Five Fabulous Ways to Keep Your Skin Young and Supple this Winter
Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D. - Author and Women's health expert
The summer sun — our skin's worst enemy — is retreating, but Old Man Winter is in quick pursuit. Heaters are on, the wind is dry and biting, and our skin is on red alert. Dryness and dehydration can sap skin of its youthful fullness and glow, adding years to our faces and promoting premature wrinkling. Fortunately, Maharishi Ayurveda, the comprehensive system of natural medicine from ancient India, offers a variety of effective solutions to protect our skin and help us look beautiful and youthful all year long.
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, cold, dry air and windy wintry weather, all aggravate our body's air and space elements, or vata principle. Simply put, the dryness and cold outside of us create dryness and coldness inside of us, per Ayurveda's "principle of similarities." To balance vata and protect our skin in the winter, we in turn need to apply the "principle of opposites," favoring warm foods and drinks, soups and other water-rich foods, and including healthy oils to fight winter dryness.
The key to keeping our skin moist and "lubed" during the winter months lies in adequate water and oil—both inside and on the outside of our bodies. Our skin needs both to stay healthy and youthful. Drinking plenty of water plumps our skin, minimizing fine wrinkles. Eating healthy oils and massaging them into the skin help hold moisture in and give our complexions a satiny glow. (See tips below for details.)
The skin is also an important organ of purification. Maharishi Ayurveda and modern science both link the skin with liver function. The skin has many of the same enzymes as the liver—including those involved in detoxification. If our body gets overloaded with toxins, our skin reflects it in rashes, itching, and even accelerated aging.
Furthermore, in the winter, our pores tend to "close up" to protect us from heat loss, dryness and the cold. Toxins are then extra likely to build up in the body during the winter. To avoid toxin buildup and help keep your skin clear through the winter months, work up a sweat on a regular basis during the winter through exercise (best) or warm baths or saunas.
Come spring, our bodies begin to detoxify from the long winter. Toxins on the move can cause flare ups such as rashes, itching and other skin problems. To head off these beauty breakers before they arise, Maharishi Ayurveda advises a gentle internal cleansing be performed at the change of season. See www.mapi.com for a simple cleanse you can do at home.
To ensure you stay "body beautiful" this winter, follow these five fabulous ways to keep your skin plumped, oiled and glowing:
- Get in the habit of "oiling up" each morning with the Ayurvedic self-massage, "abhyanga," (rhymes with I'll be younger!) before your bath or shower. This will lubricate and protect your skin and give your complexion a radiant sheen that lasts throughout the day. Don't be surprised if your friends tell you how great you look, and be sure to share your secret!
- Be sure to drink plenty of pure spring water each day. Rather than cold or iced (which aggravates vata,) drink your water warm, or at least at room temperature. Ideally, boil your water in the morning for 5 minutes, then pour in a thermos that you take with you for the day. Drink the water throughout the day, at a comfortably warm temperature. This will soothe your vata as you hydrate your skin, and help curb cravings and overeating at the same time!
- Include more of the following oil-rich foods in your daily diet. They are high in omega-3's or other healthy fatty acids! Nuts (especially walnuts and blanched almonds,) ground flaxseeds, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds, fresh coconut, avocado, olive oil, ghee in small amounts (if you don't have a cholesterol problem), and green leafy vegetables (they contain omega 3's and help purify the skin and liver.) Do remember, organic and fresh is always best!
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day, outdoors when weather allows. Work up a sweat at least twice a week.
- If your skin is super dry, try running a steam-based humidifier in your bedroom at night. This prevents excess water loss from your body during the night and can do wonders for dry, itchy winter skin.
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.