The Amazing Ancient Beauty Practice That Still Works Today

Why going old school – like really old school – may give you an “A” for glowing, healthy skin.


Ayurveda: The Foundation of Holistic Healing

You might #yogaeveryday to detoxify your body and score that natural afterglow. And maybe you start each morning with a cup of lemon water, fuel up post-practice with a vitamin-rich green bowl and ensure that you bank the appropriate hours of sleep. OK, well, let’s say your good intentions netted you three out of five. Then you already – and possibly unknowingly – incorporate yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, and its all-encompassing healthy lifestyle choices into your daily routine.

Ayurveda – “the science of life” – is a 5,000-year-old Indian philosophy based on a foundation of holistic healing. “Ayurveda looks at the entire person as a whole, taking into account every aspect of his or her life, including stress, sleep, body type and diet, to determine well-being,” says Lisa Mattam, founder of the Canadian Ayurvedic organic brand Sahajan. “By proactively and retroactively managing these multiple factors, you can positively affect the state of your skin,” says Mattam.

This ancient practice is rooted in the belief that every individual is ruled by one of three energies, or doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vatas tend to have dry and thin skin, Pittas have combination or sensitive skin, and Kaphas tend to have oily skin with enlarged pores. Determining your dominant dosha and maintaining balance between these energies is the objective of Ayurveda. When one of these forces is out of sync, it can create a state of imbalance (hello, redness, breakouts and other imperfections). By aligning the body, mind and soul through yoga, meditation, rest, nutrition, oils and herbs, we can maintain our internal and external balance – even in our complexions.

When it comes to achieving healthy skin, individualization is key. “We need to focus on our own specific constitutions to help customize our beauty regimens,” says Kristen Ma, an Ayurvedic practitioner and owner of Pure + Simple.

In her book Beauty Pure and Simple, Ma says, “We need to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to dermatology and treat skin based on a person’s dosha and doshic imbalances.” For instance, for a case of unruly acne, an Ayurvedic approach delves beyond the surface to address lifestyle triggers instead of solely targeting the blemish. It’s not about prescribing blanketed spot treatments and giving everyone peels and drying agents. Depending on the source of the problem and an individual’s specific constitution, some acne flare-ups, such as those that are wet and deep, need to be purified with an astringent that has disinfecting properties. Opt for a witch hazel toner and avoid alcohol-based products. For Pittas with blemishes that are more inflamed than wet and that may or may not be pustules, the key is to relieve inflammation. “You need anti-inflammatory skincare, removing food sensitivities, that can cause gastrointestinal inflammation and reducing any inflaming emotional distress and chronic stress,” says Ma.

Ayurveda is also a pioneer when it comes to the principle of beauty from the inside out. “Skin health is a reflection of what’s happening internally,” says Ma. “Our nutrition, digestion and hormones dictate the quality of our appearance.” This philosophy of interconnectedness between our internal and external selves and the mind-body-soul tripod highlights how our health and beauty choices don’t exist on their own; instead, each factor informs the other.

Want to know your dosha? Take this expert-approved quiz to help you determine your type: