Inner Beauty, Outer Beauty, Lasting Beauty: Beauty and Skin Care from Maharishi Ayurveda
By Mark Toomey, Ph.D., Director of Ayurvedic Programs at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa, Fairfield, Iowa
Our bodies are in a state of constant transformation. Did you know that every seven years almost all the cells in the human body are replaced? You literally are not the same person you were a few months ago. Managing this continual process of transformation is the key to radiant beauty. The outer layer of our skin — the epidermis — consists of dead cells which are constantly shedding. The same goes for our hair and nails. So what we see on the outside is actually the result of our body's inner transformation on a fundamental level.
The point is simple. Health and beauty are much more than what we see on the outside: they depend on what is happening inside. Beauty is more than skin deep. This knowledge applied correctly is transformative.
In ayurveda the definition of a healthy person is svastha. Svastha generally translated means health. Translated from Sanskrit, it literally means to "stand in pure consciousness." This view has far-reaching implications for our beauty. It sets the stage for bringing beauty to a sustainable and higher level — real beauty.
Svastha — in brief — is a condition of optimum balance and health that recognizes both mind and body in the equation. This condition of robust health includes powerfully-balanced digestion, elimination, and tissue formation along with happiness, emotional stability and contentment in the heart, mind and senses. This is a more complete description of balance. And this, says ayurveda, is the foundation of true beauty.
This key principle is illustrated in another way in the classic descriptions of Dhanvantari (Dawn'-von-tari), who is traditionally recognized in India as the founder of ayurveda. Dhanvantari is said to embody the fundamental intelligence of nature upholding balance in our bodies and the universe. He is also described as hridayamsuka which, translated, means "having a soft, charming, pleasing and delightful radiance emitting from deep inside his heart and surrounding his visage."
These two points offer a deep insight: balance creates beauty.
The understanding of Dhanvantari sheds light on the underlying ayurvedic principle of beauty. It is balance — balance on a multitude of levels — between cells, tissues, organs and systems, on a macro and micro level. This comprehensive level of balance is the source, according to ayurveda, of true lasting beauty, which radiates from within and reflects in every fiber of our being, including our skin, hair and eyes.
Ayurvedic beauty is more than skin deep; it is a fundamental reflection of the state of our mind and body — the balance between mind, body and spirit.
The Three Pillars: The Ultimate Goals
There are three traditional pillars of beauty. In Sanskrit, Roopam is the first. This refers to outer beauty. By the way, the subdosha for skin is Bhrajaka Pitta. Bhrajaka means "to shine," and we see this in healthy people who have an outer radiance, or Roopam.
Gunam is the second pillar, reflected by someone who is giving, kind, patient, happy and energetic. Such an enlightened individual demonstrates the principle of Gunam. One sees this kind of radiance with enlightened masters from India and other traditions where the saints are portrayed with a halo, or beaming radiance, as in the description of Dhanvantari. There is an inner light, or beauty, which radiates around them.
The third pillar is known as Vayastyag, and this is lasting beauty. We see very healthy older people, young beyond their years and still getting better with age. These are generally people who are supporting, in one way or another, this quality of svastha. In ayurveda this is done through diet, routine, proper and timely use of herbal formulations and the regular experience of transcendence, which connects one to the non-changing level of existence. These are a few of the activities that support and develop svastha.
It's All About Proper Transformation
What maintains these three pillars is proper transformation.
From the most subtle levels of our consciousness to the gross layer of the cells, we are beings undergoing transformation. So in a way transformation, or organized change, is who we are mentally and physically — so much so that every seven years we generate an almost completely new body. This transformation depends on our consciousness, our digestion, our foods, our environment and our activity.
Choices That Transform
The daily choices — our food, our herbal formulations, our multiple daily sensory experiences, even our thoughts — support or fail to support our beauty.
