Your skin is a complex organ that changes constantly throughout your life, depending on your age, diet, lifestyle choices, and many other factors. From the perspective of Ayurveda, the skin’s texture and appearance also change as we move through the different phases of life: childhood (Kapha kala), young adulthood (Pitta kala), and middle age and beyond (Vata kala).
With these different transitions in mind, here are some Ayurvedic guidelines for healthy, glowing skin at every decade.
Teens: A Healthy, Pitta-Pacifying Diet + Stress-Reduction
Throughout childhood, most of us enjoy smooth, supple skin—the hallmarks of Kapha “kala,” or time of life (age 0 – about 30). At around age 16, however, we begin to enter Pitta kala, when hormone production stimulates rapid growth, transformation, and sexual maturation, all of which can lead to distressing, Pitta-related skin conditions like eruptions and non-cystic acne.
“A healthy, Pitta-pacifying diet and stress-reduction are key in teens, who are going through so much emotional, mental, and brain development,” says Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., an Ayurvedic expert who specializes in women’s health issues. She also stresses that the harsh chemicals in most drugstore treatments can actually make matters worse.
She recalls one patient whose entire chest, back, and face were covered in non-cystic acne, despite trying various skin products on the market, and seeing three different dermatologists: “He had a very strong Pitta imbalance, and correcting that with diet and vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda herbs specifically chosen for his imbalances resulted in the complete resolution of the acne on his back and chest within two to three months. Most of it has cleared from his face now as well.”
Another teenage patient had acne on her face. A thorough Ayurvedic consultation revealed the culprits: late-night studying and prepping for pre-college tests, along with too many greasy foods, carbs, and sweets, and not enough vegetables. Dr. Lonsdorf prescribed a diet rich in foods with bitter and astringent tastes—such as beans, lentils, dhals, whole grains, and vegetables—which balance Pitta. She also shifted the teen’s bedtime to 10 p.m.
“Between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., the body purifies, and the liver and skin, especially, are cleansing themselves. But if someone’s awake and using their energy for studying or some other activity, the purification doesn’t take place. They may also get hungry and eat, which further inhibits the purification cycle.”
To clear the impurities that had built up in the girl’s skin, Dr. Lonsdorf also recommended Ayurvedic herbs, such as Elim-Tox-O and Digest Tone (Triphala Plus)—which is particularly helpful at aiding in the elimination of toxins and Pitta-related impurities through the colon. Dr. Lonsdorf uses these formulas regularly to help patients of all ages manage Pitta-related skin problems, non-cystic acne (especially on the lower face and chin), and occasional constipation (as sluggish toxin elimination can promote skin problems that otherwise would not occur).
As a final step, the girl also learned the Transcendental Meditation® technique, which helped her stress levels further. Her skin has cleared dramatically from these changes.
20s & 30s: Support Natural Detox + Wear Sunscreen
By the time you’re in your twenties and thirties, Pitta kala is in full gear. This is a time when many people are passionately pursuing their careers and/or early parenthood. For some of us, there can be Pitta-related skin issues, such as redness from time to time, or some skin sensitivity.
“Cooling the liver and supporting natural detoxification is really critical at this age,” says Lonsdorf. “I find Elim-Tox-O to be an amazing aid to skin imbalances of the Pitta nature, which can happen at any time of life if Pitta is disturbed.” Lonsdorf recommends taking two Elim-Tox-O tablets twice a day to combat skin redness, in addition to a strongly Pitta-pacifying diet without any greasy foods or excessive salt or sugar. “It takes a very clean diet, along with stress-reduction and herbal support, in my experience.”
The twenties and thirties are also a good time to start thinking about avoiding sun damage by wearing sunscreen daily, says Lonsdorf.
“Look for a natural form of sunscreen. Micronized zinc is the best and the least toxic; zinc is actually very nourishing to the skin. I’m also a great believer in hats with wide brims, because sunscreen has its limitations and can wear off through the day. For best results, use both.”
Doing a daily abhyanga (warm oil massage) with coconut oil, Soothing Herbal Massage Oil, or Youthful Skin Massage Oils can also help with Pitta-related skin imbalances and deeply nourish the skin, Lonsdorf says.
In some cases, red skin or rashes may be the result of a buildup of anger or suppressed emotions—at any age. Dr. Lonsdorf recommends one tablet of Stress Free Emotions twice a day for milder moods, and two tablets twice a day to quell frequent anger or irritability.
40s & 50s: Hydration and Healthy Fats
During the 40s and 50s, you’re gradually transitioning from the Pitta phase of life into the Vata phase; and, if you’re a woman, this is where perimenopause and menopause come in.
