The skinny on skin.

January is the month we resolve to make changes that will bring us greater health and happiness all year long. Many people like to kick off the new year by cleansing their bodies through better nutrition and vigorous exercise. However, when it comes to detoxification, we forget our body’s first line of defense: the skin.

Ayurveda has not forgotten the skin! Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu medicine system. Ayurvedic practitioners consider the skin to be an indicator of health and will make recommendations based on a patient’s dosha. The three doshas are energies that circulate through our bodies and influence us physically, mentally, and emotionally. We often think of our constitution in terms of one or two of our doshas. It is important to remember that our constitution is comprised of all three of the doshas. When one becomes more prominent than the others, imbalance is indicated. Disease occurs when the doshas are out of balance.

The three main doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each of the doshas incorporate two of the elements. Vata dosha is air and ether. Pitta dosha is fire and earth. Kapha dosha incorporates earth and water. Whatever dosha -or doshas- is most prominent in our bodies indicate what winter skin care routine is most appropriate for us.

Drink to your (skin’s) health!

According to holistic heath systems such as Ayurveda, proper winter skin care begins from within. The most important thing we can do for our skin when that January wind blows is to stay hydrated! Many people find it difficult to drink enough water this time of year. This is particularly true for people with a Vata constitution who chill easily. Aim for at least eight cups of plain water during the winter, or any time of the year!

Another way to stay properly hydrated is to drink decaffeinated herbal teas appropriate for our constitution. Sweet, warming teas with notes of licorice and cinnamon will pacify vata conditions, and if the weather is extremely cold and dry can be good for anyone with any constitution! Pitta dosha types tend to run a bit warm regardless of the season. Teas such as peppermint, coriander, or anything with a hint of lemon will not be overly heating for pitta. Kapha constitutions will also want to keep their teas light. Ginger and cloves are just warming enough for kapha.

Say goodbye to dry, itchy skin!

Finally, dry brushing and body oiling keep skin healthy during the winter. They feel really good, too! It is easy to find a brush for dry brushing. Many grocery stores now carry them. Begin brushing at the feet and work up the body stopping at the head. (It is best not to dry brush the face.) It is as simple as that! Begin with the feet again and massage constitution-appropriate oil up the body, once more stopping at the head. (Although some people do enjoy massaging the oil into their scalp.) Then step into the shower or bath and rinse for soft, smooth, healthy skin!

It is incredibly beneficial to use an oil that balances one’s individual dosha. Add a few drops of essential oil for even more benefit… and a wonderful fragrance! Vata dosha requires an oil that is heavier. Sesame oil is ideal for Vata dosha! Even in the winter, the fiery nature of Pitta dosha craves a more cooling oil such as sunflower seed oil. Kapha dosha does not need much oil. Kapha skin tends to be oily enough as it is. A light oil, such as simple olive oil, will do nicely.