Feeling tight and irritated when the weather gets cooler? We asked an expert how Ayurveda can help your skin in winter
By Dr Charlotte Bech
Ayurveda is an ancient and highly personalized approach to health. Knowing your mind-body type can help you to make optimal choices about the right diet, exercise, supplements, and even skincare options for you. You can learn more about Ayurvedic mind-body types and find out how to identify your own individual type, called a dosha, here.
But no matter what your dosha, according to Ayurveda, winter can have both an ageing and a clogging effect on your skin. But never fear – there are a few measures you can take. Here’s how Ayurveda can help your skin and build a fresher, younger complexion as winter moves into spring.
Winter in two parts: Vata and Kapha
Ayurveda says that winter has two phases – a Vata season and a Kapha season – and each one affects your skin, as well as your whole body, in different ways.
Vata is the principle that controls all movement, whether it be the movement of wind through trees, air moving in and out of your lungs, or thoughts churning around in your mind. Those with more Vata in their body are usually lighter in build, with skin that tends to be dry and cool to the touch. They move, speak, think, learn – and forget – more quickly than most people.
While all of us feel the effects of cold, dry and windy weather, those with a Vata body type will feel the freeze more intensively, as Vata already has moving, rough, dry, cold qualities (also known as Gunas). The result for those with Vata in their Dosha can be chapped, greyish, pale, rough and scaly skin.
Vata skin care
Vata skin tends to be susceptible to wrinkles and premature ageing. So to stay youthful, those with dry, cool skin should use skin care products that include combinations of essential oils and herbs to nourish and re-hydrate.
If you have a Vata body type, Ayurveda can help your skin, too. Try to adopt a good winter routine to steady your inherent Vata qualities. Going to bed early, eating three regular meals a day, and following a regular daily routine are essential components in a holistic approach to Vata skin care and wellbeing. Eating nourishing foods that help balance Vata is essential in the nourishment of dry Vata skin. Consume organic whole (not skimmed) milk, whole grains, root vegetables, leafy greens and plenty of plenty of sweet, juicy fruits.
For internal hydration, always have a flask of hot or warm water by your side and drink sufficient amounts throughout each day. Water helps flush out impurities and waste materials that accumulate in the billions of cells in your body, including your skin’s. Not too keen on plain water? Paavani makes a great range of Dosha balancing teas.
To keep your skin super-hydrated, include fats such as ghee, butter, coconut oil and olive oil in your diet, and learn to do a self-massage with warm oil (Abhyanga) using a rich massage oil such as Surrender Vata Body Oil (below) to keep your skin lubricated. Use a natural and gentle moisturiser on your face like Maharishi Anti Age Facial Cream.
Finally, give your mind and body plenty of opportunity to rest and recharge by going to bed early.
The cold, damp influence of Kapha
Kapha is another Dosha type and represents the second quality of winter – damp coolness. Kapha principles are responsible for the structure, strength and cohesion of your body and of every other aspect of creation. People who have a more Kapha body type are heavier in build and their skin tends to be oily, thick and cool. They move, speak, think, learn and forget more slowly than those with a Vata body-type.
Indeed, the defining qualities of Kapha are heavy, oily, wet, slow, smooth, soft, cool and static. So, although they may share with Vata types an aversion to cold weather, Kaphas may value the windy days of autumn and early winter, as they feel lifted out of heaviness and sluggishness. What’s more, dry weather will balance any excess of moisture and oiliness Kapha types may accumulate.
Because of its cold and wet qualities, January through to May is considered the Kapha season for ALL Doshas in Ayurveda, because this is the time of year when toxins may accumulate in your body, and your skin may become clogged up and impure.
Kapha skin care
Because of its thickness and oiliness, Kapha skin is more prone to the accumulation of toxins (Ama) under the skin. But of course, Ayurveda can help your skin if you’re a Kapha, too.
To flush toxins from the skin, those with Kapha skin are advised to detoxify on a regular basis. Do this both internally through herbs and detox treatments such as Panchakarma, and externally though external cleansing routines. Scrubbing with a gentle exfoliator can help, but what goes into your body makes a difference, too. For example, Kaphas should avoid all deep-fried foods and reduce cakes and other sweets in winter. Otherwise, these foods will add to the oiliness in the skin. Instead, plenty of organic fruits and veggies should be consumed. To improve circulation, Kaphas should exercise every day massage themselves daily using a Kapha Massage Oil.
Overall tips for all Doshas in winter
Of course, Ayurveda can help your skin no matter what your Dosha.
According to Ayurveda, most internal toxins (that are later reflected in the quality of the skin) are created by poor digestion, and to reduce the accumulation of Ama, you should increase your digestive fire. This can take place if you eat only when hungry, avoid overeating, and use warming spices in your cooking and teas. Try lots of black pepper and ginger.
Vegans may disagree, but Ayurveda states that cow’s milk helps release excessive fluids from the tissues to reduce bags under the eyes and any ‘puffy’ look in the face. In any case, always make sure the milk you buy is as close to nature as possible – organic, raw, full-fat, unhomogenised and unpasteurised is the ideal. To reduce its cold, heavy effect, bring the milk to the boiling point and add spices, such as cardamom, turmeric and ginger.
Finally, the lymph system is vital to your body’s ability to detoxify and revitalise cells and tissues, but when this important drainage system becomes clogged and sluggish, toxins build up in the skin. To avoid this, add turmeric to your soups and stews, or drink lots of ‘golden milk’, since turmeric is known in Ayurveda as an important detoxifying agent for the lymph system and hence for the skin.
Above all, no matter what your Dosha, if you listen carefully to the needs of your body in any season, you’ll be healthier and happier – and this will reflect on your skin from the inside out.
For more information about an Ayurvedic skin care programme that will purify, tone and nourish your skin, please click here.