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Modern Ayurveda for Skin and Beauty

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Anshu Bahanda: This is Anshu Bahanda on Wellness Curated. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. My mission is to empower you with health and wellness so that you can then go and empower others.

Hi everyone, welcome to my chat with these lovely ladies, Hansa and Suchita, from Something Holistic. And what I love about their form of Ayurveda is that it’s very relatable. It’s modern Ayurveda. I’ve been going to amazing Veds, all my life, you know, since I was a child, I think my father’s been taking me. And what they do is incredible. It’s a whole complete lifestyle. So, when I go to my Ved, he gives me medication for anything, everything (else) has to stop because something has to be mixed with pomegranate juice, something has to be mixed with milk, or something has to be mixed with honey. So, I think what you girls are doing is incredible. It’s absolutely incredible.

Hansa Melwani: Thank you so much.

AB: And there’s been a lot of interest as you know, Hansa, and just for everyone’s information, we were flooded with questions. So, what we’ve done, if you don’t mind, is we’ve broken up the chat into Ayurveda for beauty and Ayurveda for hair. Because we had so many (questions), we couldn’t incorporate everything into 40-45 minutes. So, Hansa is going to do the first 20 minutes and maybe one of the questions if we can fit them in and then Suchita will do the next 20 minutes, and again, hopefully, we can fit in one or two questions.

HM: Sounds Good

AB: I will start very quickly. Hansa, can you talk to us about your personal experience with skin and Ayurveda?

HM: Sure. So I was looking forward to coming on today since the skin has been so important in my life, because while I was a teenager and I grew up in England and during my time at university over there, my skin was so awful Anshu. I had cystic acne and it was all over my face.

AB: You’re glowing now. Every time I’ve met you (you’ve been glowing), you know.

HM: No, it was, it was so bad. It was all over. And I think anyone who’s listening, who’s experienced acne, knows that it’s 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. And I think looking back, a lot of what happened was that I was in university, I was studying, I was partying, I was staying up late. I didn’t have a regular routine like a lot of college students don’t. 

And so, I was my whole system was out of balance. I was eating carbs in the middle of the night, and I also had a hormonal imbalance, and I think my skin was just a manifestation of my internal health. And it was the stress that I was experiencing. And so, while today Suchita and I want to share some great tips that we’ve learned and some tricks, I think that we just wanted to spend a few minutes talking about diet and lifestyle because that had the biggest impact on how my skin improved.

AB: So that would be fantastic because that was one of the things, I wanted to ask you about, you know, what role diet would play and also about food combining.

HM: Yes, exactly. So, I’m gonna just try and keep it as simple as possible because we don’t have much time and there are so many different food combinations. But just for those listening, right now I’m just going to say maybe two or three things that really affected my skin. And the main one was dairy. So, I’m not saying Suchita and I advocate that don’t have dairy. Ayurveda believes in, you know, yoghurt and ghee and anything that your body can tolerate, but it’s just how you combine it. So, there are three main things. One was don’t have dairy with fruit. You want to have fruit alone. Fruit is easily digestible and when you mix dairy with it, you’re more likely to get gas and bloating. So, things like strawberry yoghurt, banana smoothies, all of that, try and avoid and you’ll see hopefully that your skin will improve. You can have it with like plant-based milk, so you can make your smoothie with almond milk and that’s okay, but just avoid the dairy and fruit combination. Also, dairy with meat. I’m a huge foodie and I know that I love my tandoori food, but marinating meat in yoghurt, also has conflicting energies. You have the heating and cooling energy.

AB: Can you use plant-based yoghurt?

HM: You can. Plant-based yoghurt is fine.

AB: Okay.

HM: It’s just regular yoghurt and meat will lead to, in Ayurveda we call it “Ama”. It’s a toxic build-up, so you want to avoid that. And even things like a cheese omelette, because that’s like a protein source with dairy. Try and have it separately. Please don’t just take our word for this, you know, experiment with them at home, see how your digestion is. But when I did start doing this. I did notice a huge improvement.

