The first rule of Ayurvedic skin care is : cleanse, nourish and moisturise. No matter what type of skin you have, this three-step routine for the external care of the skin is essential to counteract the daily effects of environment, stress and the skin’s natural process of cell degeneration. It is the very minimum you must do to maintain a normal, healthy, youthful complexion. And even if you do nothing else for an existing skin problem, keeping this regimen every day can help to improve your condition, sometimes in a short period of time.
Here, you will learn the basic requirements for good skin plus the daily cleansing, nourishing and moisturising routine that is right for your complexion type and special rejuvenating treatments for every part of the body from head to toe. This total beauty programme—which features exfoliating face masks, Ayurvedic hair care, rejuvenating body baths, and seasonal skin care tips, among many others—is ideal for everyone, no matter what your skin condition is at this time.
The most common complaints including acne, eczema, psoriasis, premature wrinkles, age spots, dandruff, cellulite, cracked feet and more can be treated by caring the skin. In both cases, you will learn the specific recipes for the various skin care products and remedies as well as how these formulations differ from popular commercial beauty treatments. If you prefer to buy your skin care products rather than make them, die information in this chapter will make you a more knowledgeable person especially when it comes to distinguishing the true natural products from any pretenders on the market today.
Once again, these treatments are external. While they are vital to achieving a flawless complexion and an all over healthy appearance, alone they are not sufficient to eliminate all skin problems completely, or to achieve absolute beauty. They alleviate only the manifestations of disease and aging, nol the cause itself. For that, you must also cleanse and nourish the body and mind internally, where all disorders begin. Indeed, I can not emphasise the importance of the internal aspects of care, especially diet and all the stress-reducing techniques of meditation, massage and breathing.
Once you have enjoyed the unique sensation of the herbs and oils penetrating deeply into the tissues, and have seen for yourself the improvements in your complexion just from the daily routine, curiosity and the desire for the best naturally will lead you to investigate further into Ayurveda’s beauty secrets. Start here with your daily external skin care routine; the rest of your journey to absolute beauty is inevitable.
The Basic Requirements for Good Skin
All normal skin is rosy, lustrous, unblemished, smooth, evenly coloured, soft, firm and elastic. Dull, sallow, ruddy, pale, blemished, dry, discoloured, sagging, puffy and wrinkled skin are indications of imbalance and premature aging due to stress, poor habits, exposure to the environment and of course, improper skin care. All these symptoms result from a decline in skin functions such as new cell growth, elastin and collagen production, blood circulation, secretion of ground substances, immune activity and enzyme activity, which give the complexion its colour and glow.
Therefore, in order to keep the skin looking young and radiant, your beauty products and treatments must at least provide exfoliation to remove dead skin cells; epidermal stimulation for new cell growth; antioxidant properties for cellular rejuvenation and repair; improved capillary blood flow; immunostimulation and penetrating moisture and nutrients to replenish all seven layers of skin tissue. At the same time, they should not harm your health in any other way, since anything that imbalances the body or mind at some point also causes premature aging or other damage to the skin. The three-step process of cleansing, nourishing, and moisturising the skin—using only herbs and oils appropriate for your skin type—fulfills all these basic requirements.
The secret to proper cleansing is to get rid of any dead cells and toxins not thrown off naturally by the skin; remove all make-up, dirt, grime and chemical pollutants; clear out clogged pores and eliminate infection-causing bacteria without also stripping away the skin’s natural oils and water. Most cleansing products, including soaps, shampoos and scrubs, dry the skin and alter its pH balance, causing it to become more alkaline. In fact, advertisers have led us to believe that the best cleansers are the ones that make the most suds and leave a “squeaky clean” sensation.
In principle, this result sounds good, especially if you have oily skin. But in fact the body always seeks to normalise its processes—that is, to balance and heal—so when we remove the skin’s natural oil content, it will responds by producing more oil to compensate for the loss. If we dry the skin too much, it will produce excessive amounts of oil that may exacerbate any existing acne condition. Of course, if you have dry skin already, you do not want to make it drier, any if you have sensitive skin, you do not want to irritate it with harsh chemicals and soaps.
Ayurveda uses herbal powders to clean and exfoliate the skin on a daily basis. The herbs act as a gentle scrub to clear away the dirt, toxins, pollutants and dead cells, but they do not strip away the necessary moisture in the skin. At the same time, they are balancing, healing and totally free of toxic ingredients.
For deeper exfoliation, we recommend herbal masks at least once or twice a week. (A professional chemical peel, which gives the deepest exfoliation, should not be done more than once a year.] The skin sheds cells at the rate of a million per hour, so it is important to do a mild exfoliation daily. At that rate, it takes the skin about one month to completely regenerate itself and the herbal mask “peels” away the old cells so new ones can grow. The dead cells are also the top protective layer of the skin, however, and if we remove too much too soon, we leave the new cell growth unprotected. If the cells are not growing in at the rate we remove them, skin problems will develop.
For this reason, alpha hydroxy, retin A and glycolic acid, which are popular chemical peels, are much too drastic in their effect to be used on a frequent basis. They are particularly harsh on sensitive skin. In my practice I have seen all too many new clients—like the woman from Redbook—whose skin has become red, raw and painfully dry in the hands of well meaning but poorly informed aestheticians and dermatologists who have mistakenly tried to clear Pitta complexions with chemical peels. Glycolic acid has the advantage over the other two popular peels of being a food product—it is found naturally in some fruit juices for example. However, beauty products often contain glycolic acid in a synthesised or extracted from (the active ingredient is isolated and removed from the natural source), so its natural “intelligence” is absent. While you can use pure apple or lemon juice mixed with a few drops of water occassionally as a natural peel with good results, glycolic acid, even in an unadulterated form, is—like alpha hydroxy and retin A—too strong to be used on a daily basis for dry or sensitive skin. A few drops a day of apple or papaya juice and water are okay for very oily skin except when there is also skin sensitivity.
Proper Nourishing and Moisturising
When the soap bubbles have burst and the skin starts to squeak, the first thing we look for after using harsh cleansers is a soothing lotion or cream to replace the natural fluids we have so thoroughly washed away. Unfortunately, these products rarely do the job as well as Nature. The first obstacle to their success is often the skin itself. Many products are simply too dense on the molecular level to permeate the tissue adequately, so they never penetrate to the cellular level where their nutrients can be used.
What happens instead is that the unabsorbed substances leave a film on the surface of the skin—hair conditioners create the same problem in their attempt to undo the damage of harsh shampoos. This film clogs pores, collects dirt and grime, and generally requires astringents to be removed, thus perpetuating the dry skin problem that the lotion or cream was meant to relieve. If the product does penetrate the skin surface, in many cases its nourishing and moisturising benefits are outweighed by the toxic effects of its chemical contents on the body.
Skin eats, as we have said, but we want to nourish it with what is pure, natural and balancing to body and mind. In Ayurveda, we feed the skin only pure essential oils, which are naturally hydrating and rich in nutrients, and also fine enough to penetrate the skin completely to rejuvenate the cells. Gently massaged into the skin, essential oils help to improve circulation and strengthen the connective tissue, thereby reducing wrinkles. Their aroma also helps to balance the doshas and the essence itself provides protection from infection. For those of you with overactive sebaceous glands, the idea of using oils to remedy oily skin may seem contradictory, if not plain crazy.
However, I urge you to give it a try. Essential oils penetrate all seven layers of the skin within a few minutes to supply nutrients and restore the body’s subtle intelligence. They disappear directly into the cells, where they are needed; they do not leave any greasy residue on the surface of the skin.
We apply the nourishing face oils (essential oils diluted in a base of vegetable oil or ghee) mixed with water (for young or normal skin) or with liposomes (for mature and scarred skin). Made of lipids, the same substance that composes the cell wall, liposomes are penetrating agents that have the ability to carry other materials through the cellular membrane and deposit them in the cell itself. In other words, they facilitate the absorption of the essential oils into the skin. Liposomes also carry additional moisture into the cells, which helps the rejuvenation process as well.
