In terms of Ayurveda philosophy and practices, external beauty can be viewed as an expression of inner wellness. The healthier we are on the inside, the more we radiate on the outside. Good sleep gives us bright eyes; good digestion gives us glowing skin. We can understand the state of much of the inner through observation of the outer body. By making mindful choices in the way we take care of ourselves — from the food we eat to the thoughts we think — we promote true beauty.
For the most part, Ayurveda’s beauty care is heavily dependent upon the inner workings of the body. It begins with digestion, as the skin and every little bit of our exterior form is an end product of digestion. We are, quite literally, what we eat. Promoting good digestion along with restful sleep, a calm mind, regular elimination and proper energy, lay the core foundation for our outward appearance.
(More on why You Are What You Eat.)
Ayurveda’s beauty secrets encompass these internal considerations, but beauty can certainly be enhanced from the outside as well. External beauty care in Ayurveda is filled with kitchen potions for the skin: herbs and spices, legume and grain flours, and luxurious liquids like milk and cream.
Here are five of Ayurveda’s best kept beauty secrets.
Prana for Youth
Strong prana brings beauty. Prana is life force. It’s that energy and vitality that we naturally express when we feel healthy. Prana is gained from food and the breath that flows throughout the subtle channels of the body. Without strong prana, the mind fails to make healthy choices. If we choose food that lacks prana — that which is processed, canned or left over — our prana suffers and decreases. As a result, our ability to make healthy food choices is weakened and a vicious cycle ensues.
Ayurveda teaches that we should fill our diet with foods that are fresh and rich in prana, such as fruits and vegetables. The more recently they were plucked from the sun’s reign, the more prana they contain. Centering our diet around these foods keeps us young, inside and out.
(More on a prana-rich diet in 3 Reasons Why Yogis Love Plant-Based Diets.)
Turmeric for Glow
Not surprisingly, turmeric has yet another amazing use: on the skin. Add a pinch to any face mask for its anti-inflammatory, anti-blemish effect. Indians have long used turmeric for glow as part of the traditional haldi wedding ceremony in which both bride and groom are covered in a turmeric paste. While this in part symbolizes prosperity and wards off evil, it’s also a pre-wedding beauty treatment.
For a simple turmeric mask, mix 1 tablespoon plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon chickpea flour and ¼ teaspoon turmeric. Leave it on until it starts to dry, then rinse with cool water. It can stain the skin, so this mask is meant for nighttime. The yellow fades by morning.
(More on this wonder spice in 5 Reasons Why Yogis Love Turmeric.)
Saffron for Complexion
Ayurveda considers saffron a complexion-boosting spice, both internally and externally. For beauty purposes, it can be consumed regularly, up to 10 strands a day.
Make a nourishing, grounding pre-bedtime saffron elixir by warming 1 cup of organic milk (substitute almond milk if needed), ½ teaspoon ghee or coconut oil and a pinch of saffron strands. Not only does this improve complexion, but the warm milk invites good sleep —another important influencer of healthy skin.
(And if you needed more reasons to sleep well, here are Six Ways Sleep Can Be the Gift You Give Yourself All Year Long.)
Saffron can also be used externally. For a softening and complexion-boosting cleanser, soak three strands of saffron in a teaspoon of milk for five minutes. Use this to gently wash the face.
Oil for Anti-Aging
The self-oil massage called abhyanga in Ayurveda is an anti-aging beauty secret. In this practice, warm oil is gently and lavishly applied all over the body. There’s no exact way of doing it, except that the body should be massaged with a loving touch; long strokes on the long bones, and circular strokes on the joints. Through the warm oil and rhythmic motion, the massage immediately balances vata dosha. This slows down aging, as any increase in vata speeds up the aging process.
The best oil to use for abhyanga is sesame oil. It balances all doshas and has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory effects. Coconut oil is a good choice for balancing the pitta dosha and for use during the summer months. To practice this beautiful act of self-care, put the oil in a glass bowl and rest it in hot water. Use it generously, applying it from the head to the toes. Wash off in the shower afterward.
(More on this and other self-care practices in How to Live More Consciously With This 4-Part Morning Routine.)
Digestive Regularity for Clear Skin
When it comes to blemishes, one of Ayurveda’s primary focuses is on regular bowel movements. Constipation causes a buildup of toxins that can eventually affect the skin, resulting in pimples. And so, one to two formed, complete bowel movements a day are part of internal skin care. So, too, is taking care of digestion. A simple tea made from one teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds simmered in four cups of water can be sipped throughout the day. A handful of black raisins soaked overnight and blended in the morning can also help move the bowels. Even just a cup of hot water upon rising can bring digestive miracles that encourage skin glow.
The Ultimate Secret
Ayurveda’s ultimate beauty care secret is to take care of the body from the inside out. True health radiates outward; although, doing some of these extra external self-care practices also promotes self-love, which will boost your natural glow!
(Read on for Ayurveda’s Five-Step Self-Care Routine for Spring.)