The beauty of Ayurveda: how to find your own natural skin healing path.


by Swarna Kuruganti June 23, 2017

In recent years reputed US hospitals (like Yale, Duke, John Hopkins, and other top medical research centers) have begun to promote Ayurveda in their treatment routines. A layman’s version of Ayurveda is that it is an ‘alternative medicine’ that uses natural herbs for treatment and healing. There is clearly a growing interest in ‘natural’ healing options for skin concerns. So Shilpi's journey into Ayurvedic skincare offers an intriguing opportunity to learn more about Ayurveda, and to explore its unique healing path for skin-wellness.

 

Shilpi was a full time cosmetic research and development scientist in large corporations for a decade. She was quietly behind well-known US brands in personal care, medicinal cosmeceuticals, OTCs and sunscreens. But a few years back, she switched course.

 

Cosmetic chemistry to Ayurveda, makes for an unusual switch.

Shilpi: “I learned firsthand that product decisions in large companies can be based solely on commercial value. In some cases, management decisions are just unethical, disregarding consumers' needs.”

 

Such actions, broadly called “greenwashing” can include: (i) using ingredients in minuscule doses for marketing effect vs for actual skin care results, (ii) reporting ingredients on the label, but not actually using them in the product, or (iii) not reporting ingredients on the label, that have been used in the product.

 

Shilpi: “I have family members who are Ayurvedic practitioners. My husband, a pediatrician and neonatologist, cares for preemies in intensive care units, is also trained in Ayurveda. So for a solution to my son’s eczema, I turned to Ayurveda, and it worked. Rather than suppress my creativity in a corporate environment, I realized I wanted to make products that are medical grade, results-oriented. But made from sustainable, ethical, natural resources, and based on Ayurvedic principles.”

 

Shilpi had exposure to Ayurveda early in life. But it took her a career in modern cosmetic science to truly appreciate the natural healing techniques offered by Ayurveda. Using her background in medicinal science, cosmetic chemistry and exposure to Ayurveda, Shilpi started Skinveda, a vegan, Ayurvedic and gluten-free skin care line. She is now merging the ancient science of Ayurveda with modern delivery systems. Which offers an opportunity to learn more about this ancient science.

 

Ayurveda predates Western medicine, by a few thousand years.

Western medicine seeks evidence-based practice, conducting tests to treat symptoms. But context of the symptoms, such as lifestyle, habits, stress factors of the individual are ignored in the diagnosis. Many reputed western physicians frustrated with the constraints of current medical practices are increasingly recognizing this missing puzzle in health care. Some have opened up functional, integrated medical practices that include Ayurveda in their treatment plans.

 

“Ayu meaning “life” and veda meaning “knowledge” means Ayurveda is “knowledge of life” or the “science of longevity”. Ayurveda is an ancient, traditional medicine from India, first written 5000 years back. It has been developed and refined from centuries of practice and observations. Quite different from western medicine, Ayurveda does not focus on the health concern, as much as the individual-host, and the individual’s vulnerabilities. Ayurveda is slowly finding its way into the West with the help of research studiesA.

 

Ayurvedic skin care emphasizes that inner wellness and skin health are closely interlinked.

Ayurveda was the first known instance of personalized wellness & skin care. The central belief of Ayurveda is that we are all unique with our genetically inherited mind-body-emotional qualities. It is one of the few sciences that treats through a person’s makeup, and their circumstances.

 

Per Ayurveda, the human body is made of the same elements as all of nature, and most peoples’ bodies express a predominance of one element. This results in a particular physical shape, appetite and personality that constitute one’s dosha.


Shilpi: “We are all made up of a unique combination of the three ‘doshas’: Vata (associated with Air/Space), Pitta (connected with Fire) and Kapha (linked to Earth). But it is the effects to this constitution as a result of daily living (Vikriti), that cause an imbalance in the ‘doshas’ and which are reflected on the skin.

 

 Ayurvedic skincare is the art of balancing right foods and right skin food to rebalance the combination of doshas best for our mind, skin and the body. As a result, the first step is to identify each individual’s dominant doshas with a simple quiz. (See below for a quiz that helps discover your ‘dosha’ typeB). Once an individual’s dominant doshas are identified, targeted powerful adaptogens and natural anti-inflammatories are used to rebalance the skin & body from the inside out”

 

Below are examples of each dominant dosha’s skin challenges and Ayurvedic recommendations.

  • Vata (associated with Air/space): Tend to show signs of aging faster than Pitta or Kapha dosha types, as they tend to have very dry, dehydrated skin. Hydration internally and externally is critical to the system.
  • Pitta (connected with fire): Tend to burn easily from the sun. Ayurveda recommends cooling the mind and body, with ingredients such as aloe vera (topical), coconut juice (drink).
  • Kapha (linked to earth): When out of balance, kapha dosha types show congested skin with toxin accumulation. Gentle, regular detoxification of the face and digestive system is a good practice.

 

What makes Ayurvedic skincare effective?

Below are the three main reasons that can help Ayurvedic skin care be effective:

  1. Herbs/Ingredients. Herbs used in Ayurveda are commonly found in India, or tropical climates. They are similar at a molecular level to synthetic products. Centuries of use have shown that when used the right way, these herbs and ingredients can help heal/soothe slowly, without harsh effects.

For example, at a molecular level, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Neem is another herb used for skin conditions and stomach ailments. In vitro and other studies show neem can inhibit cancer growth1. Neem has also been the subject of a landmark patent battle between the US and India2.

  1. Knowledge of ingredient chemistry. It is necessary to have Ayurvedic training, or know the ingredient chemistry to understand health/side effects of each potent ingredient vs just knowing how to formulate
  1. Knowledge of context (personalized) - Healing requires knowing which combination of potent ingredients is right for a unique mind-body-emotional constitution, ‘dosha’ type and skin challenge.

 

Potent ingredients, dosage, and context can make Ayurvedic skin care healing a complex practice. But generations of families have been using simple, effective wellness practices at home. Please see belowC for a simple Ayurvedic practice from Shilpi to manage daily stress. Also included are some classic booksE to find your relevant skin-health path. Take the quiz below to find your dosha type today. Start exploring the resources below for the Ayurvedic path to your unique skin-wellness goals!

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A. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Risk factors for Parskinsons.

B. Click here to discover your dosha, or mind-body constitution via a short quiz.

Research:

  1. Mayo Clinic: (i) Preclinical evaluation of the supercritical extract of azadirachta indica (neem) leaves in vitro and in vivo on inhibition of prostate cancer tumor growth. (ii) Nimbolide targets BCL2 and induces apoptosis in preclinical models of Waldenströms macroglobulinemia
  2. Patent battle over ‘Neem’, between the US and Indian governments http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4333627.stm

 C. Make yourself a quick detox tea every morning:

  • Boil a cup of water.
  • Add to the water a pinch of cumin seeds*, a slice of lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds*.
  • This drink flushes out toxins, helps increase metabolism, helping the body manage daily stress.
  • * If you have never used these seeds before, you can find them on Amazon - cumin seeds or fennel seeds.

 D. Note: Some Ayurvedic treatments may be dangerous when combined with prescription or over-the-counter medicines. Please consult your physician before proceeding.

E. Resources (Books/Sites):




Swarna Kuruganti
Swarna Kuruganti

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