“The idea that the mind and emotions are connected to the state of your skin isn’t some ‘woo woo’ theory. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to support the profound relationship between the psyche and the skin,” wrote integrative physician Monisha Bhanote in a 2022 article in Healthline. Bhanote went on to cite several articles that supported this. She referred, for example, to a 2016 study that highlighted that the stress hormones cortisol and corticosterone play a significant role in skin health, and that these affect things like cell proliferation, inflammation and even the way we age.
It is not surprising then, that Ayurveda should have such powerful solutions to keep the skin healthy. Because, as Dr Vasant Lad, an Ayurvedic physician and author of the book The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies, points out: “Ayurveda is based on the fundamental concept that the mind and body are intimately connected and that nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind.”
Also listen to: Ayurveda in Modern Day Life with Dr Deepa Apte
Ayurveda is a system of medicine that originated in India over 5,000 years ago, and it is gaining popularity in the modern world due to its holistic approach to health and its emphasis on the mind-body connection. Modern Ayurveda has evolved to incorporate modern scientific research and evidence-based practices, including its application to skin health. As a field, it recognises that each person is unique and has a unique constitution, or dosha, made up of the elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. In his book, Perfect Health, acclaimed author and Ayurvedic practitioner Dr Deepak Chopra says that “Health is not just the absence of disease but a vibrant state of well-being that must include physical, psychological, and spiritual health.” This holistic approach to health includes diet, lifestyle, herbs, and other natural remedies.
Diet plays a significant role in Ayurvedic skin care, and Ayurveda recognises that certain foods can aggravate or pacify the doshas. Dr John Douillard, an Ayurvedic practitioner and author of the book Eat Wheat, explains, “In Ayurveda, the skin is seen as a reflection of the inner health of the body, and the foods we eat can have a profound impact on the health of our skin.” For example, in Ayurveda, Vata is one of the three doshas (energies) that govern various bodily functions. In my podcast, certified holistic health counsellor Suchita Kothari points out, “It [this dosha] is associated with the elements of air and space, and is characterised by qualities such as dryness, coldness, lightness, and movement,” Based on the characteristics associated with this dosha, individuals with a Vata constitution are advised to focus on warm, nourishing foods such as soups, stews, and cooked vegetables. Kothari adds, “Soda is another very big cause to aggravate your vata [one of the three doshas, or biological energies, that govern the functioning of the body and mind.”
Pitta types, on the other hand, are advised to avoid spicy and acidic foods and focus on cooling foods such as cucumber, mint, and coriander. And, Kapha types are advised to avoid heavy, oily foods and focus on light, spicy foods such as ginger, cumin, and black pepper.
Ayurveda also utilises herbs and natural remedies to support healthy skin. Dr Lad explains, “Ayurvedic herbal remedies for skin disorders are usually a combination of herbs that work synergistically to restore balance to the body and promote healthy skin.” Some common Ayurvedic herbs for skin health include neem, turmeric, and aloe vera. Neem is a powerful antibacterial and antifungal herb that can help to clear acne and other skin conditions. Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory herb that can help to reduce inflammation and redness in the skin. Aloe vera is a soothing and cooling herb that can help to calm irritated skin.
In addition to diet, lifestyle practices such as yoga, meditation, and pranayama (breathing exercises) can help to balance the doshas and promote healthy skin. This is important, because as certified holistic health counsellor, Hansa Melvani says in my podcast: “Acne is not just physical, it’s emotional too because it affects your sense of self and your self-esteem and how you feel when you go out”.
Also listen to: Yoga for the Brain with Lamya Arsiwala
It works. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine establishes that practicing yoga and pranayama can improve skin hydration and elasticity, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, and improve overall skin health.
Modern Ayurveda emphasises the importance of the mind-body connection and recognises the role that internal imbalances can play in skin health. By balancing the doshas through diet, lifestyle practices, and natural remedies, Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to achieving healthy, radiant skin.