Sujal Torgal Patil
The cosmetic industry today is swearing on a lot of miracle products which change one’s skin tone in a week or fortnight, and shampoos which arrest hair fall after one usage. Prematurely grey hair, dull lack lustrous or split hair, dandruff, baldness, ageing skin, pigmentation, acne, blemishes, etc, are common today. This can be attributed to erratic lifestyles, pollution, haphazard eating and sleeping habits, stress and improper care.
The use of cosmetics in ayurveda was not only directed towards developing an attractive external appearance but towards achieving longevity with good health. Many of these practices depended on the season (ritus) and were subtly interwoven with daily routine (dinacharya). It would be advisable to understand a bit of physiology here. Ayurveda considers skin to be formed from mamsa (roughly the muscular tissue) dhatu (one of the seven dhatus or building blocks of the body). That is why mamsa dhatu has to be in the state of health to have healthy and glowing skin. Hair and nails are formed as a side product during the formation of asthi dhatu (roughly bones). This fact signifies the importance of healthy bones for healthy hair and nails.
To have great skin and hair it is important to have a robust digestive system as the health of skin and hair are dependent on it. Hair fall, dandruff or common face issues like acne are majorly digestion related. If digestion is improper no amount of cosmetic will give results.
Find out your skin or hair type as it will probably help you find out the normal and abnormal status of your hair and skin. Hair in vata dominant people is naturally dry and tends to be frizzy or pitta dominant people have fair and warm skin which is prone to acne or breakouts.
Devote some part of your daily or weekly schedule to take care of your hair and skin. Adding neem leaves to your bath water is an excellent remedy for prickly heat, viral skin infections, etc. Adding turmeric will add glow and is good for body odour or sweaty skin. Hair rinses with decoctions also help reduce hair problems like itching scalp, infections, dandruff, hair fall and greying. Neem, liquorice, green tea and triphala can be used for hair rinses.
One should perform abhyanga or oil massage (head massage too) on a daily basis as it imparts glowing and radiant skin, toned muscles and improves overall strength. Sandalwood oil, coconut oil, sesame oil and lavender oil could be used. In some cases of excessive dryness or sensitive skin medicated ghee can be used for oleation. Hair oils like amla, coconut, bhringaraj, etc, are good.
Exfoliation is a must to remove the dead cells as well as tone the body keeping the cellulite and flab at bay. Udvartan or dry powder rubs are essentially uncomfortable but reap miraculous results. One can simply use gram flour or chick-pea flour on a daily basis. It is good for oily skin and removes bad odour. Horse gram flour or barley flour is an effective ingredient of anti-cellulite scrubs. This can be done twice or thrice in a week.
Body packs or sarvang lepa is also a part of daily regimen. Herbs like sandalwood, manjishtha, turmeric, aloe vera, fuller’s earth, tamarind, various fruits, coconut milk, camphor, etc, are used for lepa. Herb selection is based on body type, climate or season. Lepa shouldn’t be done at night and should be removed immediately after drying. Various medicinal preparations can also be used for lepa based on the doctor’s prescription for sunburn, tans, hives, prickly heat, chapped skin or skin prone to breakouts.
Similarly, hair packs can also be done using heena, amla, triphala, fuller’s earth, neem, egg, curds, green tea, coconut milk, etc. Neem, amla and triphala are good as antimicrobial agents and help rid dandruff. Henna is for softness, lustre and colour. This shouldn’t be done at night as it can cause a headache, cold or fever. Amla and bhringaraj powder when left overnight in an iron vessel and applied to one’s hair the next day helps reverse greying of hair.
In general excessive salty, sour, pungent food is not ideal. Avoid hot beverages, caffeine, incompatible food combos, exposure to extreme climates and excessive chemical abuse in terms of washes, serums, conditioners, sun lotions or chemical therapies. Drink optimum fluids, eat on time and have proper sleep.
In case of recurrent and chronic skin or hair issues consult a physician and try to eliminate the root cause. Rule out if you are suffering from any other systemic disease or are on any such medication or treatment that causes skin disorders or hair issues as a side effect. Apart from internal medication to reverse any imbalance there are wonderful treatments like sarvangadharas, shirodhara, shiro pichu, udwartana, nasya and dhoomapana which help. In chronic or severe conditions the doctor may prescribe shodhan (purificatory) procedures like panchakarma.
Lastly, along with eating well one should feed the mind well too. Positive thinking always shows on the outside. Regular pranayama, meditational activities and daily exercising help cleanse the mind and are mandatory for one to be healthy, feel good and look great!
(Writer is CMO at Traya Natural Health Centre and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)