Beauty and appearance has enchanted human beings from the beginning of time. Fossils of ancient civilizations includes ornaments made of stones, clay, metals and precious stones. Even tribal people who are oblivious to any modern development apply herbal colours and other natural make ups to face and body to enhance their beauty and appearance.
Skin, in addition to being the largest sense organ and an excretory organ, is cared and protected as a organ of beauty. This notion is not unfounded according to ayurvedic science as skin, its tone, colour and texture reflects the overall health of an individual. A glowing and healthy skin is thereby a sign of good health.
Ayurveda as a holistic health system, has a holistic approach to beauty and skin care too. A disease or change on skin is rarely an issue on the surface, but a symptom of an imbalance deeper, which affects whole of the body. The cause of the imbalance can be anything from food or climate or any other disease which is not managed well or even stress and anxiety. According to ayurvedic pathology, the main cause of all skin diseases are improper food and habits and unruly activities which implies stress. So to maintain proper skin health and beauty, we need to adjust our lifestyle and be healthier.
According to ayurveda, the skin originates and gets nutrition from the ‘raktha’ ‘dhathu’. That is from the blood and the nutrients. So for the health of skin, one must maintain the health of the raktha ‘dhathu’, or in general, overall health. Coming to ‘dosha’ level, the lustre of skin is influenced by ‘pitta' dosha’ and colour and texture by ‘pitta' and ‘vatha' dosha. Mainly, the derangement of ‘pitha’ is reflected easily and immediately in the skin since skin is one of the seats of ‘pitha’ and also, ‘pitha' is directly related to ‘raktha’ or blood.
Ayurveda classifies people into ‘prakruthis’ according to the expression of the 3 ‘doshas’ ,and each ‘prakruthi’ has its own skin type too.
• The ‘vatha’ skin - Vatha type of skin is usually dry, lacking lustre and has less but
unhealthy hair. Skin is cold to touch. While exposed to extreme climates, skin easily
• ‘Pitha’ Skin - Pitha type of skin is yellowish to red in colour and warm to touch. Hair
will be scanty. Perspiration (sweating) will be excessive. Skin will be more reactive,
prone to allergies, freckles and skin diseases.
• Kapha Skin - Kapha type skin will be oily, with more hair, soft, cool to touch and thick.
Complexion will be usually darker.
As stated earlier, ‘doshas' are seated everywhere in the body, and the imbalance of doshas cause changes in the skin, in the same way they are causing ill health or diseases generally in the body. Vitiation of ‘vatha dosha' in skin makes it more dry, wrinkled, dark in colour and will lead to loss of glow or lustre of skin.
Vitiation of ‘pitta' dosha can cause increased redness or yellowing or skin, inflammation and burning sensation, skin diseases like eczema and allergic reactions. If ‘Kapha dosha’ goes out of balance in skin, it can cause itching, excessive oily feeling,
darkness in colour, wrinkling etc.
Healthy diet for healthy skin:
The key factor in diet for skin health is to avoid mixing contrasting food (incompatible food combinations) or ‘virudha ahara’. Some food items should not be mixed together. For example sea food and milk should not be taken together. While eating chicken, avoid curd (yoghurt) in the same meal. Avoid sour food items like yoghurt and citrus fruits with meat. Do not mix sweet fruits and sour fruits in the same salad. Do not mix milk and honey. Avoid taking honey heated. Green tomatoes are to be avoided with alcohol. Milk should not be taken together with honey, green leafy vegetables, sour items, bananas, garlic and radish.
Some food items should not be taken in excess or in a regular basis. In general sour and fermented food items are not very good for skin. Yoghurt (curd) should not be consumed daily, and it should not be taken at night. Sesame seeds and sesame oil are also not good for skin in prolonged use. Some sea food like mackerel, prawns, mussels and certain grains like black gram are also bad for skin if taken in excess and regularly. Excessive sweet taste and artificial sweeteners also cause a fermentation like situation in the gut and thereby is not good for skin health. Considering food items which are good for skin, the point which is to be kept in mind is to get yourself a good supply of vitamins and nutrients. Also foods containing anti oxidants can improve your skin health. Anti oxidants prevent skin and other tissue damage and thereby slow down the process of ageing and reduce wrinkles in skin. In general fruits and leafy vegetables can be exceptionally good of skin health.
Vitamin A is essential for maintenance of healthy skin. Food rich in Vit A are carrots, fish, green leafy vegetables sweet potatoes etc. Vitamin C and E are good anti oxidants. Food rich in those are almonds, avocado, vegetable oils, fish like trout, dark green leafy
vegetables, citrus fruits, bell peppers, berries, papaya etc. Green tea also contain anti oxidants. Fruits like dates, grapes, tomatoes and pomegranate are also good for skin health.
