in depth


From the Outside In

Ayurvedic Skin Care

Besides being your largest organ, your skin is your best protection against the ravaging effects of the elements. Therefore, you want to do everything you can, internally and externally, to keep your skin functioning optimally.

Long before there were hundreds of different lotions to choose from at the local market, the people of ancient India consulted the wisdom of Ayurveda to care for their skin. Traditional methods using plenty of oil are still the perfect way to keep your skin (and your whole body) hydrated and healthy. 

Women in rural India today can still be seen fetching mineral clays from the riverbeds to use as skin cleansers. Many natural foods stores in the West sell purified clay in the beauty aisle. When combined with Ayurvedic herbs such as neem, turmeric, and sandalwood, you have an ideal cleanser and exfoliant that gently removes toxins from the skin. You can make a paste with the herb/clay mixture by blending it with water, milk, or yogurt, depending on your skin type. Drier skin receives more moisturizing benefits from the yogurt blend.

Daily self-massage with oil serves as the foundation of Ayurvedic body care. This is called abhyanga in Sanskrit and its benefits extend deep beyond the skin. Massaging warm oil into the skin, with particular attention to any joints that pop and crack, nourishes the superficial layers while lubricating the muscles and connective tissue as well. Abhyanga also calms the nervous system and pacifies wind in the body.

It is important to choose massage oil that is appropriate for your Ayurvedic constitution. Vata (wind) people benefit most from using sesame oil, while Pitta (bile) types should use sunflower oil, and Kapha (phlegm) people may choose sesame or sunflower. Perform abhyanga just before a bath or shower as the hot water will help the oil penetrate to the deeper layers.

Ultimately the health of your skin depends on your overall internal health. Drinking enough pure water, eating a diet abundant in fresh foods and beneficial oils and getting sufficient sleep all contribute to healthy, radiant skin that reflects a balanced environment within.

Sharada Hall
Doctor of Oriental Medicine
Recommended: Ayurvedic Beauty Care: Ageless Techniques to Invoke Natural Beautyby Melanie Sachs for Ayurvedic clay cleansers for Ayurvedic massage oils


Jaideep Kaur commented on 27-Sep-2010 05:38 PM3 out of 5 stars

A great article with lots of wisdom! Only thing is that I suggest taking a cold shower after your abhyanga (not hot)...the the increase in circulation due to the cold water, and the rubdown with your towel right after will bring a glow to your skin like you won't believe! Not to mention the slew of other health benefits you will experience.

...To our radiance!

Dr. Sharada Hall commented on 03-Oct-2011 07:29 PM3 out of 5 stars

Thanks for your kind words, Jaideep. I need to mention, however, that Ayurveda strongly recommends warm water to help the oil actually penetrate into the skin and deeper tissues. Cold showers are contraindicated for Vata or Kapha types as well. It is always
important to tailor the therapy to the individual.

Seventh Lotus commented on 11-Dec-2011 02:45 PM5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful article.

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