The air feels warmer and the sun is shining brighter. As many people have noticed, the skin feels different than it did in winter, feeling itching, tight, or extra dry or oily. Winter is governed by the doshas Kapha and Vata. Cold, dry, rough, heavy, dense, slow, and cloudy qualities have followed us for months. Ama, or toxins, accumulated during winter start to move with the increased Vata energies of mobile, subtle, clear of spring. Without proper detoxing, these qualities can stay in the skin, despite the growing pitta qualities outside. With the renewed feeling that spring brings, we all must prepare to remove the qualities of winter from our body to allow the skin to protect the body from pathogens, maintain the moisture, and radiate our energy.
Removing excess winter Kapha and Vata from the skin takes some changes to diet and lifestyle. Spring vegetables start to become available, such as squash, asparagus, carrots, and leafy greens. It is imperative that as spring starts to set in, that all vegetables are cooked to help with digestion. Soaking legumes will diminish the Vata quality of beans while also activating enzymes to help with digestion and absorption. During the fluctuation from cold to warm, using spices to aid digestion will ensure an easy transition to summer. Consider turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander, and fennel. All these spices aid in digestion and healing the gut, but also provides properties to help support all aspects of health. Consider making a vegetable and bean soup to give easily accessible protein while getting benefits of phytonutrients. Please see the April recipes. Remember to take in plenty of clear fluids in the spring.
As the pollen blooms and the trees put out leaves, allergies flare. People’s eyes are watering or their sinuses feel full. Not everyone notices effects of environmental allergies in the skin, there are several cellular interactions happening at the dermal level. To mitigate allergies and help improve the facial skin, consider neti pots. Not only does regular neti pot use alleviate symptoms of allergies by removing the stuck particles out of the mucosal membranes, but it also lubricates the sinuses, removing the sticky mucus. Oleating the nostrils with ghee provides protection from allergies in two ways: ghee makes it difficult for particles to stick in the nostril lining and it heals the tissue of the sinuses. If you implement net pot and Nasya (oleating the nostrils), you must do neti first. Traditionally, one netis after brushing one’s teeth, then showers. After showering, one lubricates the whole body with oil and does Nasya. This is a simple practice to add to the morning routine.
Going outside to get exercise is an easier task with the beautiful weather. Great skin can be obtained from going on walks before or after meals, getting yoga in either after waking up to greet the sun or in the evening to give salutation to the moon. Incorporate breathing exercises such as Nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing), kapalabati (skull shining breath), or box breathing will not only improve the lungs and blood flow but also help detox the body. Using slightly more vigorous renditions of yoga poses will clear the heavy quality of winter. Consider doing yoga in warm (not necessarily hot) rooms to help facilitate sweating. Another consideration is using a dry sauna to sweat out toxins. Dry sauna also helps to facilitate renal function, releasing toxins through urine. Replace water laced with toxins lost through exercise and sauna with clean, clear water to replenish the body.
Outside we see buds growing on trees, grass turning green, and the sun shining later into the evening. With the sun shining longer, it is necessary to protect it from the harmful rays while allowing the body to absorb the medicinal ones. Healthy sunlight helps convert vitamin D into usable forms, improving not only skin vitality but bone and renal health. UV rays are light waves that can penetrate the skin and cause DNA damage to skin cells which can cause cancer. Sunscreen should be used daily to accomplish the balance of good and harmful light wave absorption. Many natural products have SPF qualities. Coconut oil has been studied to have an SPF of 10, almond oil an SPF of 5, and shea butter an SPF of 5. Zinc oxide gives an SPF of 20. This is a recipe for a natural sunscreen that can be used daily on the face and body.
HOMEMADE DAILY WATER-RESISTANT SUNSCREEN
- ½ cup of coconut oil
- ¼ cup sweet almond oil (or jojoba oil)
- ¼ cup beeswax
- 2 tablespoons shea butter
- 2 tablespoons non-nano zinc oxide
- 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
- ½ teaspoon argan oil (optional)
- 1 teaspoon red raspberry oil
- Set a medium saucepan with about 2 inches of water in it on high heat. Let it come to a boil.
- While waiting for water, place the coconut, almond (or jojoba), beeswax, and shea butter into a mason jar. Place the mason jar in the boiling water and reduce the heat.
- Allow the contents to melt and combine completely. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
- Add zinc oxide and stir to combine completely. Be sure not to breathe in the powder. Use a mask if you feel it is necessary.
- Add in the vitamin E, argan oil (if using), and raspberry oil to the still warm contents an stir to combine completely.
- Pour the contents into dark blue or brown jars or into a non-clear plastic dispensing jar. The sunscreen can live in the refrigerator for preservation.
- Apply small amounts to the face and body daily. When having an outdoor under the sun, apply sunscreen liberally multiple times a day. This sunscreen can be used in the water but should be reapplied once the body is dry.
Spring movement and sudden transition from dry to wet allow for another viral and bacterial wave to occur. Washing your hands often will help to reduce getting sick. Keeping the skin flexible and moisturized maintains the skin's beauty and protective barrier. Using oils infused with herbs can heal the skin from the inside out. Neem oils provide moisture to the skin while also providing natural microbial protection. Use a combination of neem oil with almond or jojoba oil daily. Replace over-the-counter lotions with a combination of oils that will not only heal and repair the skin, but they also retain moisture better than lotions. Keeping the skin intact reduces chances for infections. Many colds and cases of flu are contracted by skin contact with the nasal passages (such as bringing the fingers to the mouth or scratching the nose). Uncracked and moist skin makes viral adhesion very difficult. So put these practices to use to prepare your skin and sinuses for the changing weather.