Ayurveda provides us with a simple adage, “If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.” This is important to remember when choosing skin care products. The beauty and personal care market is worth more than $90 billion dollars annually,1 yet it is one of the least regulated industries in the United States. Often, off-the-shelf products contain a bewildering array of chemicals, many of which are known or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors, or harmful to our health in other ways.2 Even though we usually assume that products like shampoos, face creams, and toothpastes are tested and determined to be safe, it unfortunately is buyer beware. Thankfully, there are many companies that make wonderful, healing products, or you can easily create your own.
What Is Your Skin Telling You?
Beautiful skin is the result of your whole body being healthy from living in harmony with nature, practicing nourishing habits, and eating wholesome foods. We can determine a great deal about our health just by looking at the skin on our face. We can notice if it is dry or oily, smooth or rough, cool or warm, pale or ruddy, or if there are any lines and where they are located. Every line, freckle, groove, and mole has a meaning.3 In addition to a healthy lifestyle and diet, choosing organic, wholesome ingredients to put on your skin will go a long way in creating radiant skin and, in the long term, help with your overall health. Ayurveda recognizes that we all have unique needs, and this philosophy allows us to customize which ingredients and routines would most benefit our skin type. After learning how to determine which skin type you have, we’ll look at cleansing, exfoliating, and nourishing recipes you can easily make at home. These simple practices will help your skin look soft, supple, and radiant.
“Beauty is the illumination of your soul.”
Vata-, Pitta-, and Kapha-Type Skin Imbalances
The characteristics of our skin are often connected to our unique constitution, but when we experience imbalances in our health, it is common to see changes in our skin as well. If you are unsure of your constitution, or which doshas are affecting your current state of health, the Ayurvedic Profile™ quiz is a quick and easy way to find out.
- Vata-type skin tends to be dry, rough, itchy, thin, delicate, cracked, flakey, cold, and prone to wrinkles and premature aging. You will want to pamper your skin with gentle products and a gentle hand.
- Pitta-type skin tends to be warm, moist, pink or flushed, sensitive, inflamed, sweaty, with a tendency to have moles, freckles, rashes, non-cystic acne, and is easily sunburned.
- Kapha-type skin tends to be heavy, thick, oily, white, moist, cool, soft, and smooth, and is prone to clogged pores and looking dull and puffy.
When and How to Cleanse Your Skin
Cleansing is an important part of your skincare routine, and it can be done on an as-needed basis. Generally, you can cleanse your face once each day.
- Vata-type skin can be pampered by cleansing with a paste made of 1 teaspoon of oatmeal or chickpea flour mixed with 1 teaspoon milk or cream and a little powdered rose petals or licorice.4 Gently massage the cleanser onto your face and rinse it off. Another way to cleanse dry vata skin is to gently massage sesame oil on your face, then apply a warm wet washcloth for a minute or two for a steam treatment, then pat dry.
- Pitta-type skin benefits from combining 1 teaspoon chickpea flour with ¼ teaspoon of either powdered triphala, neem, or rose petals, and adding just enough water or lemon juice to make a paste. Triphala is especially cleansing and balancing for oily and sensitive skin. Rinse off with room temperature or cool water and pat dry.
- Kapha-type skin can be cleansed by applying a mixture of 1 teaspoon raw honey and ½ teaspoon lemon juice. Honey retains moisture and supports all aspects of the skin biome.5 Rinse off with warm water and pat dry.
As a general rule, only use soap when you have perspired a lot or are literally dirty or greasy. There is usually no need to use soap on your face.
Nourishing Your Skin
Gently massaging oil on your skin after cleansing provides nourishment, boosts circulation, carries away impurities, and reduces signs of stress and tension. Put a few drops of oil into your palm, rub your palms together, and apply the oil to your face working from the middle to the outside, using gentle, upward movements. It’s convenient to mix 4 ounces of carrier oil with 4 or so drops of essential oil and store in a bottle with a flip top lid. If you use essential oil, be sure to get a pure, top-quality brand and avoid anything synthetic.
- Vata-type skin is nourished by using a base of ghee, almond, or sesame oil with jasmine, rose, frankincense, or vetiver essential oil, which are all good for calming vata.6 You might also consider applying Beauty Balm as it is deeply nourishing for vata-type skin.
- Pitta-type skin is nourished with cooling and nurturing ghee, coconut, or sunflower oil7 with geranium,8 rose, lavender,9 or vetiver essential oil added. Coconut oil is moisturizing,10 soothing, and cooling. If your skin is inflamed or occasionally has non-cystic acne, neem oil is a great oil to use as it is soothing to irritated and inflamed skin.11
- Kapha-type skin benefits from a routine that is a bit more detoxifying and uplifting, using a base of sesame oil with lavender, neroli, or geranium essential oil.
When to Exfoliate
Your skin is continually shedding old cells as it creates new ones. If the old cells build up, your face can end up looking dull and tired. It’s a nice practice to gently exfoliate every week or so.
First, rinse your face several times with lukewarm water to soften the skin, and then apply the following:
- For vata-type skin, very gently massage a combination of 1 tablespoon organic sugar and ½ teaspoon ginger powder. Or you can use 1 tablespoon ground oatmeal and ½ teaspoon of ground lavender flowers or rose petals (you can blend the oats and flowers in a blender or coffee/spice grinder), along with one teaspoon organic sugar and enough water to make a paste. Gently work the paste into the skin, then rinse off with warm water. Oatmeal is soothing and hydrating.
- Pitta-type skin benefits from a combination of 1 tablespoon organic sugar and ½ teaspoon coriander powder mixed with enough water to make a paste. Massage the paste into your face and rinse off with cool water.
- For kapha-type skin, make a mixture of 1 tablespoon organic sugar and ½ teaspoon cardamom or ginger powder combined with enough water to make a paste. You can also make a simple mixture of 1 tablespoon cornmeal and 1 teaspoon honey. Massage into the face and rinse off with warm water.
Weekly Face Masks
Another ritual is to use a face mask about once each week.
- A lovely soothing face mask for vata-type skin is to combine 2 tablespoons chickpea flour with 1–2 tablespoons mashed ripe avocado. Both chickpea flour and avocado are richly nourishing. Apply to your skin and leave on for 15–20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.
- For pitta-type skin, apply a mask of pure raw honey. Leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse off with cool water. You can also add a teaspoon of kaolin clay for its drawing properties.
- For kapha-type skin, mix 1 tablespoon honey with 1 tablespoon yogurt. Leave on for 15–20 minutes and rinse off with warm water.
Notes for All Skin Types
The characteristics of your skin may change as you move through life, experiences, climates, and seasons. Listen to yourself and make adjustments as your wisdom tells you to. Specific skin problems can be helped by the external care of the skin, but more importantly, by learning the most beneficial way to eat for your specific constitution, as well as by the use of medicinal herbs, a daily routine, meditation, pranayama, exercise, and good sleep. In addition to what you apply topically, healthy skin is the result of the right diet and lifestyle. These are general guidelines for everyone. To learn more about your constitution and what is specifically best for your own health, consider scheduling a consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner who can create a program tailored for your specific needs.
As you continue on your journey, remember that beauty ultimately comes from a calm mind and a loving heart. Remember to smile a lot, nourish yourself, and stay happy.