Ancient remedies are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. Arguably with the increasing knowledge that artificial and chemical ingredients can be detrimental not only to the skin but for general wellbeing as well. What is put in the skin is absorbed and is an outer protective covering which includes face, body and scalp.
One of the main reasons for Ayurvedic skin care products and protocols taking the spa and beauty worlds by storm is the availability of numerous potent skin rasayanas in the Ayurvedic herbal treasury. Skin rasayanas (rasa – essence, ayana – enter) are so called because of their ability to deliver penetrating holistic benefits to the skin without side effects or the damage caused by a fragmented approach to skin health. Whatever your skin type or needs for balance, there are Ayurvedic skin rasayanas that can help. Further, when used in combination, as is the Ayurvedic tradition, you derive the added benefit of synergy, with the combined formulation being exponentially more beneficial than any single herb in the formulation. These rasayanas should be seen as nutritional supplements to provide support to the skin- face, body and hair in topical formulations for the skin where they deliver their benefits trans-dermally. It should be noted that true ayurvedic formulations for internal or external use are only effective when used in combination with other herbs to help alleviate or balance a problem.
The therapeutic value of the rasayanas is maximized when they are used in natural topical formulations in combination with emollients such as milk, cream, yogurt or honey, exfoliating substances such as natural clay, salts, grain or lentil flours, vegetable base oils, and floral waters or pure vegetable oils to act as the yogavahi – the carrier of the healing values of the herbs to the cells and tissues. Both the herbs themselves, as well as the other ingredients in the formulations, can be chosen specifically for a skin type, or balanced to suit all skin types. Formulations that are tridoshic – suitable for all skin types – generally have many more herbs and ingredients to avoid aggravating an individual dosha (body type). The herbs should not be exposed to high temperatures, and should be of high quality and fresh. Formulations that add herbs to chemical bases or that contain artificial preservatives or fragrances are not as effective in maintaining skin health and appearance because the herbs in such formulations are not as active or have been processed. Just as processed food is said to have less nutrients than fresh food
Vata skin, space or air predominant, is delicate and tends to be naturally dry. Skin rasayanas that benefit Vata skin are mainly nourishing, with subsidiary properties such as enhancing natural glow or purifying the skin. Such herbs also balance Vata dosha in the physiology, calming and settling the mind and supporting stress management and mind/body coordination so that the ravages of worry and excessive mental pressure do not show up on the skin as fine lines, sagging and bags under the eyes. Nourishment and deep, ongoing rehydration are essential if Vata skin is to look healthy, plump and youthful.
Brahmi (Bacopa), Shatavari (Indian Asparagus), Amla (Indian Gooseberry), Gotu kola (Indian Pennywort) and Ashwagandha (Winter Cherry) are potent Vata-pacifying skin rasayanas that help support skin elasticity, moisture balance, texture and radiance. They are ultra-nourishing, helping to regenerate skin cells and keep skin looking youthful. Triphala, made from equal parts of Indian Gooseberry, Beleric Myrobalan and Chebulic Myrobalan, are also excellent for Vata skin because it combines nourishment with a gentle detoxifying effect that enhances skin clarity. Topical formulations for Vata skin infuses these herbs with nourishing oils using traditional methodology that make the formulation effective.
Pitta skin, fire predominant, is sensitive and is generally neither dry nor oily. Skin rasayanas that support the health of Pitta skin are mainly cooling and soothing, with some element of nourishing and purifying as well. These rasayanas also balance Pitta in the physiology, balancing the emotions and strengthening the heart/mind coordination so that the inner serenity and emotional balance are reflected on the skin as a healthy glow and brightness, and angry eruptions, redness are avoided by the inclusion of herbs that help constrict capilleries, cool and calm the skin. Pitta skin also requires protection, because it tends to be more photosensitive than other types of skin.
Amla, Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba), Kumari (aloe vera), White Sandalwood, Red Sandalwood and Lajawanti (Mimosa Pudica) are considered the pre-eminent Pitta-pacifying skin rasayanas. They draw out excess heat, support the skin’s natural ability to withstand the ravages of the environment, and keep skin clear and healthy. They nourish sensitive skin tissue without irritating it. Triphala, Manjistha (Indian Madder) and Neem are also helpful for Pitta skin because they purify and clarify the skin without depleting it of moisture or youthfulness. Topical formulations for Pitta skin combine these herbs with soothing oils.
Kapha skin, water or earth predominant, is oily, and tends to be congested and susceptible to attracting dust and grime. Skin rasayanas for Kapha skin are therefore first purifiers that detoxify and clarify, with subsidiary properties of being nourishing and rejuvenating. These herbs also balance Kapha dosha in the physiology, invigorating the mind and body so that the skin appears alive and vital, and reducing the congestion that dulls Kapha skin.
Neem, Manjistha (Indian Madder), Triphala, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Cloves and Turmeric are potent Kapha-balancing skin rasayanas. They help detoxify the skin while nourishing it at the same time. They balance oil content in the skin and enhance clarity and brightness. Because of their effective detoxification properties, these rasayanas keep Kapha skin squeaky clean, so that it stays healthy and naturally radiant. Topical formulations for Kapha skin combine these herbs with light oils.
Tridoshic formulations which means for all skin types draw on skin rasayanas from each group to offer the combined benefits of nourishment, detoxification, protection and balanced temperature.
Ayurvedic formulations in the form Lotions and Creams do not have water in them, therefore they appear to be thick in consistency. The base is generally oil in which herbs are infused for maximum potency and beeswax. The importance of this is that they should be viewed as concentrates and can be made lighter on application by using wet fingertips to massage the them in. Massaging the cream or lotion helps the skin to absorb the goodness and impart the benefits resulting in healthy skin.
Some of the most popular herbs used in beauty care their uses:
Turmeric (Haldi) – Curucuma Longa:
Turmeric is mainly used to ensure glowing, bright skin. Turmeric face masks are extensively available for their skin-friendly treatment that prevents bacterial infection. Turmeric pastes cure pigmentation, maintain the pH factor and are constantly applied on the neck, face and over-all body to enhance the complexion and brightness of skin.
White Sandalwood (Chandan) – Santalum Album:
The external application of chandan is through oil, powder and paste derived from the herb. The aromatic essence of chandan has made it a favourite of the beauty industry. It possesses various soothing qualities that effectively work to improve skin ailments and alleviate allergies. Herbal face masks and scrubs made from sandalwood powder cleanses our skin thoroughly and brings a healthy glow to it. Chandan has cooling properties.
Red Sandalwood (Rakta Chandana)- Pterocarpus santalinus
Red sandalwood powder which has antiseptic properties and hence, it is used for healing the wounds. It is also calming and cooling. Red Sandalwood is used in face tonics, creams and lotions.
Neem – Azadirachta indica :
This herb is used as a skin cleanser, acne, psoriasis and eczema and to treat common hair problems like dandruff.
Basil (tulsi) – Ocimum sanctum:
• Effective against scars and blemishes. Basil has anti inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Basil leaves contains many health benefits such as eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene and terpineol. These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Basil herb contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin A, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging.
Aloe Vera is used in many skin care formulations. It heals skin irritations and scars. The primal effect of this herb comes from its soothing properties.