Ever notice that despite your generally healthy habits, the great cleansers in your bathroom, and your blemish-free wishes (yes, we know about those), pimples still have an annoying tendency to pop up every now and again—or even frequently?
That’s because, like a horror movie plot, the call could be coming from inside the house, suggests Ayurvedic expert Shrankhla Holecek. She should know: her family’s 100-acre land in India makes farm-to-bottle oils for prestige beauty brands, the odd royal family (not kidding), as well as for her super-pretty line, called Uma.
According to Ayurveda, “topical ointments, while important, are probably the last place of the solution,” she says. “Dealing with acne starts with changes in diet, exercise, and stress levels.”
These issues—and all breakouts—are due to inflammation, and a so-called heat within the body, associated with pitta. (Pitta is one of three Ayurvedic constitution types; you’re most aligned with one, but any of them can show up in your life when you’re out of balance: Find out your dosha here.)
The best way to deal with pimples, according to the 5,000 year-old holistic science? Calming your imbalance with balancing rituals, foods, and oils that cool your pitta.
Here are 5 things everyone should do to stop (and prevent) a breakout now… then scroll down to see how to treat the exact type of pimple that’s plaguing you.
- Drink hot water with lemon in the morning. “A warm water with lemon triggers the body’s natural detox functions and [helps it to] get rid of impurities,” says Holecek. “It’s widely known as a healthy ritual, but most people don’t realize it started in Ayurveda.”
- Oil pull and scrub your tongue with your toothbrush in the morning. “Oil pulling—as in rinsing your mouth with coconut oil—has amazing detox properties that help physically pull toxins out of your mouth,” says Holecek. “Overnight, your tongue generates a lot of toxic build-up and it’s good to scrub. Keeping your mouth clean helps with your overall health.”
- Add more turmeric and iron into your diet. “These help the body fight inflammation and protect itself against acne,” says Holecek.
- Get plenty of sleep. “If you’re not sleeping well, you’re more prone to acne,” she says. “Your cellular turnover happens most effectively when you’re sleeping. So when you deprive your body of sleep, dead skin cells can build up, rather than shed, and that can become acne.” (Maybe take some pointers from Ariana Huffington).
- Get your blood circulating with some yoga. “I highly recommend some sun salutations in the morning, which get your cycle of circulation going and gets your body detoxing from within,” says Holecek.
Keep reading for Holecek’s guide to dealing with three main types of acne…
Red angry pimples (Pitta)
These eruptions are a classic sign of too much heat and a pitta imbalance, according to Holecek. The solution is pretty pleasant though: eating more foods that are naturally sweet (yay!) and staying away spicy ones, to cool your body.
Drink: Aloe vera juice with a pinch of turmeric in the morning, and tea made from cumin, coriander and fennel seeds.
Eat: Foods such as sprouts, green salads, sunflower seeds, mangoes, pears, plums, and mushrooms.
Avoid: Tomatoes, garlic, sour fruits, bananas, peanuts, and spicy foods.
Use on your skin: Aloe vera, turmeric, sunflower oil, sandalwood oil.
Whiteheads, blackheads, and milia (Vata)
These are mainly due to dehydration, stress, and possibly constipation. (Just being honest!) The key here, according to Holecek, is hydration.
Drink: Lots and lots of water.
Eat: Avocados, sweet fruits, cherries, and oranges.
Avoid: Dry fruits, apples, melons, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, beef, and peas (they tend to aggravate the vata).
Use on your skin: Use rice or almond powder as an exfoliant to remove dead skin cells, which are often the cause of whiteheads and milia. She also recommends steaming your skin with water steeped with mint leaves to open your pores and increase circulation.
Deep-rooted acne (Kapha)
These are the kind that sneak up on you and take a long time to show—and once they do, they’re big, painful, and full of puss (and can make you prone to canceling your social plans for the week—just me?). They may take a while to heal, but Holecek has some Ayurvedic pointers, including this interesting one: getting up at dawn. She also recommends the following:
Drink: Warm drinks—even water should be no cooler than room temperature—and detoxifying teas like ginger tea or hot water with honey several times a day.
Eat: Dry fruits, pomegranate, cranberries, and basmati rice.
Avoid: Coconut, dates, pineapples, and dairy products.
Use on your skin: Gently scrub your face with a mixture of fine sea salt and honey, then steam it with a combination of water and mint leaves. Another treatment is to massage your face with a blend of aloe vera and turmeric, then apply a mask consisting of a good clay, honey, and rose water.
Want to incorporate Ayurveda into your beauty routine? These are best clean brands made according to the holistic tradition, check out these tips for great skin from one of the world’s top Ayurvedic spas, and sip aloe vera on the reg.