Ayurvedic Skin Care: A Crash Course

January 19, 2021 8 min read

ayurvedic skin care products

So, you’re learning more about Ayurveda, India’s system of holistic traditional medicine. You’re probably trying to figure out how to implement its principles into your daily life and figured that your skin care routine is a pretty good place to start. And you’d be right!

Why is skin care a good place to start with Ayurveda? Well, while of course we are partial to our high quality Ayurvedic skin care products, ultimately the full picture and practice of Ayurvedic skin care involves recommendations that will positive impact the health of your whole body, skin included. 



Your skin acts as a mirror for what is going on internally, so improving the health of your skin involves Ayurvedic skin care products but also, even more importantly, improving the health of your gut, your lymphatic system, and your circulatory system.

Even better news? A healthy gut, lymph, and blood are the building blocks healthy skin AND a healthy body overall – ultimately, every tissue and bodily process depends on happy and healthy digestion, lymph, and blood.

Please note: Since I’ve gone into a lot of detail about what Ayurveda is and its cultural background and significance in other blogs, I won’t be repeating that same information here. If you’re new to Ayurveda, please read this blog and come back here once you’ve read the sections titled “What is Ayurveda?” and “What makes Ayurveda different?”. As someone who is not Indian it is vitally important for me to properly contextualize and appreciate the study and practice of Ayurveda so as not to appropriate this sacred tradition.

First, let’s get into topical Ayurvedic skin care products and then we’ll get into the bigger picture stuff.

Ayurvedic Skin Care Products

As we’ve mentioned, Ayurveda believes that skin health begins on the inside, supported externally by well-formulated nontoxic products and home remedies. Here are the high points on what Ayurveda says about skin care products:

ayurvedic skin care products



  • If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.If you've ever met me, you likely have heard me joke that you could technically eat our products even though they wouldn’t taste good. At Bright Body, our high standards for ingredients exist because of how we feel about Environmental Working Group safety ratings AND how we feel about the Ayurvedic view of skincare.
  • Organic, gentle, whole ingredients. Ayurveda says that the more we can use whole, plant-based ingredients, the better. Harsh, drying, and toxic ingredients are not Ayurvedic. In particular, Ayurveda loves skin care products containing or infused with herbs like: gotu kola, manjistha, neem, aloe, turmeric, and sandalwood. Ayurveda also loves ingredients like yogurt, honey, and oats. You’ll find these types of ingredients in our skincare, whether they have “Ayurvedic” in the name or not.
  • Oil is king. I cannot overstate the importance of oiling one's skin in Ayurveda. Despite claims in the 80s, 90s, and 00s that oil is the enemy and the resulting boom of oil-free and moisture-stripping products, oil is your BFF and Ayurveda knows it. Maintaining the healthiest skin requires nurturing your skin's barrier function - you know, the thing that makes skin behave like actual skin, protecting our organs from the outside world. Stripping oils, not adequately moisturizing, and using products with the wrong pH will damage your skin's barrier. To learn more about nurturing your skin barrier and repairing a damaged barrier, read this blog.

    Conversely, using the right oils on face and body will nurture your skin, its barrier function, and even your nervous and circulatory systems. In general, Vata dosha needs the most oilation, then Pitta, then Kapha. However, ALL of the doshas need to be regularly oiling their skin with high-quality oils that balance the qualities of their unique type.


Ayurveda for Skin Care: The Importance of Gut Health

gut health ayurvedic skin care

Each of us has an innate constitution/body type (Prakruti), an imbalance (Vikruti), and digestive type (agni). Ayurveda tells us that when it comes to bringing the body back to a state of balance requires first addressing our digestive type. Typically your digestive type will match your imbalance, but not always.

Our skin is a mirror for what’s going on internally. One of the first things our skin reflects back to us is what’s going on in our digestive system. Why? Glad you asked. Here’s the simplified explanation:

  • In Ayurveda, our food is transformed into our 7 bodily tissues in a specific, cumulative order. The first two tissues created after digestion and metabolism are lymph and blood (in that order).
  • Our lymph and blood are closest to skin’s surface. These are the two most important bodily tissues for determining skin health.
  • The development, quality, and quantity of each tissue is dependent on the development, quality, and quantity of each of the prior tissues, and ultimately all tissues are dependent on digestive health.
  • All this means that the health of our blood tissue (rakta dhatu) is dependent on the health of our plasma/lymph tissue (rasa dhatu), and the health of our plasma/lymph tissue depends on digestion

In Ayurveda, there are 3 types of imbalanced digestion:

types of agni ayurveda
  1. Vishama(Vata type). Irregularity, gas, bloating, constipation, light appetite. Prone to irregularity/variability. Shows in the skin with dry, rough, dull, wrinkled skin prone to hyperpigmentation. The hallmark: variability, irregularity.

  2. Tikshna(Pitta type). Hyperacidity, diarrhea and soft stools, overactive appetite, gets hangry. Prone to inflammation. Shows in the skin with acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis (any inflammation or redness). Lighter skin tone Pittas typically have a ruddy undertone. The hallmark: inflammation.

  3. Manda (Kapha type). Slow, sluggish, heavy digestion, stools with mucus. Strong appetite, prone to stagnation in digestion. Shows in the skin with cystic acne, puffiness/water retention, clogged pores. The hallmark: stagnation.