Mono unsaturated and poly unsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil, coconut oil, fish, avocado etc help to maintain the softness and texture of skin. Another beneficial compound is omega 3 fatty acids which are found abundant in nuts like walnut, seeds like flax seed etc.
Habits for skin health:
Two very bad habits which worsen your skin health and make you looks aged is smoking and excess use of alcohol. They increase the free radicals in the body and makes you older. Indulging in stress is another issue. Other than making your skin look lustreless,
stress can cause diseases like psoriasis in long term. Deprivation of sleep is bad for skin health too.
Avoid extreme climates. Exposure to too much sun, wind or cold changes the natural skin complexion and texture and can make it dry.
Mind your digestion. According to ayurveda, digestive system is the main seat of ‘pitta’ and skin is another. Bad food and bad eating habits can derange digestion and the effects can be immediately reflected on the skin causing allergic reactions or change in colour, natural glow or smoothness of skin or as minor issues like itching or pimples and if prolonged as skin diseases like eczema or psoriasis.
Exposing yourselves to heat and cold in quick succession cause vitiation of pitta. Taking a cold shower immediately after exercise or physical activity is not good. Do not apply any creams or cosmetics in the night as it will block the pores of the
skin. Before sleeping, all cosmetics should be washed off.
Doing a detoxification by purgation or special diet once in 3 months can improve skin and general health and also prevent skin diseases and allergies. Caring skin in a ‘dosha’ specific way:
Vatha Skin: As vatha type of skin is usually dry, moisturising and nourishing oils and
preparations are beneficial. Skin conditioners and preparations containing milk cream,
papaya etc are good. Keep yourselves warm to prevent excessive drying of skin. Regular
oil application on skin will be beneficial. Food shall be warm, should contain ample amount
of fat in the form of ghee or butter or oils.
Pitta Skin: Pitta type of skin should not be exposed to sun or excessive heat. Sun bath is
not very recommended for people with pitta skin as they are the people who gets red and
sunburned easily while trying to tan when many others are fine with the same conditions.
Cooling skin applications like those containing aloe vera, cucumber etc will be beneficial.
Food should not contain excessive sweet or sour or spicy items.
Kapha Skin: As skin is usually oily, regular oil application is not good for this skin type.
regular cleaning and exfoliating process can be helpful for people with kapha skin.
Food shall be less oily, avoid fried stuff and excessive sweet taste. Spices in food are
Some Ayurvedic oils for skin:
In general coconut and olive oils are considered better for skin than sesame oil for regular application. Coconut oil can be used for all skin types. ‘Keram' means the preparations with coconut oil base and ‘tailam’ means sesame oil based preparations.
Some herbs good for skin:
Turmeric (Curcuma longa): Turmeric is an anti toxic, anti allergic and anti oxidant drug. It has a direct effect on skin in preventing and curing skin diseases and improving skin colour and lustre while applied externally and also taken internally. It can be added to food or also taken as capsules. Recent studies has shown that the active ingredient in turmeric cur cumin has anti cancerous property. It can be applied externally by making a paste with cream or rose water for improving fairness and removing blemishes. Turmeric is a ‘warm’ herb. So people with pitta type skin should be careful while applying it externally.
Neem (Azadirachta indica): Neem is a powerful anti microbial and anti toxic which can be used as external application and internally. It also purifies the blood and is an anti oxidant. So it can be used in curing skin diseases, fungal infections and allergies. It can heal cuts and wounds also. Turmeric and neem can also be used together internally and as paste for external application in many skin conditions.
Aloe vera: Aloe vera is a cooling and cleaning drug. It alleviates pitta and can be used for many conditions like pimples, menstrual problems, cuts, burns etc. Aloe also is beneficial both as external application and for taking internally. External application is beneficial for
burning sensation, burns and cuts skin blemishes, skin dryness etc. Internally it serves as an anti oxidant, anti toxic, mild laxative etc.
Saffron: Safron can be used externally with milk, sandal powder or rose water to improve skin colour and glow. Taken internally it has many benefits ranging from being an aphrodisiac to improving digestion, boosting immunity and repairing tissue damage.
Sandal (Santalum album): It a a very cooling drug which alleviates pitha. It enhances skin complexion and is anti toxic and relieves inflammatory reactions while used both internally and externally. It purifies blood, is nourishing and cures fatigue, induces sleep and relieves stress and anxiety. Having a very nice fragrance, it when applied externally acts as a perfume and gives a cooling sensation.
Dr. Prathibha S Nair (B.A.M.S),
Acharya Ayurveda Pharmacy, Alapuzha.