By Dr. Anju Sodhi (Bams, ND)
The air is getting crisper, the leaves are changing colors, and the Vata aspects of fall are upon us. The cold, quick, dry, mobile, and clear qualities of Vata in the fall can cause a lot of disturbance in our skin. As the breeze picks up and the trees lose luster, we notice similar changes to our skin. We will discuss some ways to nurture the skin during this transformative season.
Many people find their skin getting generally dry or in specific patches. This season can also cause skin eruptions both with singular blemishes or over general areas all over the body. These types of changes during the fall months are due to the dryness and chill in the air. Because the oils of the skin are dried out, people may feel as if the skin is getting tight or immobile. People with eczema may be having strong flares.
During this time of year, keeping warm helps protect the skin and internal organs from cooling agni, the digestive fire. Ensure you wear proper clothing for the ambient temperature: socks, scarves, sweaters, or jackets. Remember that you can always take layers off if you feel too warm.
The diet during the fall is a key factor in ensuring that the skin stays moisturized and warm. Drink only warm or room temperature liquids. Iced beverages or drinks from the fridge will cool you off, depleting blood flow to the skin and making the skin thirst for nutrients. Foods for fall should always be cooked, well-seasoned with spices, and served warm. During the fall, it is necessary to add extra proper fats to foods, such as ghee, olive oil, or avocado oil. You can add these fats while cooking food or simple top dishes with your favorite oil. Avoid eating cruciferous vegetables such as peas, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale more than twice a week. These foods are hard on digestion and increase the rough and dry qualities of Vata. Soups are a great way to get moisture, fat, and protein in a single meal. Visit the October recipe page for a great soup.
While balancing Vata from the inside this fall, you can also treat the skin directly. Remember that moisturization is key, even for someone with oily skin. Use a moisturizing cleanser such as sugar, honey, castile soap, and almond oil. Replace professional moisturizers with almond oil mixed with jojoba oil. Using rose water mixed with a small amount of almond oil will help tone the skin. Using weekly masks will balance the skin whether it runs dry or oily. Please see skin care recipes at the end of this article.
Lastly, during this transformative season, immune health should be addressed. The skin wears our illness and discomforts. Take time to support the immune system with exercise and diet. Take herbs such as amla fruit, Tinospora cordifolia, trikatu, and Adhatoday vasica (Vasaka leaf). Amla supports immune system components, while Tinospora cordifolia acts as an antioxidant and Vasaka leaf supports the respiratory system.
Fall brings a unique aspect to creating balance in the body. Not only is topical skin care an important aspect of daily self-care, but it is when we see the most direct and apparent effects of diet and lifestyle affecting our precious first defense organ.
DAILY FALL CLEANSER
- ¼ cup honey, raw and local if possible
- 1 tablespoon castile soap
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon almond oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar (when using as an exfoliant)
Mix all ingredients together using a spoon in a bowl. Pour the contents into a dark-colored bottle. Do not shake, as this creates a foam that is difficult to reconstitute. It is convenient to use a bottle that has a pump dispenser. Use a quarter-sized amount on the face nightly to wash the day away. When exfoliating, add the sugar as a gentle scrubber. It is okay to make a batch of this daily cleanser and use it as a cleansing exfoliant. You can triple this recipe and use it as a body cleanser as well.
- 2 parts almond oil
- 1 part jojoba oil
- 1 drop grapefruit essential oil (if desired)
Mix the oils together and place them in a dark-colored bottle, perhaps with a pump dispenser. This mixture can be used on the face and body. Grapefruit helps with the gentle exfoliation of dry skin and rejuvenates the body.
- 2 parts rose water
- ½ part almond oil (or jojoba oil)
- ½ part vinegar
Mix the ingredients together and store them in a dark-colored bottle with a sprayer. After moisturizing, spritz some toner on the face and let dry.
WEEKLY FACE MASKS
- 3 tablespoons of bentonite clay or dried milk powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of jojoba, sesame, or almond oil
- ½ tablespoon honey
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- Water to make a paste
Mix the clay and turmeric together in a bowl. Then mix the oil, honey, and lemon juice together in a separate bowl. Combine the dry and wet ingredients, adding water as needed to make an easily spreadable paste. Apply the paste to the face and neck down to the collar bone. Let sit for 10-30 minutes. Wash with warm water or in the shower.
NOTE: If you are worried about turmeric staining, coat the face with some pure oil before applying the mask. However, turmeric staining of the skin will fade within 8 hours.