“This is that time of life where women complain that they can have both wrinkles and acne at the same time and it just isn’t fair!” says Lonsdorf with a smile. To continue to pacify Pitta dosha, she recommends eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of fresh, pure water without chlorine. It’s also an important time to start paying more attention to hydration for Vata dosha.
“Creams begin to be very important,” she says, noting that Youthful Skin Cream supports collagen production (it contains gotu kola, a natural stimulant for collagen). Herbal tablets that contain gotu kola include Stress Free Mind, Youthful Mind, and Bio-Immune, among others.
Ingesting more oils is very important during Vata kala, says Dr. Lonsdorf, who recommends adding an extra two to four tablespoons of organic, cold-pressed virgin olive oil to the food each day. Ghee is another good healthy fat to ingest, if your cholesterol levels are healthy.
A low-fat diet, on the other hand, can dry the body’s tissues out and lead to premature wrinkles.
“The skin gets starved of fat, which is an important supportive and natural filler to keep our skin fuller and nourish it against wrinkling and sagging,” says Dr. Lonsdorf. “Healthy fats help women transition through menopause, because they aid in the production of hormones; our reproductive hormones are based on steroids, which are fat-based.”
From the 40s onward, a daily massage with Youthful Skin Massage Oil helps to deeply moisturize the skin and tissues, while promoting stress-relief. Dr. Lonsdorf also recommends Worry Free tablets for patients struggling with high stress: “It’s very helpful in reducing worry. Research has shown that Worry Free can help normalize excess cortisol, our stress hormone, which is very bad for the skin and causes it to become thin and irritated.”
60s & 70s: Emolliate and Eliminate Toxins
By the time your 60s and 70s come along, you’re in the full swing of Vata kala, when dry and airy qualities predominate in the physiology.
“This is a time when hormonal deficiencies can really start to crop up in skin, and it becomes more of a challenge to avoid wrinkles and sagging,” says Lonsdorf, adding that reddish skin can also appear at this age, due to unhealthy diet and consumption of “bad fats” (hydrogenated oils and deep-fried foods). This is also where the cumulative effects of sun damage are showing up on the skin, in the form of spots and pigmentation.
“Bliss and good sleep have a lot to do with looking radiant into your 60s and 70s,” says Dr. Lonsdorf. “And again, eating lots of healthy fats will be helpful to hydrate Vata dosha. Going to bed by 9:30 or 10 p.m. is another great beauty secret.” She also recommends a daily morning walk which “gives a freshness and fullness to the face that nothing else can.” Additionally, drinking lots of water—particularly warm water—helps eliminate toxins from the body, aids in peristalsis, and helps to counter Vata dosha’s cold, dry influence.
In terms of Ayurvedic supplements, Dr. Lonsdorf recommends Radiant Skin at this age, or Elim-Tox-O for a cooling influence if the patient has a lot of Pitta, or an overheated liver. “Youthful Skin Cream is also fabulous at this age, because it’s a time of so much dryness,” she says.
If you’re not already doing a daily warm oil massage, now’s a good time to start, according to Dr. Lonsdorf. “Olive oil and sesame oil are both antioxidant and antibacterial. Abhyanga is also an amazingly calming treatment for your nerves, which helps with detox and purification as well.”
She recounts the tale of a middle-aged patient whose massage therapist asked her, ‘What are you doing for your skin? It’s smoother and more hydrated than the teenagers I’m treating!’ Her secret? The patient had been doing a daily abhyanga from her 20s onward.
According to Dr. Lonsdorf, the skin has a metabolic element called bhrajaka pitta, which processes the oils and emollients that we rub into the skin. Many of the enzymes in the skin are the same as enzymes in the liver. “The skin is like an adjunct liver, and it helps purification. This is why if you don’t eat well, you’ll see it in your skin.”
80s and Beyond: Love the Skin You’re In—and Keep Caring for It
If you’re in your 80s, 90s, and beyond, the best advice is simply to love the skin you’re in, and bask in the beauty, experience, and grace you’ve accumulated over the years. It’s also important to keep on eating well and to stay hydrated.
For added nurturing, says Lonsdorf, “Daily oil massage is important, as are good rest and good exercise. Lifelong exercise helps your circulation, which in turn helps your skin as well. Just remember to protect the skin if you’re exercising outdoors.”
As you age, it’s more important than ever to continue consuming healthy fats—not only for the skin, but for the brain as well. Ayurvedic supplements can help, too.
“Gotu kola helps keep your memory, mind, and focus sharp at the same time as it’s supporting the collagen in your skin,” says Lonsdorf, who recommends Stress Free Mind and Youthful Skin Cream, which contain this powerful herb.
With these Ayurvedic tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to healthy, glowing skin at any age.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.
This article originally appeared on the vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda website and is used here with permission