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The secrets of healthy skin

In an ideal world, our skin would be clear, unblemished and have a ‘healthy glow’. But we all know that's not quite reality. What's important to remember is that imperfect skin is completely normal, and how our skin appears can be down to so many varying factors.

In Ayurveda, the quality and tendencies of our skin can be determined by our constitutional dosha or mind-body type. Do the qualities below match up to your dosha?

Vata tendencies: dry and/or damaged skin

Vata types tend to have dry skin, which can appear rough and chapped; cracks on the hands and feet are common. The variable nature of the vata dosha may lead to some oily areas and other dry areas, and veins are often clearly visible through the thin skin. Vata’s tan easily and their cold nature draws them towards the sun. Circulation maybe poor and can lead to pale lips, nail beds and skin.

Pitta tendencies: combination/oily skin

Pitta skin is characterised by heat. Pittas are easily aggravated and cannot tolerate the sun. They are prone to inflammations, rashes and acne and the skin flushes easily, appearing red. The skin is commonly freckled and, as pitta is a by-product of the blood tissue, they also often have deep red lips. Pitta resides in the skin and gives it colour and lustre. The association between pitta and the blood tissue has a direct impact on skin quality. A pitta type is easy to spot in an embarrassing situation as they blush very easily.

Kapha tendencies: combination/normal skin

Kapha skin can appear thick and oily. It can feel cool and clammy to touch. The skin is often very smooth in appearance, but it can also have a slightly ‘pale and pasty’ look. The cool nature of a kapha will draw them to the sun, causing them to burn easily but soon tanning.

Dietary and lifestyle tips

The health of our skin is often centred around the health of our digestion (there is a common saying in Ayurveda that if our digestion is healthy, then there will be no need for medicine). However, how your skin looks and feels isn't always down to your digestion, it can also be down to hormones. If you're having a hard time with your skin, we always recommend seeing a qualified doctor or dermatologist, and you might find the below tips helpful too:

  • Reduce or avoid intake of alcohol, coffee, tea, chocolate, cheese, yogurt, and animal products
  • Reduce your intake of sour, salty and pungent foods as these aggravate can inflammation
  • Favour foods that are cool and refreshing; go for fresh organic fruits and vegetables
  • Favour foods that are sweet, bitter or astringent as these reduce heat
  • Dairy: Milk, butter, and ghee are good for pacifying heat but avoid if intolerant or sensitive. Reduce intake of yogurt, cheese, sour cream and cultured buttermilk; these sour tastes are known to aggravate inflammation
  • Favour oils: flax, hemp, borage, evening primrose, olive and coconut oils are best. Reduce sesame, almond and corn oil, all of which increase heat
  • Choose your grains: quinoa, basmati rice, barley and oats balance pitta. Reduce corn, rye, millet, and brown rice as they are a little heating.
  • Choose your fruits: favour sweet fruits such as grapes, lemons, limes, cherries, melons, avocado, coconut, pomegranates, mangoes, apples, berries, sweet and fully ripened oranges, pineapples and plums. Reduce sour fruits such as grapefruits, olives, papayas and sour, not-yet-ripened oranges, pineapples and plums as they can increase heat and acidity
  • Choose your vegetables: favour asparagus, cucumber, cooked beetroots, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, okra, lettuce, sprouted beans, peas, green beans. Avoid the solanaceae nightshade family - hot peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, potato and the allium family, especially raw onions, garlic, radishes as these all increase heat and acidity
  • Avoid beans: avoid all beans except for tofu and mung lentils. Especially avoid peanuts as these can create inflammation.
  • Choose your spices: cinnamon, coriander, dill, aniseed, cardamom, fennel, turmeric, fresh ginger and small amounts of black pepper are good, but the following spices strongly increase heat and should be taken in moderation: asafoetida, dry ginger, cumin, fenugreek, clove, celery seed, salt, and mustard seed
  • Choose your meat and fish: chicken and turkey are preferable

Meet the author

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Katie Pande, Senior Herbal Advisor

Katie is a qualified Medical Herbalist, and member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), currently practicing in Shaftesbury. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Herbal Medicine and a BSc (Hons) in Plant and Environmental Biology.

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