ayurvedic skincare basics
by Jeanna Suber Ray, Licensed Esthetician and Certified Ayurvedic Health Counselor
Ayurvedic Skincare: An Intro to Achieving Balance Through the Doshas
True beauty is a direct result of reverent self-care. The use of foods, herbs, and oils is vital for self-care in Ayurveda, by taking them internally or applying them on our skin. In Ayurveda, the skin is considered a manifestation of inner health – the beauty comes from within.
From an Ayurvedic standpoint, each of us is born with a unique constitution. Our constitution is made up of one or a combination of the three types Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each type is characterized by a set of internal and external traits. Our job is to keep ourselves balanced so as not to be dominated by one or a few characteristics, but rather a unique balance of them. Many variables can throw this balance off like stress, pollution, seasonal changes, etc. The key to balancing is filling our lifestyle with dosha centric rituals – that target this balance.
When it comes to nourishing and treating our skin, mindful choices in skincare also can help achieve a balanced constitution and healthy, beautiful skin. Topical treatments alone will likely not address the root cause of skincare concerns. Balancing the whole body, supporting digestive health, optimizing energy, and treating the whole individual according to their constitution is critical in caring for skin. For example, Ayurveda considers that excess oil on the skin is telling of one’s overall well-being, lifestyle, and environment, rather than merely a surface issue. Adapting your skincare, diet, lifestyle, and outlook to your unique constitution, on the other hand, could reveal underlying causes for surface concerns.
Many Ayurvedic skincare routines and rituals are food grade and even DIY from the kitchen. If it’s good to eat, it can also be proper nutrition for your skin with traditions tailored to balance your dosha(s).
Now it’s time to look at some traits and characteristics to assess your dosha. Some external doshic skin manifestations can be:
Vata: Cold to the touch, thin, dry, rough, small-pored, delicate and wrinkle-prone
Pitta: Warm to the touch, small or medium -pored, susceptible to sensitivity, rashes, breakouts, and rosacea
Kapha: Cool to the touch oily, large or visible pores, congestion, blackheads, and pimples, eczema
Other qualities characterize doshic constitutions and skin manifestations. These qualities indicate where on the dosha spectrum you may fall or be most closely aligned with. Discover your dosha with Ayurvedic Institute's dosha quiz here.
Once you have an idea of your doshic make up, you can begin to work out how to achieve balance by regularly monitoring how you feel both emotionally and physically. That way, you can nourish all three doshas, rather than simply focusing on one. Notice where skin, mind, and body might need attention or focus and adjust your activity levels, diet, skincare, and lifestyle to meet that need. For example, adopt a Pitta approach if you have an out-of-the-ordinary breakout or rash. Choose soothing ingredients for your skin like aloe vera, eat cooling food and drink and avoid spicy, pungent options for a bit. You can also add meditation and yoga to calm the mind and spirit.
Doshas are subject to seasonal shifts as well. Ayurvedic seasonal routines (Ritucharya) are just as important as daily routines (Dinacharya). Seasons change and our diet, lifestyle, and physical activity should change as well. These changes include making different choices for oils, toners, and ingredients in your skincare. Otherwise, our skin’s appearance and response to our regular routine will fluctuate, and we might also experience sudden dryness, rashes, oiliness, or breakouts.
A skin care ritucharya can look like cooling, soothing products, and a calming lifestyle in the summer; habits that warm and comfort during the winter months; and toning and detoxing self-care in the spring. Daily monitoring is key to providing just the right care each season.
Many Ayurvedic skincare routines and rituals are food grade and even DIY from the kitchen. If it’s good to eat, it can also be proper nutrition for your skin with traditions tailored to balance your dosha (s).
There are a few herbs, spices and pantry staples that play a central role in Ayurvedic treatments:
Turmeric - in Ayurveda, turmeric is used well known for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties. It can be used to help treat acne breakouts, often combined with lemon juice in masks and exfoliants. It is also an excellent ingredient for brightening the skin, evening skin tone and capturing that much desired glow.
Ginger: ginger can be used as a natural cleanser, mask ingredient, or a refreshing toner in Ayurveda. It is packed with anti-inflammatory properties
Sesame seed oil: sesame oil is hydrating with anti-inflammatory properties. It moisturizes the skin as well as aids in healing inflammation and redness
Oatmeal: Ground oatmeal makes a very gentle exfoliant that’s good for all doshas, but especially Pitta dosha. It’s a moisturizing, anti-inflammatory ingredient that’s great for reducing sensitivity.
Ghee: ghee (clarified butter) has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic healing practices. It’s great for dry, chapped skin all over, including lips, elbows, knees, and feet.
At KOSA, we’ve selected Ayurvedic, organic skincare products made in-house or thoughtfully sourced from sustainable and woman-owned producers. Browse our online shop and offerings here to get started building out your own Dinacharya.
Finally, a word about oil, massage, and all over skin care. Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic massage that uses warm oil infused with herbs to nourish the face and body, hydrate skin, stimulate lymph and blood flow, and still the mind.
Self-abhyanga can be done before you shower every day or at least three to four times a week. It is excellent for all the doshas, though Vata primarily due to its warming and grounding properties. If practiced regularly, it can boost immunity, improve circulation, and maintain well-being. There are recommended applications and ingredients to incorporate into your Abhyanga routine for each dosha.
Vata: Sesame is the preferred oil for Vata doshas because it is warming. Look for organic and untoasted for the most pleasing results.
Pitta: The best oils to use for Abhyanga are coconut oil or sunflower oil. These oils soothe sensitive or reactive skin and can also help to smooth the skin after sun exposure.
Kapha: Sesame oil, almond oil, olive oil, and corn oil good for Kapha dosha, but herbal oils are best. Oil blends with mustard or eucalyptus, for example, are stimulating and purifying.
Garshana, dry brush or silk glove skin brushing, added to your routine at least two to three times a week will round out your overall body care nicely. It is a traditional Ayurvedic dry massage that refreshes and stimulates the skin and lymphatic system, enhancing blood circulation and the release of accumulated toxins. To perform a garshana, you will need natural silk gloves, a soft sponge, or a dry brush to gently massage skin in circular, upward motions. The massage removes dead skin layers leaving the skin supple and glowing. It can be done before self-abhyanga. It is great for all the doshas, though Kapha mainly due to its stimulating and exfoliating properties.
For the latest:
Subscribe to our YouTube channel or IGTV for the latest Self-Care Ritual videos.
Shop our online spa store for skincare, garshana gloves, Dinacharya Kits, and other wellness essentials.
For updates on our latest Self-Care Rituals installments, subscribe to our newsletter.
Spring (Kapha season in Ayurveda) is a time of new beginnings. This video and recipe for cleansing green juice helps the body during this transition.