What to Know About Ayurvedic Skin Care

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on February 29, 2024
3 min read

Practitioners of Ayurveda hold that lifestyle, diet, and stress can affect your skin. Here’s what you need to know about the history of Ayurveda and Ayurvedic skin care.

Ayurveda is an ancient, natural, and whole-body system of medicine that began in India more than 3,000 years ago. Ayurvedic medicine is still practiced in India today. 

The term Ayurveda means "knowledge of life," so Ayurvedic practice is used to restore life and balance. The system is based on the idea that there are 5 elements that make up 3 key doshas, or life forces of the body. Each person has a dominant dosha that shapes their physical constitution and personality.

Disease occurs when there’s an imbalance in the doshas. This imbalance is caused by lifestyle, diet, stress, exercise, and pollution, which affect the body’s activities and lead to disease. 

Ayurveda treatments include purification, herbal remedies, diet, yoga, meditation, and massage to restore the life force. The goal is to help your body:

  • Properly remove toxins, waste, and impurities
  • Lower stress
  • Build resistance to disease
  • Restore balance and harmony

Ayurvedic medicine is complex, but a few key concepts include: doshas, moisture, circulation, and metabolism.

Dosha. There are 3 general doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. You have a dominant, underlying dosha that stays the same throughout your life, but lifestyle, diet, and pollution can lead to a surge in other doshas. This can lead to skin conditions. 

Skin, according to the doshas, is:

  • Vata: dry, cracked, cold, ages quickly
  • Pitta: fair, thin, and sensitive, with a tendency toward acne, moles, and freckles, ages moderately fast
  • Kapha: normal or oily, clear, smooth, and firm, ages slowly 

Metabolism. Agni is the digestive fire of your body that turns food into energy and manages all the chemical and hormone reactions of your body, including your skin. Healthy skin depends on proper metabolism. 

Circulation. Healthy skin needs good circulation of blood and nutrients and proper elimination of wastes and impurities. A buildup of metabolic wastes is called ama, which can clog the skin and lead to problems.

Moisture. Healthy skin must have proper moisture balance.

Ayurvedic treatments depend on all of these factors. Under this system, you’ll need to make adjustments to your lifestyle, diet, stress, and exercise in order to promote healthy skin

Part of Ayurvedic skin care is also a routine that addresses your dominant dosha. This is much like Western medicine, where you use products for your skin type

Vata skin tends to be dry and age quickly, so you should use:

Pitta skin is sensitive to the sun and tends to have moles and freckles. You should:

Kapha skin is normal, clear, and balanced skin, though it can also be oily. To keep kapha skin healthy:

  • Use a warm oil massage daily.
  • Cleanse with a gentle exfoliant.

Essential oils, facial oils, herbal extracts, and fruit extracts are a big part of skin treatment. Herbs and oils are used in different ways, including:

Anti-aging. Ayurvedic anti-aging products have specific ingredients to help nourish the skin and promote youthfulness. These often include: 

  • Gotu kola, which can help your skin make collagen
  • Indian gooseberry, which is rich in vitamin C 

Brightening. Glowing skin is considered healthy and youthful in Ayurveda. Use plants that can brighten the skin and remove ama or metabolic waste buildup in the skin. These include:

Anti-inflammatory. Environmental pollution, sunlight, chemicals, stress, and allergens can all cause inflammation in your skin. Using anti-inflammatory herbs can help protect your skin. Common herbs include:

Wound healing. Gotu kola is also commonly used to heal wounds and may help eczema, psoriasis, and scars.

While herbal extracts in skin creams and oils are likely safe and effective, studies show that lots of Ayurveda benefits and herbal supplements are accompanied by high amounts of heavy metals

Herbal supplements can interact with your medications and aren’t always safe for everyone. Don’t take herbs if you’re pregnant or nursing, are on medications, have ongoing health problems, tend to have allergies, or are an older adult. Talk to your doctor first.