The Ayurveda Way
By Courtesy - Himalaya Herbal Healthcare
The skin is essentially the largest organ in the body and performs many vital roles as both a barrier and a regulating influence between the outside world and the controlled environment within the body. The physical toughness of the skin prevents the easy entry of harmful chemicals and invading organisms such as bacteria and viruses into the body. It also provides resistance to shocks for the more sensitive tissues underneath.
Skin type differs between individuals; sensitive skin is skin that stings easily, especially during or just after cleansing. Sensitive skin is more likely to be dry and is hyper-reactive – it is prone to develop dermatitis (itchy bumpy skin). Oily skin attracts dirt and bacteria and may lead to acne and pimples. Normal skin also needs regular regime for health.
An unhygienic, poorly protected and undernourished skin is susceptible to various disease conditions such as acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, pruritis (itchy skin) and others.
Problems of the skin involve both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. The presence of inflammation-causing substances and toxins in the blood and the damage brought by external factors such as pollution and free radicals work together to cause various skin conditions.
Hence, good skincare calls for a mix of internal and external cleansing. Internal cleansing refers to removal of toxins in the blood and other inflammatory mediators that can give rise to various skin problems.
Regular external skin regimens include the use of the right cleansers, toners, lotions and moisturizers for a healthy and clean skin.
A number of herbs are used in Ayurveda for skin cleansing, toning, moisturising and protection purposes.
External Skin Care with Ayurveda
Water alone as a cleanser is not quite enough: removing dirt and grease that sticks to the skin forms a major aspect of cleansing. Use of soaps in skincare will dry the skin and lead to itchiness. Lemon (Citrus limon) and honey (Meldespumatum) are alternatives to soap as lemon removes grime and oil while honey has antibacterial, antiseptic properties and prevents scar formation. Honey is increasingly being used to treat infected wounds and has been found to be effective in common wound infections1.
Toning follows cleansing and helps open clogged pores, thus reducing pore size and restoring the skin’s pH. The juice of lemon has been used for ages as a cleansing agent. It acts as a good skin-toning agent. Its powerful antibacterial and antioxidant properties help keep skin healthy and clean.
Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) provides a cooling effect through its good smelling volatile oils and has healing properties, especially for oily or sensitive skin.
Soothing agents and nourishers applied to the skin regularly maintain health and integrity of the skin. A natural soothing and moisturising agent is cucumber (Cucumis sativus). It helps keep the facial skin soft, heals and soothes damaged skin and works like a natural sunscreen.
Aloe (Aloe vera), a common herb in skin preparations, is also an excellent soothing agent. It possesses nutrients and enzymes responsible for moisturising the skin. It also softens and protects the skin. The anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties of aloe are well known.
Sunflower (Heydichium spicatum) has soothing properties and is regularly used as a massaging agent. In one study conducted by Darmstedt et al., the topical application of emollients to enhance skin barrier function would prevent nosocomial infections in newborn infants was assessed. Oil from the seeds of sunflower was found to be a low cost, easily available and effective treatment option3.
Sandal tree (Santalum album) is useful for alleviating itchy and inflammatory conditions of the skin. It is commonly used as a household remedy by applying a paste of sandalwood on skin rashes and itchy skin.
Alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs that are seen in most nourishing creams and lotions are natural fruit acids that rejuvenate the skin by encouraging the shedding of old, sun-damaged surface skin cells. Glycolic acid is the alpha hydroxy acid most frequently used for facial treatments, but lactic and citric acid is also useful. Apple is a rich natural source of AHAs and also contains ß-glycol and octane-1, 3-diol, which is an antifungal constituent. It reduces skin inflammation and helps remove dead skin fragments.
To stay young is everyone’s desire. However, one has to fight wrinkles, freckles and fine lines to defy age. Apart from AHAs, which increase the collagen content of the skin and provide stiffness, proper moisturising and use of antioxidants prevent ageing of the skin.
Various studies have shown that antioxidants like vitamins C, A and E slow down the ageing process by their neutralising actions on free radicals. For the skin, supplemental use of antioxidants may not be enough, and may require direct nourishment through local application on the skin.
Draksha, also known as grape (Vitis vinifera), is a good source of bioflavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants. Grapes are also considered as coolants and astringents. Various studies have documented the powerful antioxidant ability of grape skin extract4.
Godhuma or wheat germ (Triticum sativum) provides a natural source of vitamin E, while Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) provides natural vitamin C and also possesses cooling and cleansing properties on skin.
Rose (Rosa centifolia) is used for a fair complexion and orange is traditionally recommended for removing blemishes on the skin.
Since herbs have a host of healing properties, using herbs and herbal products that are well-researched and tested for mildness, efficacy, biodegradability, low toxicity, cleansing ability, emulsification, moisturisation, skin appearance and feel, smell (fragrance) and lubrication is a wiser choice.
Consistent skin care is important in maintaining younger-looking skin. Modifying your daily routine, such as eating a healthy diet that is rich in antioxidants, drinking adequate amounts of water to keep the body and skin well hydrated, upholding disciplined cleansing habits, and regular exercising can help to add flawless skin to the list of your best qualities.
1. French VM, Cooper RA, Molan PC. The antibacterial activity of honey against coagulase-negative staphylococci. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2005 Jul;56(1):228-31.
2. Ito C, Itoigawa M, Ju-ichi M, Sakamoto N, Tokuda H, Nishino H, Furukawa H. Antitumor-promoting activity of coumarins from citrus plants. Planta Med. 2005 Jan;71(1):84-7.
3. Darmstadt GL, Saha SK, Ahmed AS, Chowdhury MA, Law PA, Ahmed S, Alam MA, Black RE, Santosham M.Effect of topical treatment with skin barrier-enhancing emollients on nosocomial infections in preterm infants in Bangladesh: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2005 Mar 19-25;365(9464):1039-45.
4. Soares De Moura R, Costa Viana FS, Souza MA, Kovary K, Guedes DC, Oliveira EP, Rubenich LM, Carvalho LC, Oliveira RM, Tano T, Gusmao Correia ML.Antihypertensive, vasodilator and antioxidant effects of a vinifera grape skin extract. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2002 Nov;54(11):1515-20.
This article is courtesy of Himalaya Herbal Healthcare..