Did you know your skin gives a true reflection of your total health and well-being? Skin is the matrix and fabric of the human body, which acts as a barometer for an individual’s health. When you are happy and healthy, when you feel good about yourself — that feeling shows on your outer body, and your skin glows.
The Skin as a Digestive Organ
Have you ever wondered what happens to everything you put on your skin? Believe it or not, in a way it is actually “eaten.”
Our skin is both like a sponge and a stomach. It soaks up and digests everything that we apply topically, so we have to be very careful with what we put on our skin. Be aware of skin and body care products that say “for external application only” – because there is no such thing! Foods, lotions and emotions all enter the blood stream and affect our physiology.
Unfortunately, we are surrounded by a toxic environment. Through food, air and water, we ingest knowingly or unknowingly, toxins which accumulate, making our body and mind very sluggish. Our immune system becomes vulnerable and this is the very beginning stage of many imbalances. Through these imbalances, symptoms arise and create a host of issues including digestive disturbances, congestion, weakness, inflammation, joint pain and skin problems.
The Truth About Cosmetics
You probably have assumed that the ingredients in your skin care products are safe, right? After all, why would they be on the shelves if they weren’t? Well, the alarming truth is that according to the Environmental Working Group, the FDA has not evaluated the safety of 90% of the cosmetic ingredients, nor has any other organization devoted to public health! In Europe on the other hand, 1,110 personal care products have been banned from the market due to concerns about the nature of their side effects. Sadly, in the United States, only 10 of these chemicals have been prohibited.
So if you want your skin to be healthy and radiant, you need to make sure that you use only natural ingredients on your skin and detoxify from time to time.
The Ayurvedic Perspective
In Ayurvedic medicine, we have identified a force of nature that is responsible for processing what our skin comes into contact with. The Pitta dosha (specifically the sub-dosha called bhrajaka Pitta), is responsible for digestion, metabolism, transformation and giving color to your skin. If this process is functioning properly, then the skin will absorb all that is beneficial and eliminate the rest. If it is not working well, our pours become blocked with impurities and our skin isn’t able to breathe. Our skin, has a tremendous power to restore, repair and replenish itself. Skin is the body’s first defensive organ against external elements.
The skin also serves as a detoxification pathway. There are three main ways that the body detoxifies: (1) Through urine, (2) feces, and (3) sweat. Out of all of these waste-excreting organs, the skin is the largest. Problems like acne, rashes or eczema occur when the skin is attempting to expel metabolic toxins from the blood.
Healthy Liver = Healthy Skin
The liver is the organ that detoxifies all of our blood. It cleanses all that we take in through each and every one of our senses. It is responsible for keeping what is needed to nourish the body and for breaking down anything that is not. When unneeded substances are properly broken down, they can be eliminated more easily. If the liver is bogged down by poor diet, cigarettes, alcohol, prescription drugs, synthetic hormones, or even the chemicals in your skin care products – it isn’t able to do its job as well. When there is too much of a burden on the liver, then toxins accumulate and impurities begin to circulate through the blood.
Excess toxic load (?) Liver Function (?) Toxins in Blood (?) = Skin Problems
If the liver is strong and the blood is clean and free of toxins, then the skin will shine with luster and a healthy glow. If the liver has a full toxic load, then impurities in the blood will accumulate, and wastes will be carried to the skin where they will be forced to exit the body in the form of acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, warts and rashes depending on various factors.
We see many skin problems during the spring and summer because pitta starts to accumulate and aggravate.
The Importance of Seasonal Detoxification
According to Ayurveda, we need to detoxify our body, mind and emotions during these transition periods. Emotional health also plays an important role in keeping your skin healthy. There is a definite relationship between your brain and skin. If you are upset, that shows up on your skin in the form of a rash, acne, psoriasis or eczema. On other hand, if you are happy that gives a nice glow to your skin.
When you do a spring cleanse and receive some Ayurvedic treatments like Abhyanga – warm herbal oil massage, lymphatic massage, exfoliating scrubs, dry brush massage, sauna and steam bath, this stimulates the lymphatic system and circulation. These treatments improve lymphatic drainage, boost immunity and remove dead skin cells. Herbal steam dilates the blood vessels and opens channels so that impurities can easily move out. Herbal sweating opens our pores and allows our skin to release any toxins that may have accumulated, either from faulty digestive capacity of Pitta in the skin or an over exposure to harmful substances. Additionally, these warming treatments relax the muscles and relieve stiffness and re-hydrate dry skin.
In addition, oil enemas are helpful in calming down the nervous system, emotions and alleviating dry skin.
Simple Tips for Radiant skin:
Drink hot water with lemon.
Drink herbal Pitta Tea, Lymph Tea or Detox Tea – this will allow you to sweat the toxins out of your body. It dilates your blood vessels and opens channels so that impurities can easily move out.
Drink aloe vera juice, which is cooling and a mild laxative – helps cleanse the liver, blood and skin.
Eat a high-fiber diet.
Liquid fast once a month.
Do Ayurvedic warm oil massage with warm herbal oil.
Take a sauna or steam and practice hot yoga or Bikram yoga.
Menstruating woman should take castor oil 4-5 days before the onset of her cycle.
Panchakarma at the spring and fall equinox.
Overall, the take home message here is that if you want to keep your skin radiant, you have to detoxify your liver, blood and lymph.
Depending on your situation, you may need to follow a supervised detoxification regimen.
The same way we pay attention to organic and inorganic foods, we should take heed and pay attention to what we put onto our skin. Whatever we apply topically, has to be ingested, digested, assimilated and then eliminated just like the food we eat! When we eat organic, fresh foods, our digestion is good and our stomach thanks us. Same as when we choose natural ingredients – our skin will thank us and continue to do its very important job!
Abstract from Enchanting Beauty by Dr. Manisha Kshirsagar, BAMS, Esthetician.
Kotakkal Ayurveda - Mother land of modern ayurveda