Ayurveda 101: The Ancient Philosophy That Will Transform Your Beauty Routine

Beauty from the inside out
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Beauty trends come and go, so when an ancient beauty principle has stood the test of time for over 6,000 years and promises to transform your skin, hair and overall well-being, it’s safe to say it sparks our attention. Say hello to Ayurveda – the ancient Indian science of life and longevity that’s been the secret to radiant beauty for centuries. In a world obsessed with quick fixes and overnight miracles, Ayurveda offers a holistic approach that’s as luxurious as it is effective.

“In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, individuals are increasingly seeking more holistic approaches to their well-being. Ayurveda, with its comprehensive outlook on health, encompasses not only physical well-being but also mental, emotional and spiritual aspects,” explains Dr. Shweta Netke, Senior Ayurveda Doctor at Forest Essentials. “This holistic perspective is now resonating with people who are realising the importance of a balanced and integrated approach to their overall health. Ayurveda is not merely a passing trend but a timeless philosophy that continues to benefit people across cultures and generations.”

Sitting down with GRAZIA, Dr. Netke reveals everything you need to know about Ayurvedic beauty, from what the philosophy is all about to the key Ayurveda beauty rituals and ingredients we should all be using to look and feel better. Listen in.

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What exactly is Ayurveda?
The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit word āyurvedah. ‘Ayuh’ means life and ‘veda’ means knowledge. The secret to flawless skin and ageless beauty has been known to Indian physicians for over 6,000 years, preserved in one of the world’s oldest systems of health care and healing. The history of Ayurveda states that all areas in one’s life impacts health and holistic well-being, and the Vedas cover a wide variety of topics, including health, astrology, spirituality, art and human behaviour.

In India, Ayurveda has always been a way of life. In ancient Ayurvedic Indian scriptures, skincare formulations, ingredients, food habits and lifestyle were subtly interwoven with seasons, which were practiced in every Indian household, and this knowledge was passed over generations. From the food we eat and seasonal changes to what we use for health and beauty, it was all based on the foundation of the ancient science of Ayurveda.

How is Ayurveda beneficial for beauty?
Ayurveda advocates a holistic, balanced approach to life in regard to body, mind and spirit. The skin is a direct reflection of what goes on internally – the ultimate indicator of whether or not the three are in balance. It’s only when all three are in perfect harmony that you radiate not only outer, but also inner beauty.

The four guiding principles of Ayurveda are ‘Pure’, ‘Fresh’, ‘Seasonal’ and ‘Sensorial’. Ayurveda advocates the most ideal and effective way to nurture your skin, body and hair by preparing fresh concoctions using ancient recipes and the purest ingredients of the season. It also presents a collaborative approach to organic beauty that works on three levels – outer perfection, inner beauty and ‘Ojas’ – or the charisma of absolute beauty – reflected in inner vitality, lustrous hair, glowing skin, clear shining eyes and an ‘inner fire’. When outer perfection is balanced with inner contentment and vitality it cannot be diminished by age or time. This is known ‘Ojas’ or Eternal Beauty. When the skin acquires “the touch and feel of silk with a dazzling glow”, it is known as “Tejas” or the outer reflection of Beauty.

What are Doshas and how do they determine our beauty products?
When it comes to skincare, the resilience and glow of a person’s skin are considered a reflection of their health. Additionally, the quality of skin is determined by a person’s Dosha, or each of the three energies believed to circulate in the body and govern physiological activity. The three Doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Simply put, Vata is dry, Pitta is generally a combination and Kapha is oily. Skincare regimes, diet and lifestyle changes, according to your active ‘Dosha’ when in balance, bring out that desirable glow or – as Ayurveda describes – flawless skin. Lustrous, smooth, evenly coloured, firm, elastic and with a golden sheen. Hence, in Ayurveda, it is key to choose a skincare regime that matches your Dosha.

Understanding your Dosha can help you select the most suitable products tailored to your unique needs and preferences. At Forest Essentials, we offer authentic Ayurvedic products and a complete holistic experience, which harmonises the mind, body and soul. Our Ayurvedic consultations are based on a simple questionnaire, which grades skin according to Ayurvedic guidelines.

What are the biggest misconceptions about Ayurveda?
1 – Ayurvedic skincare or natural products work slowly and don’t show prompt results.
This is the biggest myth and mistake that people make while opting for Ayurvedic or natural skincare. In fact, Ayurveda gives a very detailed and intricate guidelines on “how to make highly effective skincare products”. This ancient science advocates that products should be made with 100% natural, fresh, pure and seasonal plant ingredients, naturally distilled pure essential oils and pure cold-pressed organically grown vegetable oils. Of course, the products need to be of a very high quality, and the ingredients should be sourced at their highest potency to ensure maximum efficacy of the products.

2 – Ayurvedic beauty products clog the skin.
Another common misconception is that Ayurvedic skincare products clog the pores as they can be heavy and rich and made with ingredients like ghee and oils. Ayurveda lays out a guideline for using said ingredients so as to make them easily assimilated by the skin.

What herbs and ingredients are key in Ayurvedic beauty?
The difference between an Ayurvedic beauty product and one that isn’t lies in the process of sourcing and creating the products, the choice of fresh ingredients and the time of day that the ingredients are sourced. Authentic Ayurvedic products come from a place of love, artisanal skill and passion, each made by hand (wherever possible), blended in specific proportions prescribed by the Vedas and with the most intricate attention to detail.
A few key ingredients include:

Bakuchi, also known as babchi, is an ancient Indian skin healing herb whose etymology is synonymous with the moon because that is the epitome of beauty. As per Ayurvedic scriptures, all parts of the babchi plant are useful, such as roots, stems, leaves and seeds, but the powder of its seeds and the oil are the most potent. According to ancient texts and modern science, babchi seeds have great medicinal value and can help brighten the skin by visibly reducing pigmentation, whilst plumping and boosting collagen-promoting tissues.

