Ayurveda: Winter Skin Care

Need some help with your skin woes this winter? Try Ayurvedic TLC.

Many of us see winters as the onset of skin problems. Clogged pores, dead skin accumulation, dryness and itchiness are some of the misery that accompanies this season of snowflakes and cheer. And while we may rush to beauty counters to grab body butters and deep moisturizers to combat these skin woes, topical lotions don’t really get to the core of the problem and instead just coat over it. To actually treat your skin right from the inside out, you could try following the principles of Ayurvedic skin care for winter - remembering that beauty comes from within...

Keep your baths short, and with warm rather than hot water.

The hot water strips moisture of the skin, including sebum, the skin’s natural oil that helps keep the hydration locked in. Try immersing a rose in the hot water you so like to soak in - the rose will come out limp, soggy and lacking in its natural luster. That’s pretty much what you do to your skin. Avoid hot soaks and stick to quick warm showers instead.

Try oil-before and soap-after routine, rather than the soap-before and moisturize-after one.

To your raised eyebrow I say: Ayurvedic oils from recognized brands, or even plain and simple virgin coconut and sesame oils are devoid of synthetic chemicals - as opposed to your trusted brand of moisturizer in a bottle. Also, prevention is better than cure - for the skin, too. When you soap first and moisturize later you first strip the moisture off the skin and then try and replenish it. But when you oil first, you protect your skin from the harsh chemicals of your soap and so no moisturizer is needed post bathing.
Also, if you follow the principles of an Ayurvedic bath ritual and massage your skin for 5-10 minutes, you also make it healthier by increasing the blood circulation there and sloughing off any dead skin cells in a gentle way.

Increase your intake of healthy fats.

Your skin’s hydration depends a lot upon your body’s physiological state. If your diet is lacking in healthy fats, well, winter is the time to make up for it, be it in the form of olive oil, ghee, nuts or seeds. We are not advocating you dip into your fried food cravings - but do add a spoonful of healthy oil in your salads, a topping of ghee in your curries or lentils and a trail mix of unsalted nuts and seeds to go.

Eat as many seasonal fruits and veggies as you can.

The principles of Ayurveda prescribe that you eat only seasonal fruits and vegetables - simply because nature provides them in that season, for a reason: primarily because our bodies need the nutrients which that season’s bounty provides. Most of beauty is related to health and diet - so if your body is at its nutritional optimum, your skin will be its healthiest too.

Keep up the hydration - don’t wait till you feel thirsty.

While we all run to the kitchen to drink oodles of water in the summer, many of us forget that it’s equally important to hydrate in winter, too. Think of a left-to-the-elements fruit - the skin is wrinkled and withered. This is exactly what we do to our skin, when we skip that glass of water.
If water feels too bland for you in winters, switch over to sugarless green tea or healthy drinks like Kombucha. Frankly, even a nighttime glass of warm milk adds to hydration, be it dairy, soy or nut.

Carry on exercising, and ergo, the blood circulation.

Being bundled up is no excuse to skip the workout. In fact, winter is the perfect time to lose those extra pounds because your body is already burning calories to keep itself warm - try adding a good exercise routine to your day to further make your body sweat out the toxins and burn away the extra fat.

Switch to milder, organic soaps and body washes.

While we all use some or other variant of soap to wash ourselves with when we bathe, we are basically treating our body with a slew of synthetic and harsh chemicals that clean the skin and hair but also strip away essential hydration and moisture. It’s best to switch to softer, milder soaps - you can try making your own, or simply buy organic soaps free of harsh additives from organic brands.
Also, one very big secret that soap makers do not want you to know is that you don’t really have to soap up every part of your body every day - use soap on grubby parts and clean your hapless skin with an oil massage, warm water and a gentle towel rub.

Give your scalp an oil massage before a shampoo.

Remember the oiling up of your skin that’s now giving you a glow and helping you tackle the dry winter air? Extend the same TLC to the skin under your hair, meaning the scalp. Winter often means the onset of itchy scalp and dandruff. But that dandruff might be nothing more than the dry, flaky skin of your scalp - massage some warm oil on your scalp at night, or at least 30 minutes prior to your shampoo on a regular basis. You may never need conditioner post shampoo again! Remember to brush the oil through - from the scalp to root ends - the brushing will also increase blood circulation to your scalp making it healthier and itch-free.

Add some TLC for your hands and feet.

Bundled into socks and shoes, the feet tend to go stinky in winter. The cause is an odorous bacteria - the solution is to wash your feet with soap and water 2-3 times a day and then to dry your feet completely with a towel (remember to wipe between the toes) before you wear a clean pair of socks. All this soaping and washing can cause the skin on the feet, particularly on the heels, to go dry. A good solution is to wash and dry feet just before bedtime and then slather on some coconut or olive oil before slipping into socks at bedtime.
For your hands, keep a small bottle of olive oil at the basin and after every hand wash, dry your hands and rub in a drop or two of olive oil to keep the skin protected from the drying cold.

Protect your skin from the elements.

Finally, in winter, remember to bundle up as well as you can - especially the ears. In Ayurveda, ears are considered prone to vata (air) since they have space between them. Covering your ears is one way of protecting your body from any winter-related infections and woes.
The same goes for the skin, too. In winter, it is advised to cover any exposed skin to protect it from harsh winter winds so that the skin can retain its natural moisture -- hydration as well as radiance. Hats, scarves, gloves and hoods - consider them to be your skin’s best friends this cold, albeit cheery, season.

Ayurvedic winter care is all about caring for your skin in the most natural way possible – and it's easily doable too, often using ingredients already in your kitchen. We hoped this article helped you in treating your skin with some Ayurvedic TLC; do write in to us in the comments section below.

Happy Winter to all!