Chapped lips, dry hands, and a what-happened-to-my-glow visage. Welcome to your winter skin doldrums.
While your first instinct may be to slather on a super creamy moisturizer, not so fast. According to Ayurveda, the holistic medical system developed in India 5,000-plus years ago, your parched skin may be a sign that your dosha is out of whack.
“Winter is cold, windy and dry,” says Martha Soffer, Ayurvedic practitioner and owner of Los Angeles-based Surya Spa. “In Ayurveda, this is Vata [season],” one of the three primary constitutions in the Ayurvedic system (the other two being Pitta and Kapha) that applies to everything, people and the seasons. So while you see these characteristics mirrored in the winter weather, you can experience these changes internally too. When there’s too much Vata in your body and mind, it can manifest as dry skin and brittle hair as well as stress and insomnia.
To achieve glowing skin when it’s cold outside, you need to bring your dosha back into sync, says Soffer. “Most people think that you only should take care of the outside of your skin. But everything that affects the skin comes from the inside. It’s not just what you do on the outside.” Noted.
At Surya, Soffer’s a big proponent of Panchakarma, a traditional detoxifying and rejuvenating regimen that combines treatments and nourishing meals in a highly personalized experience. After determining the imbalance of your doshas, Soffer concocts healing oils, using her pantry of nearly 400 Western and Ayurvedic herbs, which are then applied to your body. This is no 60-minute massage: Panchakarma sessions typically span three to 21 days. (Here’s an extreme example.)
Can’t visit Soffer at her sunny Pacific Palisades spa—or use all your vacation days to detox? She offers these five Ayurvedic tips to help you achieve vibrant skin this winter, no matter your dosha. —Christine Yu
1. Choose warm food over cold
Sorry to break it to you but that green juice and raw salad might be contributing to your dull, dry skin. “When you bring cold and raw food into the body, it makes digestion more difficult and creates more Vata,” says Soffer. And when your body struggles to break down food, it has a harder time taking in nutrients and releasing toxins. And it shows in your skin and hair. Instead, stick with nourishing cooked food like soups and stews, which are easier for your body to digest and to preserve warmth within. Try this warm Ayurvedic green “juice.”
2. Stick with sweet flavors and oily food
No, we don’t mean a basket of truffle fries. To counteract Vata’s dryness, choose high quality oils and good-for-you fatty foods like ghee, avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and naturally sweet foods like root vegetables. Avoid vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. “These vegetables create air and you get bloated,” says Soffer. “We avoid them in the winter.”
3. Make time for self-massage
Before you step into your next shower, take a few minutes for self-massage. The Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga (typically administered by two therapists in an Ayurvedic spa setting) not only helps moisturize the skin but also may increase circulation, remove toxins, and soothe stiff joints. Soffer recommends applying warm (not hot!) sesame or coconut oil in long, slow strokes on your limbs and slather it on using circular movements around the joints, belly, and chest. But keep it off your feet if you’re getting in the tub, which will make things dangerously slippery.
4. Drink plenty of fluids
We all know that the key to enviable skin is hydration. But, according to Ayurveda, what you drink is as important as how much you drink. Stick with room temperature water or, if you feel cold, warm water. And save your seltzer or carbonated drinks for warmer weather. “[Cold drinks and bubbly water] will aggravate your skin and dryness,” says Soffer.
5. Try a moisturizing mask
While many Ayurvedic treatments emphasize nourishing your body from the inside out, sometimes you need a good moisturizing mask. Here’s one of Soffer’s homemade recipes that will provide incredible moisture to your skin. Bonus: it can also help brighten your skin, she says.
Add 1/2 cup of yogurt to 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour. Stir until a smooth past forms. Then add 1/4 teaspoons of turmeric.
Apply to your face and leave on for 15 minutes. Remove gently with warm water and then cold water. Repeat this mask every other day for a week or two.
Get smart on everything you need to know about Ayurveda here.