Winter may seem like a welcome break from the heat of the preceding months and it also marks the start of the festive season. Unfortunately, winter can also be quite a downer for many as was well-recognized by Ayurvedic physicians millennia ago. In fact, ancient Ayurvedic texts give us plenty of insights into the dosha fluctuations and imbalances during winter that can give rise to a variety of health problems. Fortunately, Ayurveda also gives us some of the best natural solutions to survive the season, whether it’s the seasonal flu you’re worried about or your winter skin care regime.
Due to changes in dosha levels with the dip in temperature, some individuals may experience vitiation of certain doshas resulting in weakened immunity. At the same time the season is conducive to the spread of bacterial and viral infections. This combination is why winter is mainly linked to illnesses like the flu, common cold, sore throats and strep throat, as well as respiratory allergies and asthma attacks. While most of these problems can be addressed with Ayurvedic immunity boosters and other Ayurvedic practices like yoga and pranayamas, winter skin care problems are a lot harder to deal with. Problems like acne, eczema, dry skin, chapped lips, and psoriasis tend to flare up during the winter months. Here are some ayurvedic skin care tips that you should add to your ayurvedic health care routine for the winter.
Healthy digestion is regarded as the cornerstone of good health and strong immunity in Ayurveda. Accordingly, you should begin your day with a cup of hot ginger tea or a glass of haldi doodh. Both ginger and haldi are known to support immune function and digestion, which lowers the risk of infections and improves skin quality (1,2).
Ayurveda emphasizes harmony with nature and the seasonal rhythms to maintain your balance of doshas and optimal health. Because of the dry, cold, and windy conditions of winter, you should eat foods with opposing qualities. This means, favoring hot and grounding foods, so you should include cooked vegetables, nuts and seeds, dry fruits, herbal teas, and warming spices. Avoid all cold beverages and foods.
Your winter care routine cannot be complete without the inclusion of Ayurvedic herbs that are known to boost immunity and spices that have a heating effect (3). This would include herbs and spices such as amla, ashwagandha, sunth, jayfal, fennel, dhania, haldi, cumin, pepper, and so on. You can use these ingredients to garnish your meals and beverages.
With the dominance of kapha, sluggishness tends to set in during winter and circulation is also poor. This can be countered with a regular exercise routine and yoga is the best choice. Starting your mornings with a yoga session will help keep you energized and focused. Studies show that exercise directly benefits immune function, reducing the risk of infection (4). Exercise is also regarded as vital in Ayurveda for skin health as it helps promote blood flow to the skin.
Abhyanga is a popular massage therapy at Ayurvedic spas and clinics, but you can also give yourself a self-massage at home using ingredients like warm coconut oil or sesame and almond oil. Not only are these oils nourishing and moisturizing for the skin, but research shows that coconut oil also exhibits antimicrobial effects, thereby reducing the risk of common winter skin conditions (5).
While bathing with hot water and soap may seem like the best way to maintain skin hygiene, this is far from ideal in winter. As per Ayurvedic winter skincare recommendations, you should only bathe with warm water as hot or steaming water increases skin dryness. Similarly, soaps and body washes that contain harsh chemicals can exacerbate conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Instead use natural cleansers that contain ingredients like aloe vera, turmeric, sandalwood, and neem.
Cosmetic exfoliant scrubs can be rough on your skin, so it’s best to stick with natural exfoliation. A good ayurvedic treatment for skin exfoliation would include the use of coarse gram flour with coconut oil. Use this to make a paste and rub it over your skin to exfoliate without causing dryness. You can also make your own moisturizing skin pack with powdered herbs like nagkesar, yashtimadhu, anantamool, manjistha, and nagarmotha. They can be added to milk to create a paste that you can then use as part of your Ayurvedic beauty care routine.
To stay healthy this winter, embrace the holistic approach of Ayurveda, making changes not just to your skin care routine, but to your diet and lifestyle as well.