Dry skin bugging you this winter? Or been a nagging annoyance for a long while? You’re not alone. And there are steps you can take in your daily life to help soothe, and solve the problem.
Ayurveda is awesome. And that’s probably why you’re here – you connect with its practical nature, and it just seems to makes sense to you. Of course as imbalances become more and more complex, so does the science. The key here is to nip little stubborn, uncomfortable problems in the bud, before they become tougher to manage and heal.
Dry skin is one of the first stages of imbalance, and one worth paying attention to, and fixing, before the pathology that causes it goes deeper into your system. What are your symptoms? Is it truly just dry skin, or are there other subtle things going on? Have you had extra stress over the last few weeks or months, experiencing some anxiety, constipation, gas, or ringing in the ears? These symptoms have the same cause as dry skin…and as an Ayurvedic practitioner we’re looking for those kinds of patterns, and then as well as recommending tips to balance the qualities we see, the aim is to also uproot the cause.
Uprooting the Cause
Ayurvedic practitioners are always looking for the cause of disease, and the first plan is to try to uproot it. This is not always possible, but it will still be helpful to know the cause, in order to know the treatment. The three main causes of imbalance are time (or season), going against what you know to be best (called pragna paradha), and improper (usually over-) use of the sense organs.
The qualities present in dry skin, and other small complications, which I mentioned, that may go along with it, are mainly dry (of course), light, and rough. And these qualities tell us that Vata dosha is the culprit. Though Vata is not necessarily the ‘cause’, Vata is what is increased, due to Vata aggravating qualities in our environment, or in our activities and food choices.
So this is exactly how we can come back into balance. Add the opposite qualities into our activities and diet (environment is much more difficult to change) and remove those activities with similar qualities to those that are aggravated.
Vata dosha is the most common imbalance due to the nature of the Space and Air elements which make up the dosha, and because those qualities are also increased so often in our lifestyle and environment. The irregularity of our schedules. The over-stimulation of our senses. The astringency of our ‘healthy’ diets, which might not be aligned with the seasonal influences.
Fall and Winter are the most common and logical times of the year for dry skin to occur because those qualities of Vata dosha are dominant. Though, we can’t change the weather (unless we’re lucky enough to take a trip to a nice, moist, warm, tropical jungle), we can make changes in the other areas I mentioned. So here are the practical tips for balancing Vata internally and externally for dry skin.
- Favor the opposite qualities of Vata dosha: Remember, Vata is cold, rough, light, dry, subtle, and mobile. Take note of those qualities in your day to day living, as well as your food. Have you been eating a lot of bread, crackers, raw veggies? Vata qualities abound in those foods. Make the shift to adopt warm, moist/oily, soft, heavier foods. It’s natural this time of year to eat more fats (ghee, olive oil, sesame oil, butter, meat, milk, nuts) and to crave soups and stews. It’s natural, and balancing to heed these cravings, because the qualities found within those foods balance Vata dosha!
- A few more foods that are great for nourishing dry skin from the inside out include avocados, sweet potatoes, almonds and almond-milk, eggs and salmon.
- And again, this time of year avoid a lot of raw food and salads, and if you make juice and smoothies, do not add ice, even keep your fruits or veggies out on the counter overnight. Add fresh ginger, or cinnamon, to everything.
- Stay hydrated, and warm up the water that you drink. Vata can really suck us dry – if you are also experiencing constipation, this is another sign you’re most-likely dehydrated. Carry a thermos with warm water (with lemon, is nice) with you everywhere, and start your day with a big mug or two of warm water before anything else happens.
- Shower less…oil more. One of the most important Ayurvedic self care practices to adopt when you have dry skin is abhyanga. Abhyanga is daily self massage with oil. Oils that balance Vata dosha include sesame, castor, and almond oil. Banyan Botanicals offers oil blends with lovely Vata balancing herbs in them as well. Not all oils are the same – for example, coconut. Coconut oil is light and smells good, and it’s not that greasy. Though these qualities make it nice and easy to put on your body, it’s quite useless when you have really dry skin. It either soaks up in a few moments, or rubs off the body too easily. You need an oil with that heavy quality to better balance Vata, like the others I mentioned above.
- Ideally, you’ll warm up your oil and massage it into your skin, including your scalp, toes, and everything in between, before you jump into the shower. When things get really uncomfortable, I will massage my body before bed, put on a robe or sleepwear dedicated to this purpose, and sleep with the oil on my body for a deep soak.
- Herbs and herbal foods that are nourishing for the skin include aloe vera juice or gel, licorice, chamomile and calendula, and fermented cod liver oil.
There are no secrets in Ayurveda. It’s something you can learn, by increasing your awareness of the world around you, and within you. When I found Ayurveda it was like I had a whole new language to talk about the patterns I was seeing in nature. If you feel drawn to this way of looking at the world, heed that calling and continue to study so YOU can learn how to make choices that will bring you into balance, everyday, for the rest of your life.
Featured Photo: Morguefile.com
Photo (ghee in warm water): Adena Rose Bright