The other day, my friend asked me to look at a product’s ingredient list to see if there was anything harmful. All the ingredients (except for the preservative and perfume) were safe but, I had to explain to her that even though those ingredients were not harmful, they didn’t contribute anything to the health of her skin other than create a soft surface. Days later I found myself explaining to a young teenager why unharmful didn’t necessarily make something good to use. It looks like the skincare industry has done a fabulous job in indoctrinating us with the belief that “unharmful” is good enough.
This is how Ayurveda differs so much. Their approach to skincare is vastly different from the modern-day Western approach where it’s about topical application and the immediate surface sensations of touch and smell. In Ayurveda, the skin is the “expression of” or the “result of” a well-functioning system. And while it is the “expression of” or the “result of”, it is also a “part of” the functioning system as a whole, simply because, in Ayurveda, the health of each body structure (bone marrow, blood, cell, plasma, or tissue) is contingent on one another. Beauty begins internally as the body requires a supply of thoughtful nourishment for each body structure to enable it to create, produce and transform. These activities generate warmth that is necessary for proper metabolic activity including digestion. This harmonious interplay, in turn, produces what’s known as “Ojas” in Sanskrit, which loosely translates to “vigor”; it’s what gives the body radiance, vitality and brightness, which transcend the physical body and emits outwardly into what we see as beauty.
Any factor that impedes the body from creating or sustaining this energy and metabolic activity including digestion—think foods devoid of nutrition, sugars, tobacco, excessive alcohol—will disrupt the harmonious flow of all body structure activity such as tissue development and create an imbalance to our innate constitution, rendering us sick, unwell, weak, and blocked. In this state, ojas cannot be produced. The key to beauty is, therefore, assisting the body to attain optimal health. Thus, everything we ingest and apply onto our skin must have a nutritious purpose to nourish the entire workings of the body.
The well-being of our mind is just as important and contributes to the energy that flows through our cells. The West has tried to explain this in terms of two hormones, serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin calms the mind & body while melatonin regulates biorhythms, improves immune efficiency and releases antioxidants to fight against the cellular breakdown caused by free radicals.
Treating the skin as an external element that is independent of the rest of the body can compromise the integrity of your skin’s barrier function. Not realizing that your skin is a reflection of your internal workings can also compromise the integrity of your skin’s barrier function. For these reasons it is of utmost importance to seek internal wellness as you try to improve your skin, and to care for your skin as the organ that it is—feed it with proper foods that can penetrate the skin to nourish deep tissues and cellular activity while also benefiting the other body structures.
Up next, the complete list of what to do to attain healthy skin.
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