Each of these types of digestion will benefit from specific nutritional and lifestyle interventions to bring the body back to balance. However, there are some universal recommendations that all constitutions and imbalances will benefit from:

  1. Stop drinking ice water/ice cold drinks. Drinking ice water and ice cold smoothies is like throwing a blanket over your digestive fire (yes, even if you have the inflammatory type digestion), which slows your ability to properly digest and break down food. It constricts blood flow to the stomach and slows or inhibits the release of enzymes which directly affects your digestive, metabolic, and lymphatic systems. Instead: Drink room temp water and hot herbal (non-caffeinated) teas like ginger, holy basil, peppermint, fennel, or classic Ayurvedic coriander-cumin-fennel tea.

  2. Eat without distractions. Slow down to eat, get settled before you dig in. If you’re in fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system mode, your digestion will not go very well! Instead: Eat slowly and mindfully so you can really taste, chew, and properly digest your food.

  3. Minimize your consumption of leftovers. The longer food sits, the more nutritional value (prana) it loses, they harder it is to digest, the more flavor it loses (taste, or rasa, is important to digestion), and the more toxins (ama) they create in the digestive tract. If you do eat leftovers, try to eat them within 24-48 hours, and add some black pepper – it helps reduce the heavy quality of leftovers. Also, microwaves alter the nutritional content of food, creates byproducts that the body cannot metabolize, and can disrupt your endocrine balance. Reheat using a stove or toaster oven when you can.

  4. Get comfy in your kitchen. Ayurveda encourages us to follow simple guidance: eat whole, fresh, homecooked foods, mostly plants. Yes, there is more specific guidance on what tastes and foods to emphasize/minimize by dosha, but if you’re just starting with Ayurveda, start with the basics of whole, fresh, homecooked food. Check out this Ayurvedic cookbook for inspiration.

  5. Spice your food. In the West we tend to believe that bland food is easier to digest. It is the exact opposite in Ayurveda. To be clear: I don’t mean spicy like hot peppers. In fact, some doshas need to be careful with heat. I just mean use more herbs and spices in your cooking. Some Ayurvedic spice favorites to always have on hand are: cumin, coriander, fennel, asofoetida, garlic, onion, ginger, and turmeric.

To learn more about your specific digestive type and what you can do to balance it, read this blog or learn more about our Ayurvedic Health Consultations




Ayurveda for Skin Care: The Lymph + Blood

After we’ve digested and metabolized our food, our body first creates plasma/lymph tissue (rasa dhatu), followed by blood (raktha dhatu).

dry skin ayurvedic skin care

Imbalanced lymph and blood can show up in the skin as:

  • Vata. Dry, rough, itchy skin (like the above photo). Delicate, thin skin.
  • Pitta. Any inflammation in the skin – eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne. Redness/ruddiness.
  • Kapha. The qualities/energetics of Kapha and rasa dhatu are the same. This is why we say that Kapha dosha has naturally the most beautiful, low-maintenance skin. However, when there is excess Kapha you’ll likely see water retention/puffiness, clogged pores, and cystic acne.

These lymph and blood imbalances will benefit from specific nutritional and lifestyle interventions to bring the body back to balance. However, there are some universal recommendations that all constitutions and imbalances will benefit from:

  1. Everything from digestion recommendations. It’s all connected!

  2. Hydrate. Most people walk around chronically dehydrated to some degree. Excellent hydration is KEY for everyone, but especially for people with predominant Vata. Again, don’t play yourself with ice water – go for room temp water and hot herbal teas. Most adults need ~65 oz of water daily.

  3. Get moving, regularly.The lymphatic system does not have a pump. The way we move lymph is by moving our bodies! Making some form of moderate exercise a regular part of your routine is key to keeping lymph healthy, happy, and circulating. Please note: overdoing exercise actually depletes rasa dhatu and ojas, the subtle essence of immunity. Ayurveda in general does not support excessive, high intensity exercise. To learn more about Ayurveda's view on healthy exercise, read this blog.

  4. Add lymph drainage to your routine. Check out this blog with short free videos on using your hands and a dry brush to drain lymph from your face and neck. If you would like more detailed guidance on lymph drainage using your hands and a gua sha tool, check out this recording of a detailed workshop we hosted all about lymph drainage.

To get more guidance on your specific imbalance, check out our Ayurvedic Health Consultations.



A Word On Hormones And Skin

hormonal acne ayurvedic skin care

At this point, you might be wondering: but what about hormones? You’re absolutely right, hormones are part of the picture for healthy skin. However, in Ayurveda they are addressed holistically, not in isolation. Every single one of the above recommendations also helps balance your hormones.

Other key lifestyle interventions to balance hormones include:

  1. Get good sleep. Your body – including your skin - repairs and restores itself overnight. Good sleep is key to healthy skin, beauty sleep is actually a thing.
  2. Wake/sleep, eat your meals, and exercise at approximately the same times every day. Routine is therapeutic, period.

Looking for more guidance on what to do for your unique skin and body, specifically? Read more about our Ayurvedic Health Consultations and schedule a 15 minute discovery call. 


 

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    I hope this was helpful and enlightening! As always, don't hesitate to leave a comment or reach out with any questions or concerns.

    Until next time,

    Gabi Day, Founder & Owner


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