Suffering from acne? Ayurveda may have the answers you need to clear your skin.
As I am in the final year of getting my Ayurvedic doctorate, it is deeply ingrained in me to constantly observe people’s bodies and the ways in which people discuss their health. I pay attention to people’s tongues and facial lines, note their body language and the color of their nails, and listen to their conversations about bowel movements or children’s diaper rashes. After all, Ayurveda acknowledges that our mind, body, and soul are connected. Diseases rarely happen overnight, and if we pay close attention, each symptom narrates part of a larger story.
Gaining Insight from Digestive Distress
A few weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house for a gathering. The guest powder room was in use, so my friend suggested that I use her daughter’s bathroom. I am sure this young teen wasn’t expecting me to visit her bathroom, let alone use her toilet, so I was not judging her mess. When I entered the bathroom, I was taken aback. The toilet bowl was badly stained from unhealthy bowel movements. What this told me was the teenager’s gut was not functioning properly. Her bowel movements were an indication of ama, or bodily toxins. Ayurveda teaches us that ama is the root of all diseases.
One of my Ayurveda teachers says that the skin is a mirror to your digestion. When I came down to the living room, I quietly observed this girl’s face and skin. As it so happens, her face was marked with acne, scars, and redness.
Why Digestion Matters
Ayurveda tells us that it’s not the food we eat but how we digest it that matters most. The bathroom visit told me that the young girl’s digestion is badly off. Her parents confided that she’s often argumentative, stubborn, angry, competitive, critical, and self-righteous. Hello, Pitta imbalance!
She is Pitta-Kapha and, like most teenagers, has an erratic schedule and eats a lot of sugar. After sports practice, she and her teammates hang out at McDonald’s. Oily, fried, processed food aggravates both Pitta and Kapha doshas. She also consumes a lot of animal products.
Physically, she is lean and tall but can sleep until mid-afternoon on weekends (Oversleeping is a sign of Kapha imbalance!). Her mom said that she also puts on weight easily. Her agni (digestive fire) is low, which slows the metabolism, and ama is overtaxing her system. While her temperament and habits indicate Pitta imbalance, her manda agni (slow digestion) and tendency to gain weight tell us that she is also battling Kapha imbalance.
How Ayurveda Views Acne
Impaired digestion, ama accumulation, inflammation, and excessive sebum are the ground zero of all acne problems. Why does our agni fizzle out? It happens because of consumption of inappropriate foods for our dosha, detrimental lifestyle practices, stress, or age-related hormonal imbalances.
High school kids are under a lot of stress. All of these above-mentioned factors imbalance the doshas, especially Pitta dosha. One of the sub-doshas of Pitta is Bhrajak Pitta, which rules the skin. It’s responsible for the expression of physical beauty, the skin’s luster, and the personality of a person. When Bhrajak Pitta is vitiated or compromised, it may result in a variety of skin conditions, including acne.
Important point: Skin is connected to the liver and all the internal organs. Ayurveda tells us that underneath the skin, there is connective tissue, and that connective tissue accumulates unresolved anger, fear, and stress—which, when experienced, causes the skin to become hot and flushed. Even though Pitta doṣha is the pre-eminent causative factor in acne, depending on the dosha involved, acne presents differently in people. Vata is characterized by dryness and flaking. Pitta acne shows redness and excess heat. Kapha acne is accompanied with oiliness owing to the production of excess sebum and clogged pores.
Ayurvedic Dietary and Lifestyle Recommendations for Acne
Ayurveda is all about customized healing based on individual needs. But there are certain suggestions that work well overall:
Maintain a healthy, doṣha-appropriate diet.
Stick to an eating schedule.
Maintain good hygiene and be particular about washing acne-prone areas when you return from outdoor environments.
Wash the face (and other affected parts) with lukewarm water, using a neem or lemon-based soap three times a day.
Avoid processed, sweet, fried, oily, fatty, and spicy foods—they’re all Pitta aggravating. Peanut butter and chocolate can aggravate acne as well.
Favor fruits and green leafy vegetables that have substantial water content in them.
Avoid raw and cold salads—foods that are difficult to digest can aggravate acne.
Avoid excess meat, sugar, tea or coffee, pickles, fermented foods, condiments, and carbonated beverages.
Lemon, coriander, mint, cilantro, fennel, and cumin, as well as other cooling spices, should be emphasized in the diet.
Make sure to stay hydrated.
The yoga asana Lion Pose can be beneficial. It stimulates blood flow to the areas affected by acne, particularly the face. This pose also aids in the transport and removal of toxins.
Reduce stress by practicing yoga, meditation, and breathwork.
Ayurvedic Herbal Recommendations for Acne
Sandalwood is a great herb for topical application.
Neem is a bitter herb and a natural blood purifier. If you find it too bitter to eat or drink neem juice, you can apply neem paste to the affected area.
Aloe vera comes highly recommended for skincare within Ayurveda. It is useful to soothe acne that is inflamed and painful.
Sip on cumin-coriander-fennel tea. It’s an effective way of keeping the body cool and keeping toxins at bay.
Amla (gooseberry) is another natural blood purifier. You can either drink amla juice or apply amla powder as a face pack.
Turmeric can clean out toxins from the pores and prevent breakouts. You can apply organic turmeric to affected areas by making a thin paste with water. After it dries out completely, wash your face and pat dry. Spray rosewater on the face.
What’s happening on your face is a telltale sign of what’s happening inside your gut. Don’t ignore it. Ultimately, you need a healthy inside for a healthy outside.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta Vikram here.
Complement these suggestions with five yoga poses for better digestion.