Author: Lollie Barr
We’re always on the lookout for the latest, greatest technological marvel that will make us even more gorgeous. But looking into the past can also have its rewards, which explains the rising popularity of Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old medical system of India.
Spas across the nation are offering Ayurvedic rejuvenation and healing therapies, and there are now several Ayurvedic skin- and hair-care ranges on the market. What distinguishes Ayurvedic therapy from the high-tech is its natural approach.
Ayurvedic products contain no artificial colours, fragrances, animal ingredients, petrochemicals, propylene or sulphates. “Ayurvedic products are based on the premise that nothing should be applied to the skin or hair, that cannot be taken internally,” says Yasmin Sadikot, founder of the OmVeda skin- and hair-care range.
So what is Ayurveda?
This ancient science of health and medicine is based on the belief that physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing are interdependent. According to the philosophy of Ayurveda, there are three fundamental mind/body types, or doshas, called vata, pitta and kapha, and each one embodies different combinations of the five elements: fire, water, air, earth and ether.
“The three doshas govern the activities of the mind and body, and determine the physical characteristics, emotional and mental tendencies of every human. While all three doshas occur in everyone, most people have a predominant tendency towards one or more doshas,” says Ayurvedic doctor, Dr Ajit, from Ayurda skincare.
In keeping with this theory, the first step is to determine your Ayurvedic skin type. Describing the three skin types, Dr Ajit says that dry, rough, malnourished skin that is susceptible to dullness and wrinkles is vata (air and space) dominant skin, which has a tendency towards dark marks, freckles and blemishes.
Pitta skin (fire and water) tends to be reddish, oily and moist, with a propensity to be sensitive and inflammatory, and have blackheads, pimples, acne, redness and variations in pigmentation, while kapha skin (water and earth), described as thick, smooth, soft, heavy and saggy, is prone to cellulite, whiteheads and water retention.
The key to getting the most out of your Ayurvedic beauty regime is to use a combination of products that balance your doshas. “Vata skin requires nourishment, while sensitive pitta skin requires smooth, cold, astringent applications,” Dr Ajit says, “and kapha skin requires light, dry and hot substances to create a balance.”
The balance is achieved by using a combination of herbs, flowers, leaves, woods and oils of plants such as rose, sandalwood and turmeric, along with traditional Indian medicinal plants such as neem. “These herbs have specific and positive effects on the skin,” Dr Ajit says.
“For example, neem has blood-purifying qualities, as well as helping to repair damaged tissue and increase blood flow on the surface, thus it helps to reduce wrinkles and improve skin texture.” Other Ayurvedic treatments involve body oils (fabulous for dry skin), scrubs that use nuts, masks, shampoos and hair oils.
Ayurveda in the spa
Reading the ingredients on an Ayurvedic spa menu - milk, eggs, yoghurt, carrots, mangoes and potatoes - can make you feel hungry. “The nutrient action of the herbs is enhanced by the addition of fresh ingredients,” Sadikot says.
One of the most popular Ayurvedic treatments is shirodhara, which involves having a continuous, warm stream of sesame oil poured slowly over the centre of your forehead, followed by a head massage.
Ayurvedic massages, using delicious-smelling herbal oils that are matched to your skin type, concentrate on your body’s major pressure points, relaxing the muscles and toning and nourishing the skin.
Beauty from the inside out
In addition to using Ayurvedic products on your skin, Dr Ajit also recommends adopting the holistic mind, body and spirit philosophies of Ayurveda. “We talk about how your external beauty is a reflection of your inner health,” he says. “Your skin is a true indication of what is happening on the inside.”
Specific Ayurvedic regimes are designed to achieve a balance of the physical and mental. “Eating fresh food, controlling our emotions, avoiding processed food and focusing on staying calm will complement and assist in achieving great skin,” Dr Ajit says.
Ancient beauty secrets
1. A 15- to 20-minute self-massage with warm sesame oil every morning will improve the lymphatic and circulatory systems.
2. Scraping your tongue with a tongue scraper can get rid of toxins on your tongue.
3. Mix chickpea flour with yoghurt, a pinch of turmeric and rose water for a natural exfoliator.
4. Warm up and chill out in a ginger bath. Place a few tablespoons of freshly grated ginger root in a sock or a piece of cheesecloth, and tie it to the tap as you run the bath so that warm water runs over it.
Which skin type are you?
Vata: Small body frame, variable appetite, good short-term memory, changing moods and thoughts, nervous tendencies, creative and artistic.
Pitta: Medium build, strong appetite, overly assertive and aggressive, highly organised, intelligent, good orator.
Kapha: Big boned, thick and strong, tendency to not be very active, steady and reliable, compassionate, forgiving.