Each year, Americans spend billions of dollars on beauty products to prevent their skin from aging. Yet the best ways to keep your skin healthy and youthful cost very little.
1. Get Adequate Sunlight
Over-protecting from sun is not a good idea because some gentle sun is nourishing to the skin. The challenge is to maximize the benefit from sun and at the same time protect it from damage. Short periods of exposure to the early morning sun allow even very sensitive Caucasian skin to absorb necessary Vitamin D. Avoid long exposure to the sun whenever you are angry, hungry or emotionally upset, as these factors increase heat in the body and make the skin more sensitive to sun damage. At these times it's important to protect yourself by wearing a hat and sunglasses. People with more Pitta (fire element) in their body should always take care to protect themselves from the midday sun. If your skin is easily damaged by the sun, try reducing the sensitivity from the inside. Eating green, leafy vegetables and fruits such as raisins, pears, apples, and pomegranates, for instance, will help cool, nourish and restore balance to sensitive skin. Cook your food with a skin-friendly spice mixture: equal parts turmeric, coriander, fennel and cumin sautéed in ghee (clarified butter). Avoid eating too much ginger, garlic, asafetida, hot red peppers or any types of hot peppers even in winter if you are sensitive to the sun.
2. Avoid Chemicals
Harsh chemicals in your shampoo, skin products, or soaps irritate the skin and cause it to become overworked and overheated. A strong preservative or antibacterial agent in skin-care products, for instance, kills harmful bacteria but at the same time destroys enzymes that trigger absorption and lubrication. The result might be permanent dry patches, oversensitive skin, or susceptibility to sun damage. Instead, use skin care products that contain all-natural ingredients and are designed to balance and nourish all seven layers of the skin. It's also essential to avoid eating chemicals and preservatives in your food by buying organic foods whenever possible.
3. Eat for your Skin Type
Different skin types require different foods. Vata skin is dry, thin, small-pored, delicate, and cool to the touch. Vata skin may age faster, and tends to be dry, rough and flaky when out of balance.
Or your skin may be more Pitta -- fair, sensitive, soft, warm, and of medium thickness. When out of balance, Pitta skin can flare up in rashes, rosacea, acne, or sun spots. Kapha skin tends to age slower and form less wrinkles than the other two types. It is thick, oily, pale, soft and cool. Kapha skin types may struggle with dull complexion, enlarged pores, excessive oil, blackheads, pimples, moist types of eczema and water retention. Once you determine your skin-type, you can follow the Vata, Pitta, or Kapha pacifying dietary guidelines to keep your skin balanced, healthy and youthful. Vata skin types, for instance, will want to eat more warm, unctuous foods and favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes to balance the dry, rough, moving Vata dosha. If you have a Pitta skin type you will thrive on sweet, bitter and astringent tastes, as found in sweet, juicy fruits, rose petal preserve, and cooked greens. Avoid hot, spicy foods. The oiliness of Kapha type skin calls for a diet that is warmer, lighter, less oily, and free of heavy, hard to digest foods. Eating more bitter, astringent and pungent tastes help stimulate digestion and balance Kapha skin.
4. Soothe Away Stress
There are three types of stress, and all three impact the skin in different ways. Mental stress starts a chain reaction that ends in a drying out the moisture in the skin. Thinning, dryness and the shrinking of the srotas (microchannels) that carry nutritive fluid to the skin result in wrinkles and stress lines. Emotional stress also affects the skin-just notice how anger or embarrassment can turn your face red. This shows the connection between emotions and the skin. If emotional stress becomes chronic, the result is acne, sun sensitivity, and other Pitta-based problems. Physical stress is caused by exercising too much, working too much, or straining the body over a period of time. Like mental stress, this causes the drying out of skin moisture and rough, aged skin. To counteract mental stress, maintain a Vata-pacifying diet and daily routine. To bring emotional stress into balance, follow a Pitta-pacifying diet and routine. For physical stress, try to limit exercise or work to fifty percent of your physical stamina.
5. Cleanse and Gently Exfoliate
Every skin type needs cleansing, but Kapha skin needs it the most. This is because people with Kapha skin often have low agni. Consequently ama collects in the body, clogs the channels of the skin and causes excessive oil on the surface. Many people with Kapha skin try to counteract oiliness with products that are too drying. Instead, try cleansing the pores so the skin can be nourished from the inside. The Kapha person should be careful not to clog their pores by using greasy creams, exposing their skin to freezing weather, or by eating heavy, sweet, oily foods. Take warm baths, cleanse with a gentle herbal cleanser, and exfoliate with an herbal clay twice a week to gently cleanse the pores, remove impurities and open the channels. Vata skin types should avoid any products that are too drying. Pitta types should avoid products that are too abrasive or heating.
6. Rehydrate from the Inside and Outside
It's important to moisturize your skin from the inside to keep the inner layers of the skin from drying out and to provide necessary nutrients to the surface. Drink lots of water, and in cold weather, drink hot water to open the channels and help clear away toxins. If you have sensitive skin, stick to room-temperature water. Include plenty of vegetables and sweet, juicy fruits in your diet to moisturize the skin. Be sure to eat healthy oils, such as ghee and olive oil to provide essential lubrication. Massaging your body skin on a daily basis is also essential to keep the skin young and healthy.
7. Nourish your Skin
Besides following the diet for your skin type, these foods are terrific skin-enhancers: leafy green vegetables; easily digested proteins such as paneer, milk, tofu, sunflower seeds; foods high in zinc such as quinoa; and beta-carotene-rich foods such as carrots and sweet cherries. Almonds and walnuts support the skin with their protein and lubricating fat content. Some skin-friendly spices include turmeric to nourish the first four layers of the skin; cumin to rid the body of ama; black pepper to cleanse the channels, and fennel to balance the transformational ability of the skin. All antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as pomegranate, apple, pear, and bitter, green leafy vegetables are also excellent for the skin. Eat only intelligent foods, which means fresh, whole and organic foods. Stay away from packaged, canned, frozen, processed, and packaged foods. Leftovers are also a no-no.
Winter Skin Tips
- Drink plenty of water, and avoid hot water if your skin is photosensitive in winter to moisturize your skin properly and protect it from the sun.
- Take a warm bath before and after skiing or exposing your skin to freezing temperatures for a long period of time. Any time it's freezing outside, the pores of the skin freeze shut and heat is retained in the deeper layers. This heat dries out the skin and lowers its resistance to the sun. That is why many people get worse sunburns after skiing than at the beach, and it's also why some people's skin breaks out after a skiing trip. A warm bath before and after tackling the slopes helps dilate frozen channels and supports the skin to release heat trapped in the deeper layers.
Information provided in this article is for the sole purpose of imparting education on Ayurveda and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, please consult your physician.