Kasturi Manjal
Kasturi Manjal, or wild turmeric, has been used for centuries in India as a natural Ayurvedic beauty ingredient. It belongs to the turmeric or curcuma family, which is known for its skin benefits and cosmetic purposes. It’s mild yellow in colour and has a camphor-like aroma. Among its numerous properties, the magical herb is an excellent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-ageing agent.

A revered Ayurvedic herb with a noteworthy history of over 5,000 years, ashwagandha is used as a rasayana, which literally translates to ‘Path of Essence’. As a rasayana, it essentially rejuvenates, proliferates longevity and elevates the youthfulness of the body and mind. Being a rasayana, Ashwagandha can be your best aid to fight the signs of ageing. It promotes reparation, provides deep nourishment and supports cell renewal mechanisms by boosting collagen production. It also helps manage the effects of internal and external stressors as it contains alkaloids and lactones to provide anti-stress properties. The root contains hyaluronan, a natural variant of hyaluronic acid, that naturally boosts hydration, making skin appear smoother and plumper.

In the ancient Indian herbal repository, manjistha is regarded as an efficient blood purifier, a varnya (radiance-enhancing) herb, and a rasayana (rejuvenator). Hence it’s been extensively used in skincare for centuries. The herb works both internally and externally to promote glow and lustre. It also helps manage acne and breakouts owing to its cooling and astringent properties, reduces freckles or discolouration due to its blood-purifying nature and promotes the healing of skin tissue damaged by an injury, etc. It’s enriched with a compound called alizarin, which is an effective anti-bacterial. Manjishta application is known to soothe dry skin and any sensitivities, as well as blemishes and uneven skin tone.

Indigenous to the south of India, vetiver has been revered as divine for centuries due to its ability to thrive during the searing heat and its calming and cooling properties. The plant has also been a part of skincare preparations owing to its natural affinity for the skin and the healing properties of its fragrance that benefit both the body and the mind. Also known as Usheer or Khus, it’s a great Pitta-balancing and complexion-enhancing herb. Khus oil is nourishing and hydrating, helping to soothe dry skin. Vetiver also helps skin appear firmer and more youthful due to the presence of antioxidants. The most exciting benefit is its ability to reduce the appearance of dark spots and other marks on the skin, helping to create a more even skin tone.

Sandalwood paste and oil act as wonderful antioxidants and provide a radiant glow. Due to its light and dry physical properties and cold potency, sandalwood works brilliantly on skin-related issues like pigmentation, sunburn, acne and loss of lustre. It’s also a natural astringent that helps to tone skin, which is beneficial for oily skin. Sandalwood oil reduces wrinkles and inhibits the production of free radicals since it contains antioxidants.

Nagkesar has astringent properties that make it a very effective herb for healing acne and blemishes that are often the result of oily and pigmented skin. It also has Laghu (light) and Ruksha (dry) qualities that balance excess oil production, harmonising Kapha and Pitta Dosha-related skin concerns. Nagkesar helps to minimise open pores and clarifies the skin for an even-toned and glowing complexion.

Gotukola, a perennial plant indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, is also popularly known as the “herb of longevity” in the Indian medicinal system. It’s a powerhouse for overall health, well-being and eternal youth. With regards to skincare, the herb has been classified as a Rasayana due to its age-defying properties, including the ability to boost collagen and prevent fine lines and other signs of ageing. These age-defying properties have been confirmed by scientific research. Gotukola is high in triterpene saponins (a compound that helps keep the skin tight and firm) and flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and fight free radical damage. When used to make Ayurvedic cosmetics, the fresh juice extract or the dried powder form of the herb makes Ubtans and Masques, also known as Lepas.

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What Ayurvedic beauty rituals should we all be adopting?
As per Ayurveda, the art of self-care is explained as daily rituals that are practiced in sync with the rhythms of seasonality. It’s an expression of self-love for your mind, body and soul which helps build a foundation to achieve good health and longevity. Our body is trained to naturally rejuvenate itself, and by following a balanced and holistic lifestyle, along with indulgent skin and haircare rituals, this natural process of self-healing stays regulated.

Body Polishing
Regular exfoliation of the skin is key to harnessing luminous, youthful skin. For this, we recommend using our raw cane sugar and Keralan sea salts-infused Body Polishers to gently remove dead skin cells and unveil baby-soft skin. These Ayurvedic body polishers are blended with cold-pressed oils of organically grown herbs and natural humectants, including rose, pure aloe vera and organic honey to help detoxify the skin while retaining natural moisture and leaving the skin smooth and radiant.

Warm Head Massages
De-stress with a relaxing head massage. Opt for Ayurvedic head massage oils enriched with potent extracts of leaves, barks and seeds. These penetrate into the scalp and layer the lengths with nutrients to strengthen the hair follicles and encourage healthier hair growth. Pure essentials oils are blended to lend calming, restorative and relaxing properties for an overall pleasant sensory experience.

Face Steaming
Like a long bath helps your body unwind, your face needs the same degree of care and attention at the end of the day. Face steaming has been an integral part of beauty rituals for decades as it’s considered the easiest and simplest form of giving skin a deeper cleanse. Face steaming is part of an Ayurvedic therapy called ‘Swedana’ that helps to remove toxins while deeply cleansing pores. When you steam your face, the skin maintains its core, internal temperature, thereby increasing blood flow to the face. 

This article originally appeared on Grazia Middle East.