Our habits and choices determine if these transformations are life-supporting. So, simply put, beauty depends on creating life-supporting transformations. To create these life-supporting transformations requires, among other things, pure foods, effective practices to balance the mind, and knowledge of balance-creating activities that restore balance on the level of the mind, body and spirit.
Your Amazing Skin
Mark Twain once said, "The finest clothing made is a person's skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this."
Our skin is an incredible organ. The average adult has about 22 square feet of skin cells to look after. Skin acts as a waterproofing, insulating shield, guarding the body against extremes of temperature, damaging sunlight, and harmful chemicals. It also exudes antibacterial substances that prevent infection, and it manufactures Vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones. Skin additionally is a huge sensor, packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world. At the same time, skin allows us free movement, proving it an amazingly versatile organ.
Ayurveda Looks Deeper
Ayurveda distinguishes three basic body-mind types. Think of them as your basic ayurvedic "constitution." These body-mind types have specific tendencies, or natures. They are called "doshas" in Sanskrit. The three basic body-mind types, or doshas, are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We'll describe their basic tendencies in a moment. Keeping these in balance is the focus of ayurveda. Balanced doshas reflect outward as beauty and happiness. In ayurveda, dosha imbalances are identified through the pulse. To restore balance, ayurveda uses a wide array of modalities.
According to the Sushruta Samhita, the authoritative source text of ayurveda, the skin has seven important layers. These layers react when our doshas, the three natural governing tendencies of the body (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) are out of balance; that is, our body is not in balance. These imbalances may manifest as different skin problems.
Outer reflects inner.
The outermost layer of skin is said to reflect the quality of the inner layers. When the inner layers are healthy and balanced, this gives an outer glow to the surface layer of skin. If the inner layers are imbalanced, then problems such as skin eruptions, pimples, rashes, etc., can arise. In Sanskrit, the deepest layer of the skin is called Mamsadhara. It is this seventh, deepest layer of skin that is said to be the foundation on which the skin is built.
Digestion - Nourishing Two Special Layers of Skin
The seven layers of skin get their nutrition from Mamsa dhatu, which is muscle tissue. It is known as a subsidiary tissue of Rakta dhatu, which is our blood. The health of our skin is reflected and nourished by Rakta dhatu and the previous tissue called Rasa dhatu, or plasma tissue which nourishes the blood. So, in ayurveda it is commonly said that "glowing skin is the result of good-quality Rasa and Rakta."
Here is where digestion comes in. Health, or svastha, means "a state of balanced digestion and elimination." This is critically important for the creation of high-quality Rasa and Rakta, the two tissues that nourish the skin. Much can be done to balance digestion. Along with lifestyle choices and diet, perhaps one of the simplest methods is the use of a time-honored traditional herbal formulation known as Triphala, found in Maharishi Ayurveda's Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus). This remarkable product supports regular elimination and the assimilation of nutrients. It has been regularly used for centuries as a foundation and support of skin health.
Hair and Nail Health
Healthy Hair & Nails and Calcium Support are traditional blends of ayurvedic herbs that support these tissue levels. They also support the health of the liver, helping to flush out toxins and promoting resistance to day-to-day stress which can harm hair health. Whereas skin is a sub-tissue of Rasa and Rakta in ayurveda, hair and nails are considered a mala, or by-product of the formation of Asthi dhatu, the bone tissue. So, if one wants healthy hair and nails, then one must care for their bone tissue.
Strategies for Your Skin Type
Try drinking Organic Vata Tea — it's a remarkably simple way to pacify this dosha and add some calm. The herbs in Worry Free also pacify Vata dosha and support calm. Worry Free also comes as a Worry Free Tea and as a Worry Free Aroma Oil. Provide added nourishment to your skin by including organic milk, whole grains and green leafy vegetables in your diet.
People with more Vata have skin that has a tendency to be more dry, thin, delicate and cooler to touch. Vata dosha, one of the three natural governing tendencies of the body, is characterized by the qualities of air — moving, light and dry. If you have ever felt the skin of someone in their eighties or nineties, they have more Vata skin. Vata people have to be careful to drink fluids regularly, as they are easily dehydrated, and they must be careful during hot or cold, dry windy weather. Without care, Vata skin can age faster.
