Ayurveda is becoming more popular in beauty and skincare. Here, Claire Paphitis, ayurvedic practitioner and author of Balance Your Agni: Essential Ayurveda (theayurvedacoach.com), gives her advice.
Q: Are there any Ayurvedic herbs I can put on my face to even out my complexion and reduce redness?
While you address matters of digestion on the inside, there are a multitude of plants and herbs with the power to further improve the look and condition of your skin on the outside.
If you suffer with oily or congested skin, then products containing witch hazel and tea tree are very helpful. one that is less well known is the herb, neem. Neem has powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that can help prevent and treat acne.
For skin that is red or inflamed, look for products containing sandalwood or try sandalwood oil, which is known to soothe irritated skin and rosacea, and calm any associated itching.
If you have very dry skin, avoid using harsh toners or scrubs and opt for pure essential oils, especially blends that include rose, rosehip or jasmine oil. Rosehip oil, in particular, is rich in essential fatty acids that are easily absorbed by the skin.
Alongside using herbs and plants to treat your skin, ensure you drink plenty of warm water (in Ayurveda, we never advise drinking cold water) to continue to enable the flushing out of any toxins that have built up. In my book Balance Your Agni, I give a very simple recipe to make cumin seed water. Cumin seeds are not only an excellent digestive aid, they contain vitamin E and a host of other antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to help maintain clear, glowing skin.
Q: How does my gut health impact my skin?
A: In Ayurveda, gut health and your digestive system are firmly at the root of your overall health and wellbeing. If you want clear, glowing skin, you must start with examining your digestion. this is because when the digestive fire (in Ayurveda, we call this the ‘Agni’) is working correctly, you can digest and absorb all the nutrients from your food and receive optimum nourishment to your tissues and skin. When the Agni is out of balance, food is not properly digested.
This undigested food ferments in your gut and there is an accumulation of waste or ‘Ama’ (toxins). Your body will always try to rid itself of these toxins through a number of routes, usually by going to the toilet, which is why having a healthy, regular bowel movement is so important.
However, when there is an excess of these toxins, for some people the route ‘out’ is via the skin. So, if your skin is dull, tired, excessively dry or oily, red or always breaking out, it’s a good idea to examine your digestion first.
A healthy, balanced Agni can transform your overall health, which is reflected in your skin!
Q: What advice does Ayurveda offer to improve my wrinkles?
A: My first advice would be to honour those wrinkles! Rather than seeing them in a negative way, accept their presence. As world-renowned facialist, Beata Aleksandrowicz, once told me: “Wrinkles happen when we smile and laugh. Let them be a reminder of all those times you have had moments of joy.”
Rather than introducing things such as Botox into your body, energise your face and bring oxygen to it using facial massage techniques.
Full-body massage forms a vital part of a set of daily Ayurvedic rituals called Dinacharya. As well as anointing the body with warm oil, you can extend this to the face to rejuvenate it and release tension, encouraging lymphatic drainage and promoting the flow of blood to bring a healthy glow. I advise the following (repeat each step five times before moving on):
1 Press a little facial oil into your face and neck. Then, using your index and middle fingers, very gently massage from the centre of your brow across your forehead with even strokes – across and up.
2 Using your thumb and first finger, gently pinch an inch of skin along the eyebrow, applying a light pressure to the top of the eye socket with your thumb as you go. Start at the inner corner of the eye and work outwards. Place your fingers behind your ears and gently sweep down your neck, moving forwards to the centre of your collarbone.
3 Finally, cup your chin with both hands and gently sweep the palms up to the temples.
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