In truth, essential oils mixed with liposomes supply sufficient moisture to the skin so that a moisturising cream is not necessary. This, however, is a very difficult concept to convey to the Westerners, who long ago were sold on the idea that creams and lotions are the answer to dry skin and wrinkles. If you prefer to use a commercial cream, avoid those containing fragrances, colours and mineral oil.
Choosing Over-the-Counter Products
Ayurvedic preparations for cleansing and nourishing the skin primarily contain essential oils, vegetable oil, and herbs. They are simple to make and naturally have a long shelf-life, so you do not have to make them frequently. Nevertheless, many of you will not have the time or interest to prepare all of your own beauty products. If you choose to buy rather than make the prescribed formulations, keep in mind these basic principles when you are purchasing the product :
• It should contain pure plant ingredients exclusively— no synthetic substances, no mineral oils, no chemical additives, no dyes, no preservatives, no chemical fragrances, no known carcinogens.
• It should heal and soothe the skin, not irritate and dry It.
• It should contain ingredients appropriate for your skin type.
Whether you make them or buy them, Ayurvedic herbal preparations and oils ultimately are simpler to use and much less expensive than any other over-the-counter soaps and lotions—and they are also the best for you. They are simpler because the Iwice-a-day cleansing and nourishing routine is all the skin care you need on a daily basis. Indeed, the Ayurvedic cleansing and nourishing formulas completely eliminate the need for toners, scrubs, eye creams, neck creams, day creams, night creams and antiseptics because these two products alone do all these jobs—and do them better.
Toners, which are nothing but alcohol and water or witch hazel, are only necessary when you use soaps that upset the skin’s pH balance in the first place. All moisturising creams are nothing but mixtures of oil and water held together with chemical emulsifiers. As you will see, you can nourish and moisturise your skin using a few drops of essential oil and water mixed fresh each time you need them, directly in the palm of your hand. Consequently, you can get the hydration and lubrication you need without the added chemicals and without the heavy oils that clog pores.
Moreover, the essential oils are naturally antiseptic; and the herbal cleansers provide the proper level of exfoliation and nourish the skin simultaneously. As for the collagen complex that is often added at a high price to many skin care products, this “miracle” ingredient, which is a derivative of animal tissue, has no effect on the skin’s own collagen, according to medical experts.
When you cleanse, nourish and moisturise the skin properly with herbs and oils, in fact, when you do any of the Ayurvedic treatments, you feel an immediate improvement in your skin because the ingredients are alive, nutritive, healing and soothing all at once. The idea that you have to squeeze every pimple to properly clean the skin or massage the face for a long time is simply not true. Squeezing only breaks fine capillaries unnecessarily, and too much massage irritates the skin, especially if the lotions contain chemicals. The right skin care product or treatment should leave the complexion soothed, healthy, and glowing—not irritated.
Potential harmful ingredients : FD&C colours are certified artificial colours made from coal tars that are for use in foods (F); drugs (D) and cosmetics (C). Almost all of these have been proven to be carcinogenic in studies on animals, although six coal tar colours are on the FDA’S permanent “safe” list. FD&C Yellow #5 causes allergic reactions in people sensitive to Aspirin and can also cause/induce asthma attacks. Other possible effects are dizziness, headaches, and confusion. Some hair colouring dyes have been known to cause skin rash, eczema and bronchial asthma. Many do-it-yourself home hair colours contain dischlorobenzidene, a carcinogen that is easily absorbed through the skin and may also cause anaemia, jaundice, central nervous system problems, kidney, and liver damage.
“Fragrances” means synthetic fragrances, otherwise, the label would indicate “essential oils”.
Potential harmful ingredients : The word “fragrance” can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 different unlisted ingredients. Complaints include headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discolouration, violent coughing and vomiting and allergic skin irritation.
NDELA (nitrosodiethanolamine) formed with TEA, DEA, MEA, sodium lauryl sulfate.
Potential harmful ingredients : Suspected carcinogens. Also may cause dermatitis, flu-like and asthmatic conditions, severe eye damage, and severe upper digestive tract damage if ingested.
