Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medical practice, is a holistic approach to wellness, both inside and out. Dr. Sajith Satheesh is an Ayurvedic doctor at Banyan Tree Phuket, a beautiful island resort in Thailand known for its sensational spa. Here, Dr. Satheesh offers all-natural ways to improve the appearance of your skin (and explains why it’s important to go to the bathroom).
Q: What role does Ayurveda play in skin care?
A: First, Ayurveda divides the skin into one of three types: Vata, which is more dry; Pitta, which is more sensitive; and Kapha, which is more oily. In Ayurveda, diet plays a very big role in skin health, so we emphasize proper nutrition and digestion. For those with Vata (or dry) skin, it’s important to avoid eating dry, cold foods and instead try to consume warm and oily foods. For those with Pitta (or sensitive) skin, it’s important to avoid spicy foods, and instead focus on fruits and astringent foods. And for those with Kapha (or oily) skin, it’s best to avoid oily foods and instead consume dry foods like grains and vegetables. The point is to try and balance the system.
Q: What kinds of treatments are typical in Ayurvedic skin care?
A: We believe that stress and strain play a big role in skin health, so the first thing we might do is prescribe meditation, yoga and more sleep. But there are also a series of more specific, topical treatments – and they’re all completely natural. Ground cumin seed mixed with a little water to make a paste – worn as a face mask – is a very good treatment for acne. For uneven pigmentation, make a paste of basil leaves. For wrinkles or dry skin, a mask made of fresh papaya and a little coconut oil is great. For sensitive skin, sandlewood powder can be mixed with milk. Each of these can be made fresh once a week and applied to the skin for around 30 minutes.
Q: Canada is often very cold and dry – which takes a big toll on the skin. Can you suggest some tips that might help keep skin healthy during the cold months?
A: The best place to start is with your diet. Cook with sunflower oil, which stimulates oil production in the body. You can also try eating a teaspoon of sunflower seeds at least once a week. Almonds and walnuts are also great for keeping your skin in balance in a cold, dry climate.
Q: And how about in the summer, when it gets hot and humid.
A: In the humid months, you should stick to a more Pitta diet: stay away from hot and spicy foods, and eat a lot of fresh fruit. Also, try adding Neem (leaves from the Neem tree, often available in supplement form) to your diet; it can help to purify the blood.
Q: Do you have any other general tips related to skin health?
A: Proper digestion and elimination are really, really important. Spices like cumin, coriander and turmeric can help keep you regular. You should make sure that you’re hungry before you eat, and that you have a bowel movement every day. If not, try a natural laxative, like grapes, papaya and lots of vegetables. Getting more Vitamin C can also help. If you’re not getting enough sleep or exercise, both can contribute to constipation and body aches.