AB: Okay, So primally in terms of food combining, you would say avoid dairy and milk together, I’m sorry, dairy and fruit or dairy and meat?

HM: Yes, dairy and fruit, dairy and meat and also dairy with, you know, the nightshades family. So that’s a group of vegetables like potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomato. They’re quite heavy to digest for some people. So just be watchful with that because if you’re loading your jacket potato with cheese and then you’re feeling heavy and sluggish after, that’s also going to come out in your skin.

AB: Okay, fantastic. And what (other) lifestyle changes do you think will be helpful for the skin? Easy lifestyle changes that one can incorporate and also if you talk about sleep?

HM: Yeah, sleep is so important. And so actually when my acne cleared up, I then started suffering from a bit of rosacea. And even now, if I get less than 7 hours of sleep, I can see it on my skin the next day. So, I think sleep is so important. And if you can sleep before 10:00 PM, that’s extremely helpful, because 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM is pitta time in Ayurveda, so your skin has the best opportunity to rejuvenate when you’re sleeping by 10:00 o’clock. Also, try and have your meals (properly), you want lunch to be your biggest meal. So, I know in the western world they say “have breakfast like a king” and that should be your biggest meal, but Ayurveda believes that your digestion is strongest when the sun is out in midday. So have a heavier lunch and a lighter dinner. And maybe if you can do dinner before the sun goes down, that’s great. I know it’s easier in quarantine because our schedules are more flexible, but even when I’m going out, I try and have my meal early and then if I’m meeting friends later, I’ll just snack and pick on things with them. But most of my digestion has been done.

AB: So, Hansa you’re saying, sort of majority of the week one should try and sleep before 10:00 p.m.?

HM: Yes, you’ll notice a big difference, Anshu. I mean it is hard and it takes a while to get into the routine of it, but (when) you’ll wake up, you’ll have a lot more energy, you’ll feel fresher, and it’s just part of, in Ayurveda we call it Dinacharya, your daily routine.

AB: Okay. And what time do you recommend waking up? Is there something in Ayurveda that recommends (waking up at a particular time) or does it not matter?

HM: Yeah, it does. As long as you’re up before ten, between six and ten is ideal. And you want to have your breakfast then too, and maybe with Suchita, I can come back and talk to you about morning routines because that’s such a big part of it. But yes, as long as you are up between like six and ten, that’s ideal.

AB: Okay.

HM: That’s the best time.

AB: Now, you have these amazing skin tricks. You’ve taught me a couple in the past, so can you talk about those?

HM: Sure. So, in Ayurveda, we believe that the skin is a pitta organ.

AB: Do you want to just explain that?

HM: Sure, yes, let me just do that. So, in Ayurveda, there are five elements, and the five elements are divided into three doshas. So, you’ve got like the fire, earth, air, water, space. And pitta is the fire element. So, it’s fire and water. And so, when that is out of balance in your body, you will experience symptoms like unsatiable thirst, like you keep drinking but you’re still thirsty. You might be more short-tempered. So, whereas normally it takes a while to get you irritated, & you’re very quickly irritated, you’re very competitive. You won’t put a project down until it’s done. You want to finish it. And physically it’ll show up in your skin. You might get hair fall, you might get rosacea, pigmentation, and acne. All of these are signs that your skin is irritated. And what’s so clever, Anshu is that the other pitta organs, they’re all related. So, the liver is another pitta organ, and you’ll often see that when someone has skin issues, their gut is often having problems too. So, for example, you might have diarrhoea or you might have constipation, and that has to be treated, which is why we talked about food.

AB: Okay, great. I’m going to add Suchita now.

Suchita Kothari: Hello.

AB: Hi, Suchita. There you are. How are you?

SK: Good, how are you?

SK: Very good.

AB: I can see a beautiful day behind you.

SK: Oh, my God. It is gorgeous. Yeah, it’s such a beautiful day.

AB: We were telling everyone about your skin, so we were dying to have you come on.

SK: Thank you. I was looking forward to this chat with you, so we can dive right in.

AB: Okay, great. So will you tell us, I know we heard from Hansa about her skincare journey, why don’t you tell us about yours?

SK: Sure. I’m going to talk about two different things. One is mine, and then the other one is my daughter’s. You know how it is, right? Your child’s journey becomes your journey. So, she had terrible eczema, by the time she was one year old. Eczema was just, like, all over her body. She couldn’t even open her eyes in the morning. And back then, I was not knowledgeable enough in the Ayurveda world and I’d apply Hydrocortisone to her. Anyway, I think my studies really helped me, and it’s helped her. I think the number one thing that I took care of was her constipation. I think the biggest aggravation was her constipation. And it’s intuitive, right? I stopped all dry foods for her.

For example, crackers, popcorn, basically the traditional, after-school snacks, or mid-morning snacks that they get at school. So, I stopped all of that. I increased warm foods, mushy foods, and foods that she could digest easily. And she never had soda, but if you or your child does have soda and you’re suffering from eczema, soda is another very big cause to aggravate your vata. And I know Hansa spoke a little bit about the doshas before. So vata is a combination of air and space in your body.

AB: Okay.

SK: That’s the combination for vata. And especially when your eczema is dry, or if you have a combination and you have wet eczema, then you need a pitta-balancing diet as well. And so that is reducing spices, reducing caffeine, red meat, and anything that generates a lot of heat in your body.

AB: In your body. Okay.

SK: And my journey has been psoriasis. So, I dealt with psoriasis for several years, and it was on my palms. I couldn’t hold anything. If I touched my daughter’s skin, they could feel the roughness in my palms.

AB: Oh my god, now your palms look totally clear.

SK: Yeah, they’re totally clear. I still have to manage it, right? It’s clear, but I have to constantly manage it. So, in terms of application, what worked for me is I found a really good cold-pressed coconut oil. Mine is from Kerala, but that said, you can get good organic cold-pressed oil anywhere in the world. So topically, that was important for me, just to maintain it and to be able to feel comfortable, because it’s constant scaling, right? Your skin just keeps shedding. The number one change that I made was I stopped all packaged foods, so I stopped having anything that came out of a package. Everything was whole foods, whole grains. And then along with that, I followed a pitta-balancing diet, which is what I mentioned before. I won’t say I stopped the caffeine, but I exponentially reduced it. I would have my coffee once every week or once every ten days. I actually even reduced my soda consumption and spicy food. I love spicy food. And that said, I’m not saying I took out all the spices because spice is important, but the right spices. Like, I reduced the red chillies and the habanero and things like that. So, it was the caffeine, packaged food, and spices (that I stopped). And I was also going through a stressful time. And stress doesn’t necessarily always go away. It’s constant in our life, right? When you accept the stress, it can aggravate it. And so, meditation was something that I started. So, these were a few of my tips for both psoriasis and eczema.

AB: So these things that you’ve told us, totally helped you get rid of psoriasis? That’s pretty unheard of. Amazing.

SK: Yeah! I’ve never posted old photographs of my hand. I have photographs of my hand because I was constantly comparing it to see (any changes/ improvements). I’ve never posted it, but I’ll just send it to you just for you to see.

AB: That’s amazing. If you ever want to post, please tell me. I’d love to show people. That’s incredible. Well done. Any other tips you’d like to give us? Someone was asking, I know we’re doing a hair one later, but someone’s been asking a lot of questions about the flaky scalp, but I don’t know if you want to address it today or you want to address it when you do the hair session.

SK: I mean, we have a few minutes, so sure. I can quickly talk about flaky hair. So basically, dry scalp, right? And as I mentioned before, it’s intuitive. In Ayurveda, you do the opposite. If it’s dry, you need wet and moist, right? That’s part of like, the Ayurvedic gunas. And so, if you have a dry scalp, in terms of food, what you need to reduce is dry food. You need to stop salads, you need to stop foods that are cold in energy and temperature, so your ice creams, you need to reduce cucumber and things like that. Crackers, popcorn, bhel, Mudi, and then the aerated drinks and the carbonated drinks. So, in terms of diet, essentially, I think that with a dry scalp, you need to then introduce moist food and good fat. For hair and skin health, and I think (even) gut health, I mean, we need good fat. So maybe soaked nuts and seeds, avocado. Just make sure you incorporate good fats.

AB: Okay, fantastic. And someone’s asking for a skincare line that’s good for sensitive eczema skin.

SK: So, Cyra, is this for the face or the body? So, with my daughter, for her body, until Cyra answers my question, for her, I have been massaging her body before a shower with oil. Leave it on for 20 minutes. (I use this) amazing oil from Forest Essentials, and it’s a post-shower (oil). So, while her body is still wet, we apply the oil to her. I mean, she applies the oil for herself now that she’s older. And for the face, I would say if you’re going to be indoors and you’re at home, I would say coconut oil would be a good option because it is cooling for my daughter. Again, I’ve used a product from India. You don’t get it in the US. And it’s again from a company called Forest Essentials. And Cyra, I’ll send you the one I use for her. And it’s actually from a teen line.

AB: They have a teen line? Oh, I didn’t know Forest Essentials did a teen line.

SK: Yeah. So, they have a Tween and teen line. And so, I’ve been using that for her face now.

AB: Okay, fantastic.

SK: But before, when she had full-blown eczema, what worked was correcting her constipation. Warm water in the morning. In the night, I give her, (actually) both my girls now, even though my younger one doesn’t have any issues with eczema, I warm a little bit of milk. I mix half a teaspoon of Ghee in it, a pinch of Turmeric in it, and I have them drink it. First, I tried a full glass and they’re like, mom, we cannot drink this. (I told them) you know what, I’m going to put it in a small shot glass and you’re just going to shoot it down. And that really helped correct her constipation.

AB: Okay. Because Ghee I’ve known people to have it in the morning, but it’s interesting what you’re saying about having it at night.

SK: Yes, Last thing at night, right before going to sleep, so that it does the magic in the gut and you wake up in the morning and you can evacuate.

AB: Okay, fantastic. Thank you. That was great information. Anything else you want to touch on before you go? I know people have missed some bits, they’re saying, but don’t worry if you missed anything, we’re going to post everything. We’re going to put the video online so you can go back to any bits that you’ve missed. People are asking for pictures of the products, which we will post. So, any last final question for Suchita? Otherwise Suchita, any last suggestion before you go? You have half a minute.

SK: The skin is the largest organ in our body. Feed it with things that you would put in your mouth. Because our skin is eating everything and it is going into our body. So, I guess that would be my last thought about the skin.

AB: Okay, so then I have one question to do with that. You know, a lot of the stuff that we put on our skin, the creams, you can’t eat them. So, should one not be using them?

SK: Yeah, you shouldn’t be using them. And that’s why whatever I mentioned today, they’re all clean products. And the reason I haven’t mentioned sunscreen yet is that we are still testing and trying to figure out the best clean sunscreen that is effective. And that’s why I didn’t bring it up today at all. Sunscreen is very important. But all the products that I showed you today are extremely clean. I’m not saying buy these products and eat them. That’s not what I’m saying. But they’re all clean products.

AB: Okay. And then time and time again, we’ve got questions about acne scars, which I know Hansa has touched on. You’ve touched on it. We’ve got questions about teen acne, which, again, you’ve answered. But if you put products that you would recommend for those in general on your Instagram page, that would be very helpful.

SK: Sure. Absolutely. It was so lovely chatting with you. Thank you.

AB: Yes Suchita, that was amazing. 

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