Vata skin types, for instance, will want to eat warmer, unctuous (oily) foods and favor sweet, sour and salty tastes to balance the dry, rough, moving qualities of Vata dosha.
Drinking lots of lukewarm water every day provides internal hydration. Eating plenty of sweet juicy fruits helps cleanse the body from within and provides hydration as well. Consider including a little healthy oil in your diet, such as organic ghee (clarified butter) or organic olive oil.
Organic Rose Petal Spread, a Pitta Rasayana, is great for Pitta balancing. Try it in cool milk in the summer or warm milk in the winter (all milk should be boiled and then allowed to cool).
Those with more Pitta dosha may have skin that is reddish to fair, has medium thickness, is sensitive to heat and chemicals, and is warm and moist to the touch. Pitta is one of the three natural governing tendencies of the body, and is characterized by fire and water. Pitta dosha governs metabolism and transformation in the body, including digestion. It is common to observe more freckles and moles with Pitta skin. Common skin problems with imbalanced Pitta are rashes, acne, sunspots and rosacea.
If you have a Pitta skin type, favor sweet, bitter and astringent tastes, found in sweet, juicy fruits and cooked greens. Stay away from harsh, synthetic cosmetics, as they may damage your sensitive skin or cause breakouts. Avoid hot, spicy foods, as they add heat to an already-fiery constitution. If you do a daily massage, consider using cooling oil such as organic coconut oil. The rose is considered cooling for the mind, body and emotions. Cook with organic spice mixes called Churnas; Organic Pitta Churna is cooling and thus suited for this particular dosha or imbalance. Also include herbs such as fennel, coriander and fresh cilantro. Turmeric is very helpful for problem skin. Those with Pitta skin should generally avoid the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers and eggplant). Take extra care to protect your skin when you go out in the sun, by wearing protective clothing such as a hat or lightweight long-sleeve clothing in the summer.
For Kapha dosha, think of baby skin — soft, milky skin. It can be oilier, thicker and cool to the touch. You see that beautiful Kapha skin on some older people — it resists aging compared to Vata and Pitta skin types. Kapha, one of the three natural governing tendencies within the body, is characterized by earth and water and governs all structure and lubrication in the mind and body. It controls weight, growth, lubrication for the joints and lungs, and formation of all the seven tissues.
Kapha skin problems revolve around such things as excess oiliness, water retention, and enlarged pores. Because Kapha types tend to have oily skin, their diet should be warmer, lighter, less oily, and with reduced amounts of heavy, hard-to-digest foods like fried foods. Kapha-balancing diets favor bitter, astringent and pungent tastes. Kapha people should consider exercising daily to improve circulation. Using bentonite clay face masks to soak up that extra oiliness is also beneficial. A daily dry massage called Garshana, done with raw silk gloves, can also help circulation. Favor organic vegetables and fruits and sip hot water to help cleanse the body from within. Kapha skin can be cleansed twice a day. Add warming spices such as ginger and black pepper to food, as this stimulates agni, the digestive fire. Balanced digestion means less accumulation of toxins. For Kapha dosha, Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) is especially recommended to be taken daily.
There are also combination skin types. For example, one can have a mix of Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Kapha or Vata-Kapha doshas. You will see this mix in the prakriti, or basic body-mind nature, of that person.
But keep in mind that, although we have an underlying prakriti or nature, our imbalances are what we want to address. Be practical and listen to your intuition. You may find that in certain seasons, or from time to time, novel diets or activities pacify a dosha — things unassociated with your prakriti.
