- We are all individuals composed of a unique composition of elements. In fact, everything in the universe (ie: oceans, concrete, plastic, animals) has a unique composition of the same elements 5 elements:
- The 5 elements are further narrowed down to 3 doshas:
- Whenever there is a disruption or change in your ideal balance of doshas (5 elements), it can lead to dis-ease (including but not limited to skin conditions).
- In Ayurveda we look at any symptom, such as acne, headaches, or fatigue, as a representation of a larger problem: a disruption of our original, unique balance (prakruti) - how we were born. The symptom (ie: acne, headache, fatigue) is just representing how the imbalance is manifesting physically/emotionally in/on your body.
- What causes a disruption of our ideal balance?
- Eating improper food for your constitution (ie: Vata dominant person eats a high Vata diet)
- Presence of Ama (undigested or improperly digested food)
- Weak digestive power (agni)
- And many other factors!
- When you consume any food or drink, it is metabolized and ideally converted into:
- Dosha (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha)
- Dhatu (7 tissues of the body)
- Mala - natural waste products (not to be confused with toxins or ama which can cause disease)
- If you consume a diet high in Pitta qualities (ie: hot, sharp, pungent, sour) you will naturally increase Pitta dosha in your body.
- Ama results when what you eat or drink is not digested properly. Over time, Ama can accumulate and “upset” the balance of your doshas, dhatu or mala or cause doshas to be pushed into areas of the body they don’t normally reside. This disruption of balance - by either excess, vitiated, or deficient doshas or dhatus - can lead to illness, usually related to the dosha that is most upset. Rarely does a skin condition truly originate in the skin; the imbalance of elements elsewhere in the body subsequently affects the skin. Your Ayurvedic Practitioner will be able to identify the source of the problem.
- Skin is formed during the creation of blood, lymph, and muscle. If there is insufficient or improper food intake or incomplete digestion the health of the skin may be compromised. Skin health is a direct reflection of the quality of blood and lymph tissue (for instance: if someone is pale they may have low iron; if someone is flushed, they may have a fever - which is also related to blood).
Dosha Specific Skin Characteristics:
- Vata dominant skin is characterized as being dry, thin, and fragile; it is fair and transparent with bluish undertones, thin pale lips, and dry/brittle fingernails; it is often very delicate and prone to fine lines. The Vata dosha is comprised of the air and ether elements owing to its light and dry properties. Not only is the skin dehydrated, but also the hair and other mucous membranes, for instance in the nose, mouth, and throat. This is exacerbated in cold and/or windy climates. When out of balance tissues are exceptionally chapped, flaky, perhaps even dry eczema, chafed hands, cracked heels, dry eyes, etc. Although Vatas can have either a light or dark complexion, it is often dull and lackluster. Vatas are very sensitive to cold and windy conditions.
- Pitta skin can be dry or oily because it consists of the fire and water elements. Excess fire causes dryness and water produces excessive sweating. Pitta skin is prone to redness, irritability, sensitivity, and is reactive (for instance under stress it can turn red, get hives, become inflamed, is prone to acne, etc). Pittas can also have eczema but it will act more as an allergic or reactive form of eczema to an irritant (ie: certain foods, chemicals, sun exposure). Pitta skin tends to have larger pores in the T-zone, can also respond to stress with acne breakouts or other inflammatory reactions (ie hives, welts, itching). Rosacea is also common. Hair is thin, fine, naturally blonde, red, and early to gray and bald; fingernails may be thin and prone to peeling, and lips are generally medium in size. Pitta’s sensitive skin sunburns very easily and they may have freckles or many moles. Because the Pitta dosha is comprised of fire and water, Pitta doshas do not tolerate heat well. It tends to make them aggravated, aggressive, angry and may adversely affect their skin.
- The Kapha Dosha is made up of the earth and water elements; these are forces of stability and structure. Therefore, Kapha skin is characterized, when balanced, as being thick, lustrous, radiant, moist and beautiful. Generally, Kaphas have yellowish undertones; large pores; blue or gray eyes; thick, wavy, dark hair; full lips; and thick, hard fingernails. Because the water and earth elements together lend a naturally moist and dense disposition, they tend to be cool and clammy, and have excess moisture in their mucous membranes. When out of balance, Kapha skin is excessively oily and prone to cystic acne and blackheads. They may have slightly damp hands and are predisposed to yeast infections. A kapha person may say they rarely need to moisturize their skin because it is already too oily. The naturally moist and cool Kapha is averse to cold and humid conditions rather they prefer warm and dry weather. Despite the excess water, they may or may not sweat easily.
- When correcting an out-of-balance dosha, it is essential to increase opposing qualities. For example, if your Kapha dosha is too high (earth and water, density, cold), you would apply light, dry, qualities (as in Vata pacifying food and regimen) as well as heat. Increasing Vata will naturally decrease Kapha.
- We are all different so no two people can be treated exactly the same way, even if they both present with the same physical symptoms - like hives, acne or even pain. Whereas one patient may present with acne caused by Pitta vitiation, another may have acne caused by high Vata. Identifying where and what the underlying cause is is imperative to proper treatment and why all patients should be treated individually. This is the true beauty of Ayurveda.
Resources for Ayurvedic Skin Care: