The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

The Basics of Ayurvedic Skin Care by Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D (Ayu)

Just as with one’s diet and daily routine, knowledge of the doshas is the answer to your skin questions. Naturally, the health and radiance of our skin depends as much on our general health as what materials we use to wash and moisturize. Nevertheless there is a great deal of benefit derived from the selection of proper external care products. This brief article will focus on the basics of skin care according to the predominant dosha in one’s prakriti (constitution).

Recognizing Your Skin Type

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When healthy and balanced, Vata skin can be soft and delicate with a clear glow. However when imbalanced it will tend to be dry, thin, lined, and flaky. The skin can appear so fine and thin is some areas that it resembles transparent porcelain. The pores of Vata skin are small. It is common for the complexion to be towards a grayish or bluish hue (due to a diminished number of capillaries in the skin). Dark circles can be seen under the eyes due to capillary fragility and the consequent escape of small quantities of hemoglobin into the periorbital soft tissues. The forehead and ears comprise the 'Vata zone' of the face and it is common to see problems in these areas.

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Because the skin is a Pitta organ, when Pitta skin is healthy it simply radiates light and a rosy complexion. It is normal for Pitta-dominant individuals to have a few moles or freckles and to perspire easily. However when irritated, Pitta skin starts to become reddish, inflamed, and over time will wrinkle—especially around the eyes and mouth. The “Pitta zone” of the face is the central area including the nose and cheeks and this is where problems tend to arise, as well as on the back of the neck and scalp. It’s common to see inflamed types of acne, rosacea, and hot, tender lesions in these areas.

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Kapha skin, when balanced, will be smooth, slightly oily, swarthy, and relatively resistant to wrinkling and dryness. When excessive Kapha manifest in the skin, it will be very oily, slightly puffy, with enlarged pores. Unhealthy kapha skin can result in cystic-type acne which is itchy and can leave scars. The “Kapha zone” of the face is the chin and neck. One can often see puffiness and looseness of the skin in these areas and the entire face is more prone to edema than the other doshic types.

Home Remedies for Your Skin

We use the following kitchen remedies at The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine’s Day Spa. Enjoy!

According to the Ayurvedic principle of samanya-vishesha (similars-opposites), you can maintain healthy skin by using natural substances with the opposite and hence balancing qualities to those of your principal dosha. Thus dry Vata skin is rejuvenated by more moisture in the form of oils and fatty acids; heated Pitta skin is relieved by cooling and anti-inflammatory substances; excessively oily Kapha skin is toned by stimulant and gently drying cleansers and exfoliants. It’s really quite simple.

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To nullify its cool, drying, and contracting qualities, vata skin will benefit from warming and moisturizing creams which contain ghee, castor oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, or almond oil. Herbs and foods should be moisturizing, calming, nourishing, and warming. Reduce the quantity of raw and dry foods in the diet too.

Boil the following for 10 minutes:

  • 4 oz. of organic whole milk

  • 1 oz. of water

  • 2 tsp. of Shatavari root powder (Asparagus racemosus Linn.)

  • 2 tsp. of Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linn.)

  • 2 tsp. of Vidari root powder (Ipomoea digitata Linn.)

Once herbalized milk is complete:

  • Combine the resulting herbalized milk with organic plain yogurt in the ratio 1 part milk: 3 parts yogurt

  • Add ½ tsp ghee

  • Add 10 drop Vitamin E as preservative

  • Apply to face and body morning and evening for 5-10 minutes or longer

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Cooling and sedating oils, spices, and herbs will help Pitta skin recover its natural luster which is never far from appearing. Neem (Azadirachta indica Linn.), turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.), manjistha (Rubia cordifolia), cucumber, ghee, coconut, khus (Vetiveria zizanoides Nash.), rose, and sandalwood are ingredients to look for in any skin care product. It’s also really helpful to avoid acidic, heating, and fermented foods.

Combine in a glass jar:

  • 8 oz. coconut oil

  • 2oz. ghee

  • 2 tsp. of neem leaf powder

  • 2 tsp. of turmeric root powder 

  • 2 tsp. of haritaki fruit powder

  • 2 tsp. of sandalwood powder

  • 2 tsp. of rose petal (gulab) powder

  • 1 small grated cucumber (Cucumis sativa Linn.).

Once you have added above ingredients to jar:

  • Mix well, cover, and allow to stay for 7 days in a cool place

  • Transfer the jar outdoors under the moonlight in the evening and replace in a cool area during the day

  • Strain and store in another clean glass jar

  • Apply to face and body morning and evening for 5-10 minutes or longer

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Due to its higher oil content, Kapha skin will benefit from astringents, toners, and lighter cleansers. Ingredients to look for in any Kapha skin care product include: multani mitti (mud from the Multani river in northern India), lotus petals and anthers, rose petals, aloe vera gel, sage (Salvia officinalis), white cedar leaf (Thuja occidentalis), and witch hazel bark (Hamamelis virginicus).

Combine in a medium bowl:

  • 3 tbsp. Multani mitti

  • 1 tbsp. aloe vera gel

  • 1 tsp. gulab (powdered rose petals)

  • 1 tsp. white cedar bark

  • ½ tsp. witch hazel

  • Mix well adding small amounts of warm water as needed to create a paste of a medium consistency

  • Apply to face and other body areas for 15 minutes and then rinse or shower

  • Use 1-3 times per each week.