Growing up in an Indian home, my mother always had Ayurvedic remedies for an upset stomach, skin issues, heat eruption, rashes, cold and cough, fever, headaches, and much more. She even made exfoliants, scrubs, and massage oils at home, using all-natural ingredients and no preservatives or chemicals.
Ayurveda teaches us that the skin’s texture and overall quality depends on a person’s doshic signature. My mother honored this 5,000-year-old ancient wisdom when making customized products for everyone she knew. Friends and family turned to Mom for their basic skincare needs. While my mother wasn’t a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, her wisdom and healing instincts had been passed down to her by generations of women in her family.
Ayurveda is all about customized healing in-the-moment, and is dependent on the individual seeking treatment, their particular imbalances, and the season. Summers have never been my friend, as I am a high-Pitta individual. Because of the large percentage of fire in my constitution, my skin does not tolerate heat well. I remember Mom making fresh neem juice for me during the peak of summer because mild skin problems, like rashes, irritation, burns, and infections, can be healed with this herb. Neem’s cooling properties calm the fiery Pitta dosha and help support a healthy inflammatory response both internally and externally. It also removes excess Kapha from the body. My brother, who is predominantly Kapha, had acne-prone skin as a teenager. Mom would make face masks using neem for him.
Doshas and the Skin
Vata Skin: Vata dosha is composed of the elements of air and space. Thus, Vata skin type will exhibit qualities of Vata: dry, thin, delicate, and cool to the touch. And if Vata skin is imbalanced, it will be prone to excessive dryness. Have you seen people with rough, scaly, flaky skin? That’s Vata imbalance. Ayurveda tells us that Vata skin tends to wrinkle a lot earlier than other skin types. It’s also predisposed to early aging symptoms. A person with high Vata imbalance often has a tendency toward disorders such as dry eczema. Mental stress, nervousness, and anxiety aggravate Vata skin.
Pitta Skin: The elements of fire and water make up Pitta dosha, and Pitta skin is the least tolerant of the sun. Pitta skin is warm, soft, slightly oily, and of medium thickness. While a Pitta complexion tends to be on the pink or reddish side, there are often copious amounts of freckles or moles. People with Pitta skin and imbalances tend to develop rashes, rosacea, acne, and pigment disorders. Pitta skin is most likely to accumulate sun damage over the years. When Pitta dosha is aggravated, it can show up as anger, criticism, resentment, frustration, competitiveness, and an overtly critical nature. Unfortunately, these are also the emotions that aggravate Pitta skin.
Kapha Skin: Kapha dosha is composed of the elements of earth and water. Kapha skin is thick, oily, soft, and cool to touch. Kapha skin type is the last one to wrinkle, and does so much later in life. People with Kapha tend to have a pale complexion. But when Kapha skin becomes imbalanced, it can lead to excessive oiliness, enlarged pores, blackheads, and most types of eczema. Kapha skin is also much more prone to fungal infections.
Ayurvedic Herbs for the Skin
Bakuchi (Psoralea corylifolia): According to Ayurveda, Bakuchi brightens the skin by visibly reducing pigmentation and plumps the skin by boosting collagen production. In Ayurveda, Bakuchi is a favorite herbal choice for controlling vitiligo spots, as it helps to shrink white patches.
Eranda (Ricinus communis or castor plant): Topical castor oil is a staple in most homes with a holistic medicine cabinet. Castor oil wins high praise in Ayurvedic medicine for its various healing properties. It’s been known to work on alopecia, as well as wrinkles. Eranda oil massages hydrate the skin, draw moisture from the air into the skin, soothe coarse skin, and heal skin problems. Castor oil has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It can also stimulate the growth of healthy skin tissues and revamp the uneven skin tone, thus enhancing skin texture and complexion. Eranda oil also possesses medicinal properties that are beneficial for controlling acne symptoms.
Nagkesar (Mesua ferrea): Nagkesar contains antiseptic and disinfecting properties. It has been used in Ayurveda for centuries and is highly regarded for its potent properties. The oil obtained from Nagkesar can be used to treat skin infections, scabs, and wounds. Nagkesar can be mixed with red sandalwood and made into a paste to apply to the face. This is another way to reduce any marks or spots and bring about glowing skin. Nagkesar has astringent properties that helps soothe the skin and treat acne and oily skin.
Neem (Azadirachta indica): Neem leaf is considered one of the most effective herbs in Ayurveda. Neem promotes healthy skin and a clear complexion. The antibacterial properties of neem help reduce pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Here’s what’s incredible—neem also cleans the blood and detoxifies the liver. When the liver is free from toxins and the blood is purified, the skin and the eyes glow.
Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia): My dad recently asked if I could suggest an Ayurvedic herb that is a good blood purifier. I recommended he try Manjistha. My dad tends to have a high Vata imbalance, so neem can be aggravating for his Vata skin. In the world of Ayurveda, Manjistha is known as an efficient blood purifier, a varnya (radiance enhancing) herb, and a rasayana (rejuvenator). It pacifies all doshas when used in moderation. That’s why Manjistha, which literally translates to “bright red,” has been extensively used in skin care for centuries. This herb also promotes lymphatic movement. We know that the lymphatic system supports the immune system by draining waste and toxins from the body. Manjistha also has an abundance of antioxidants, which helps reduce wrinkles and fine lines. It's a great choice for treating hyperpigmentation.
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 nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.
Learn more about how to treat acne with Ayurvedic methods.