 minutes. Remove with a damp, warm (not hot) washcloth.
Vata and Kapha do well with steaming; Pitta does best with a lighter, shorter steam. Add herbs to the steam water, according to your dosha (lavender is “tridoshic”, good for all doshas). Boil water, add herbs, remove from stove, and hold your face over the pan with a towel as a tent to keep the steam in. Alternatively, make a steamy compress from the herbalized water, and hold it on your face.
Most commercial scrubs these days have microbeads, which are a terrible hazard to our oceans and sea life. Using dissolving ingredients eliminates this problem. One easy idea for Vatas and Pittas is to scrub the face with 1 tsp. raw cane sugar in small circular motions. Remember, you are ingesting the sugar, so this should not be a daily routine. Remove with a damp, warm washcloth. Another idea (for all doshas) is to mix 1 tsp. triphala with 1 tsp. of honey and 2 tsp. filtered water. Or, make a grainy flour from oats, barley, or garbanzo beans. Use gentle, circular motions, and remove with a warm, damp cloth.
For a mask, make a paste of almond flour mixed with milk* and a spritz or two of rose water. For all skins, the following recipe works (if you have pale skin, test on inner forearm or thigh first and adjust turmeric accordingly; it can stain). Ingredients: 3 tsp. garbanzo flour with 1/2 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. orange peel powder or zest, 1 tsp. red sandalwood. Warm the garbanzo flour in the pan and then mix all ingredients together. Use a facial brush to apply a thick layer, starting with the neck and working up. Cover eyes with cotton pads dampened with rose water and relax as it dries. Remove with a warm, damp cloth.
For toning, rose water is wonderful for all doshas. You can smooth it on with a cotton ball or put it in a spray bottle and spritz it on. Let it dry before adding oil.
Dosha-specific oils are used to moisturize. Use organic, cold-pressed oil. Try sesame or olive oil for Vata, argan or coconut for Pitta, and sunflower or almond for Kapha. Ghee is wonderful for all skins. To avoid petroleum products, use oil to moisturize lips–and the whole body as well. If you are performing daily self-abhyanga, or even the quicker version of self-abhy, you will be less likely to need additional applications of oil.
Essential oils are fragrant and healing. Read last month’s article on commercial fragrances; you may decide to switch to essential oils instead. Many people have adverse reactions to being near someone wearing fragrance, but a negative reaction to the scent of essential oil is rare. Feel free to add essential oils to your handmade products.
If you’d like a richer nighttime cream, mix 1/2 tsp. honey with 1/2 tsp. milk* and 1/2 tsp. oil (see above for oils). Internally, a nighttime drink that enriches the skin can be made by warming whole milk, adding 2 dates, 8 pre-soaked almonds, and a pinch of saffron.
Ghee, applied to the eye area at bedtime, is restorative for the skin around the eyes and the eyes themselves. It may take some time to get used to the feeling of ghee in the eyes, and it will temporarily blur the vision, so do this right before sleep. Apply it around the eyes and to the lashes and it will work its way into the eyes on its own.
It is a good idea to avoid talc (which can have asbestos), but there is an easy substitution. Mix 1 c. of arrowroot with 1/4 c. baking soda and 2-3 T. of ground, dried lavender (or 2-3 drops of essential oil). You can put this into a shaker bottle or use a powder puff to apply. Corn starch can be used in place of the arrowroot, if you can find GMO-free, organic corn starch.
Plain arrowroot can also be used as a dry shampoo. Just put it into a shaker bottle, shake onto the oily areas of hair, rub with a towel, and then brush out vigorously.
Instead of gels or hairspray, try aloe vera gel. Dabbing onto the hair holds the hair in shape quite well.
*Note About Milk
When Ayurveda refers to milk, it means: Whole, organic, non-pasturized, and non-homogenized (get as close to this as possible). Nut or seed milks will not work the same way, so if you don’t consume dairy, just skip the recipes that use milk.