Paraffin, mineral oil :
Potential harmful ingredients : Suspected carcinogens. Paraffin may cause adverse reactions in people sensitive to petrochemicals.
Potential harmful ingredients : Suspected carcinogens.
Potential harmful ingredients : Suspected carcinogens. May also cause skin eruptions and peeling, swelling, pimples, hives, burning, numbness, cold sweats.
PEG-8 (polyethylene glycol) :
Potential harmful ingredients : Suspected carcinogens.
Humectants (Help skin absorb & retain moisture)
Propylene glycol, glycerine, sorbitol, butylene glycol :
Potential harmful ingredients : Except for PEG-8, most glycols, natural or synthetic are considered safe. Natural glycols are typically labelled natural glycerine or vegetable glycerine, unspecified glycols are listed as glycerol or glycerine, and petrochemicals are listed as glycol, glyceryl, ethylene glycol, PEG or polyethylene glycol, and propylene glycol. Studies indicate that polyethylene glycol may be highly allergic.
Emollients (Soften and soothe skin tissue)
Mineral oil, lanolin, silicones, such as dimethicone: fatty acids such as stearic and isostearic acid : fatty alcohols such as cetyl alcohol, steary alcohol, myristyl alcohol; esters such as isopropyl myristate, spermaceti, octyl palmitate, butyl stearate, isopropy isostearate; tryglycerides such as vegetable oils.
Potential harmful ingredients : Mineral oil is a suspected carcinogen and also interferes with vitamin absorption in the body. Prohibited for use as a food coating in Germany. It is more harmful when ingested or rubbed on skin than when inhaled.
Emulsifiers (Prevent oil and water, the main ingredients in moisture cream, from separating.)
Glyceryl stearates, carbomer 934, ethers like steareth 2, laureth 4, beeswax, sorbitan stearate, cetearyl alcohol, polysorbate 60 and 80.
Potential harmful ingredients : Polysorbate 80 is, known carcinogen.
Preservatives (Extend shelf life of product)
Parabens such as methyl, propyl, butyl, quaternium-15, imidazolidin urea.
Potential harmful ingredients : All preservatives are potential allergens.
Antioxidants (Prevent spoilage)
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydro-xytoluene), tocopherol (vitamin E).
Potential harmful ingredients : Animal studies show that BHT is a suspected human carcinogen and that BHT and BHA may cause metabolic stress, damage to liver, baldness, and foetal abnormalities. Physicians report that BHA and BHT may cause adverse reactions in people with sensitivities to petrochemical derivatives.
Lanolin (from sheep’s wool, ceteareth 20 (cetyl alcohol + stearyl alcohol, made from sperm whale oil).
Potential harmful ingredients : Lanolin clogs pores and can cause blackheads.
Others- Alcohol, formaldehyde, propyl alcohol, toluene 2, 4 diamine, EDTA (ethylenediamine tetra acetic acid).
Potential harmful ingredients : All of these ingredients are suspected carcinogens.
EDTA may also cause numbness and tingling in fingers, lightheadedness, dizziness, vertigo, sneezing, nasal congestion, headache, skin irritation.
Sample Labels :
A Comparison of Three Products
A popular “gentle” cleanser : Mineral oil, water, beeswax, petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, fatty acid, lanolin alcohol, ceteareth-20, magnesium aluminium silicate (colouring agent), sodium dehydroacetate, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben; FD&C Blue #1, FD&C Yellow #5.
A popular “exceptional” moisturising beauty lotion :
Water; mineral oil; propylene glycol; collagen complex; propylene glycol stearate; lanolin alcohol; tea stearate triethanolamine; kaolin (clay); lecithin [emollient made from egg yolk]; petrolatum; talc; magnesium aluminium silicate; cellulose gum; fragrances; trisodium EDT A; quaternium-15, methyl paraben, propylparaben (preservatives); FD&C Yellow #5 and FD&C Red #4.
Nivea’s moisture cream (depending upon body type) :
Cocoa butter or almond butter; olive, sesame, sunflower, or safflower oil; orange juice or strong herbal decoctions; essential oils or rosewater.