Ayurveda places much emphasis on internal cleansing, but external beauty care is also important. Very few of us have naturally perfect skin and most of us lead stressful lives in polluted cities. A regular skin care routine is not a luxury but an essential! Convert your bathroom to a home spa once a week using your ‘kitchen pharmacy’ to cool and calm the skin and prevent summer skin problems (aggravated Pitta dosha affects the blood, which is turn is manifest in skin problems such as heat and inflammation).
Ayurveda sees outer beauty as a reflection of inner beauty and peace. It is difficult to hide anxiety and worries with cosmetics! It is also difficult to look beautiful when angry or envious. The main aim is for inner beauty through practices such as yoga and meditation. However, inner beauty must be able to radiate so outer beauty through skin care, diet, massage and exercise tailored to your Ayurvedic constitution are important. Very few of us have naturally perfect skin and most of us lead stressful lives in polluted cities.
If you’re unsure what skin type you have, Vata dominant skin is fair, thin, dry or aged with fine lines. It needs nourishing and moisturising. Pitta dominant skin is fair to medium with red tones, freckles and moles. It is typically combination, sensitive skin. It needs soothing and hydrating. Kapha dominant skin tends to be normal to oily. Kapha skin often has the least issues being nice and supple, but does need cleansing and revitalising. Finally, Ayurvedic wisdom sees all skin as being a very receptive organ, so ideally don’t put anything on it you would not be happy to eat!
Try the following easy steps and recipes for Summer skin care (all recipes tailored to pacify Pitta and cool and calm the skin):
1. Cleansing to remove external layer of sebum, sweat, dirt and bacteria
Ayurvedic cleansers or ‘ubtans’ are applied to damp skin, excluding the eye area. Wipe off gently after a few minutes or rinse with luke warm or even cool water. These brighten the complexion as they accelerate skin cell renewal. They also have the following benefits:
* Improves local blood circulation which stimulates cell growth
* Refine skin texture leaving it smoother and softer
* Removed dead skin cells and unplug pores
* Leaves skin more receptive to absorbing subsequent masks and massage oils
Combine some of the following Pitta reducing ingredients to make your own Summer scrubs, by grinding in a blender or pestle and mortar. The starches and enzymes in these cereals, pulses and nuts will be activated during treatment and work to cleanse the face. Blend and store some of the following Pitta reducing ingredients in a glass jar: Chick pea flour, Chamomile flowers, Licorice root, fennel, turmeric, lemongrass, cardamom, mint, neem powder. If you get dry skin, you can also use some of the following Vata reducing ingredients: Oatmeal, ground almond, milk powder, Turmeric, ginger, basil, cloves, orange peel. When you are ready to cleanse, mix a small amount with flower waters or herbal teas such as: cooling rose water, chamomile tea, cucumber juice, or aloe vera. Otherwise lukewarm water will also work well.
2. Massage nourishes the skin and balances the doshas
Facial massage encourages blood and lymph to the facial tissues, giving a radiant look. The face is so responsive to massage because it is packed with many nerve endings ad delicate muscles. Focus on pressure points for relaxation too.
* Smooth skin outwards and upwards under the eyes and cheekbones
* Make smooth movements across the forehead
* Make smooth movements up neck with flat hands
* Make small circular movements on jaw line, cheeks and forehead
* Circle the mouth gently, then the eyes, finishing with pinching eyebrows outwards
* Use fingertips to apply pressure around the eyes, nose and temples, between the eyes and forehead. Then apply pressure in downward movement from inner eye across cheekbones.
* Finish with smoothing movements outwards and upwards over the cheekbones.
3. Steaming liquefies obstructed toxins, opens clogged pores, releases toxins
Traditionally you would steam the skin at this stage but in Summer this is best avoided as it is too aggravating. Instead, achieve similar effects by using a cold compress instead, with rose water or for less sensitive skin, boiled water with ground coriander seeds which is allowed to cool.
4. Masks for nourishing or cleansing
Soothing and hydrating masks for Pitta dominant skin can be made from ingredients readily to hand in your kitchen. The following are all cooling and calming for summer skin health. Leave o for 10-15 minutes as you relax, and rinse with cool water:
* Cucumber mask: Mix 1 tbsp grated cucumber + 1 tbsp yoghurt. Add green or white clay (available from Neal’s Yard Remedies) clay to stiffen mixture and bind.
* Mask for Rosacea/ acne: Mix 1 tbsp grated cucumber with clay and chamomile/ rose water .
* Parsley mask: Mix 2 tsps clay with 2 tsps witch hazel water (or rose water), add 3 tsps sunflower oil and 3 tsps chopped parsley.
5. Toning removes greasiness remaining, closes pores and freshens.
Apply a cooling toner to the skin with a cotton ball or with a hand pump mister. In Summer, Rose water or witch hazel are both very calming.
6. Moisturising is needed by all, including oily skin, to nourish, protect, soften and smooth
Lighter moisturisers are ideal for day-use with a more nourishing moisturiser at night. Use upward strokes from chin for the face and downward from the chin for the neck to relax muscles and increase circulation. Handle the skin around the eyes carefully as the skin here does not have oil glands so is tender and sensitive. For a home made Ayurvedic cooling Summer moisturiser, combine 1 part licorice tea, 1 part aloe vera gel and 2 parts sunflower oil. Use on face and neck. Ghee is also very cooling (though you have to like the smell to use on your skin!) Try equal parts of ghee and aloe vera or just ghee.
Come on Ayurvedic Beauty Workshop to learn more. The following books/DVDs are also recommended: