Ayurvedic perspective of Skin
The Sanskrit word Twacha is derived from the root Tvach samvarane, meaning to cover the body. The skin is the seat of Vata dosha. Tactile sensation is the attribute of Vata dosha. The sensory stimuli from the skin are carried by Prana Vata (one among the five divisions of vata) to the brain. The sensation of touch is more on the tip of the tongue, eyes and the tip of the little finger.
The tvacha is the subsidiary tissue (upadhatu) of Mamsa dhatu. Susrutha has mentioned 7 types of skin viz. Avabhasini, Lohita, Shewta, Tamra, Vedini, Rohini and Mamsadhara, whereas Charaka has mentioned only 6 layers.
The skin is also the seat of Pitta dosha. Bhrajaka pitta (subtype of Pitta) located on the skin is responsible for the metabolism of the skin and maintenance of body temperature. Vyana Vata, sub type of Vata dosha expresses the colour of the skin and secretes the sweat from sweat glands. The sweat (sweda) is the waste of medho dhatu, sebum (majja mala) is the waste of majja dhatu and hair and nails are wastes of Asthi dhatu.
It is also important to know, clinically, the basic types of skin, in normalcy and in pathological conditions, according to the constitution of an individual.
Normal Skin in Vata type individuals – The skin is dry, rough, thin and flaky in patches in Vata type individuals. The skin is cold to touch and color of the skin is dark, grayish hue. There is very less sweating. Body hair is dry, sparse, harsh, curly, split and grey.
Normal Skin in Pitta type individuals – The skin is soft, smooth, and with many moles in Pitta type individual. The skin is warm to touch and fair, peachy, freckled, coppery blue color. There is profuse sweating and foul body odor due to excess sweating. Body hairs are smooth, oily and reddish brown.
Normal Skin in Kapa type individuals – Skin is oily, thick, and moist in Kapha type individuals. Skin is fair, pale with a glow, soft and cool to touch. Sweating is less. Body hairs are thick, black, unctuous and strong.
Abnormal skin in Vata type individuals -There is lack of lusture and tone, rough patches and cracking of skin. Hands and feet are rough and dry. There is appearance of dark patches. Body hair is harsh and excessively dry. Disorders like corns, callouses, dry rashes, dry eczema may occur.
Abnormal skin in Pitta type – Skin is oily and there is discoloration of natural pigment. There is falling of body hairs and sometimes graying of body hairs. Disorders like acne, furuncles, allergic rashes, wrinkles and inflammation occur.
Abnormal skin in Kapha type – Skin is dull, congested and very pale. Body hairs are very oily. Disorders like itching, pustules, cystic formations occur.
Daily Skin Care
• Ayurveda advises the application of slightly warm oil as per your Prakriti (Vata – Sesame oil, Pitta – Coconut oil, Kapha – Mustard oil) on the whole body including face daily. This makes the skin soft and silky, promotes strength and sturdiness of the skin and nourishes the body.
• Then perform few warming up exercise like suryanamaskar or yogasana for 20 – 30 minutes.
• Scrub your body with udwartana powder (mixture of chickpea, sandalwood and many other herbs good for the skin) or green gram powder. Scrubbing with herbal powders renders the skin clean and smooth. Udwartana powder wards off excess accumulation of excessive fats in the subcutaneous tissue.
• Take warm water bath to rinse off the herbal powder.
Face is our identity, personality and much more. So facial care is important. Water is very cheap yet effective cleansing agent for the face. Daily morning, followed by face wash with water, apply a face pack with 2 tsp of Triphala powder mixed in water. Triphala is a combination of 3 herbs which are good for all three doshas. Triphala is also a Rasayana (rejuvenative). Apply the pack for 5 minutes and then rinse it off. Then apply Yashtimadhu (licorice) pack by mixing 1⁄4 tsp licorice powder in water and after 5 minutes, wash it off similarly. Licorice is a moisturizing agent and suits all skin types.
Ayurvedic face care can be achieved by taking steps in a sequence like initial cleansing, oleation massage, gentle scrub, face packs and moisturizing.
These fine particles skin to the facial skin, which is slightly moist and oily due to sweat and sebum. Hence initial cleansing of face is mandatory daily and especially before a massage.
There are numerous herbs which exert a gentle cleansing action prepared with simple cold water as a base. The base can be chosen according to the constitution, eg. Milk for Pitta, honey for Kapha and Sesame oil for Vata. Following herbs are generally used for cleansing the face.
After cleansing, facial skin is free from grime, sebum and other secretions. It is ready to receive a facial massage, with enhanced herbal oil preparations. Commonly for all skin types, plain or medicated sesame oil / crème prepared from ghee are used for facial massage. Specifically for Vata type skin, sesame oil, for Pitta type coconut oil and for Kapha type mustard oil is used for facial massage.
Indications – Old age, Wrinkles, Debility, Dry skin, Pigmentation, Sunburn.
Benefits – Relieves muscular fatigue and pain, creates lightness, soothes facial skin and improves circulation; Prevents build-up of excessive numbers of dead surface cells.
Scrubs stimulate circulation, prevent blackheads, cleanse skin pores and effectively cleanse deeper layers of skin. It stimulates new skin growth and improves complexion. The base of all scrubs is chickpea or green gram powder. Other herbs are added to them as per the skin type.
Smooth paste prepared from suitable herbs mixed in suitable medium are applied on the face in a thin layer and allowed to dry for 10 – 15 minutes, then washed with cold water gently. Do not keep face packs for long hours. Wash face once the face pack is dried. Keeping face pack for prolonged time depletes the complexion of the skin.
The base of face packs is multani mitti. For pimples or acne, face packs prepared with turmeric, neem powder and aloe vera is used, because these herbs exert antiseptic, anti inflammatory properties and promotes healing process as well.
Benefits – It brings beauty and refreshes facial skin. It prevents wrinkles, cures blemishes and improves complexion.
Ghee and herbs like Saffron, Coriander, Cardamom, Coconut, Rose, Lotus, Fenugreek, and Sesame have moisturizing properties. They are most commonly used for moisturizing. They reduce dryness of skin, by alleviating Vata dosha which is the causative factor for dryness. They augment the unctuousness of the skin by replacing their own unctuous attribute to the skin, keeping them soft, silky and moist.
In Ayurveda, inner and outer beauty is intimately related. The more we nurture ourselves, the more radiant we become physically and expressively – regardless of our particular body shape or proportions. Ayurveda has always understood beauty to be the product of general physical health and appropriate daily care. It is not just a cosmetic event. To enhance beauty, one should realize the importance of self-care in our increasingly fast-paced and chaotic world.