Ayurvedic Massage - At-Home Abhyanga (Ah'-bee-ang-ah)
A warm oil self-massage is excellent for keeping the skin healthy. Use specially-prepared Maharishi Ayurveda abyhanga Massage Oils. These are sesame-based, herbal-infused oils that nourish the skin and the mind. There are three formulas — one for each dosha: Moisturizing (Vata-balancing), Soothing (Pitta-balancing) and Stimulating (Kapha-balancing). In the absence of these, use Organic Cured Sesame Oil or almond oil. The oils should be applied warm.
General Guidelines for an Ayurvedic Lifestyle
Any skin type benefits from lots of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and the avoidance of old, stale, leftover food. It's best to have your main meal at noon, when your digestive fire (agni) is at its peak. Cold drinks with meals dampen the digestive fire. It's preferable to eat lighter at night. Regular exercise that is appropriate for your body type will benefit all body types (doshas). Twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation® technique is a great way to counteract the effects of stress. Following the appropriate daily and seasonal routines as well as regular seasonal cleansing, known as panchakarma, will help eliminate accumulated toxins (ama).
Use common sense. Sun exposure in excess can damage the most resilient skin. You can avoid this by following a sensible sun program, wearing a hat, and covering up during the hottest parts of the day. Consider using a non-toxic sunscreen. It's best to avoid or minimize known toxins like recreational drugs, alcohol and tobacco, as well as hard-to-digest foods like red meats. It's also best to limit carbonated sugary beverages and caffeine.
If you are having trouble staying asleep, this indicates a Pitta imbalance which can be helped by taking Deep Rest. If you have difficulty falling asleep, this relates to imbalanced Vata and can be helped by taking Blissful Sleep. There is a special tea called Slumber Time Tea that contains soothing herbs and spices supporting a better quality of sleep. If you diffuse a little Slumber Time Aroma Oil before you go to bed, this enchanting blend of six pure essential oils will relax you for hours.
Deep, restful sleep is a Rasayana in itself. Good-quality sleep will keep skin looking refreshed and maintain a healthy glow. Sleep is one of the great timeless secrets of ayurveda. It both rejuvenates and purifies, especially when you go to sleep before 10 p.m.
Whatever your dosha or skin type, it is always a good idea to read the labels of whatever product you buy to apply to your skin. If you are in doubt about a chemical in a product, visit the informative website called the "Environmental Working Group." They have a "Skin Deep Cosmetic Database" where they rate the purity of thousands of skin products.
Getting the Whole Story on Skin Products
Radiant Skin from Maharishi Ayurveda is a potent herbal food supplement. It is good for all skin types and particularly effective if you have a history of skin problems. Radiant Skin is a precise blend of 14 herbs that help purify the liver and blood, and support your body's ability to absorb nutrients, thus helping to support the entire skin-building process. Like all Maharishi Ayurveda herbals, the herbs in Radiant Skin are processed in a manner that maintains the value of the whole plant. Radiant Skin promotes healthy liver function and helps create pure blood cells, in turn offering high-quality nutrition for the skin.
It benefits the digestive fire, helping skin temperature, glow, moisture and suppleness.
Do your best to avoid or minimize stress. When we are stressed, this interferes with our digestion and our ability to detoxify, making us look older. Also try to avoid or minimize exposure to pollution, whether environmental or recreational.
Ayurveda recognizes three pillars of true beauty: outer beauty, inner beauty and lasting beauty. The Youthful Skin line of ayurvedic skin care relates in particular to the third pillar of beauty, "lasting beauty."
The Youthful Skin line of ayurvedic youth-promoting skin care from Maharishi Ayurveda helps with looking and feeling young, and is beneficial for both men and women of any age. With regular use, many notice improvement in their skin's overall texture, clarity, elasticity, firmness and luster.
Harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances can hurt your skin and your health. Each of the products in the Maharishi Ayurveda face-care line feature ayurvedic botanicals and pure essential oils in a natural base. Tone, replenish and nourish daily for year-round skin health and radiance.
For more information on the ayurvedic approach to beauty and skin care, please visit www.mapi.com.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.