It’s officially fall, and along with its gorgeous colors, clear blue skies and crisp cool air comes a far less welcome occurrence: dull, dry skin.
In Ayurvedic terms, fall is vata season.
The atmosphere is cool, clear, windy, erratic, and dry—all of which are vata qualities. And because like increases like, you’re more prone to vata imbalances, like dry skin, in the fall (especially if you’re a vata type). This is the season to make extra efforts to keep vata in balance so that your body and skin don’t dry out.
It’s okay if the words vata and Ayurveda mean little or nothing at all to you. You can still benefit from the three tips I’ve laid out below and actually prevent dull, crocodile skin this autumn by following practices that moisturize from the inside out.
1. Eat warm, unctuous, seasonal foods.
Diet plays a major role in your glow since your skin reflects what’s happening inside. This autumn, focus on foods that help to balance vata.
Fall is the time to put away the raw carrot sticks, rice cakes, and raw kale salads, and replace them with foods like hearty stews and stewed apples.
Vata-balancing foods are unctuous, grounding, and served warm. They’re generally heavy, nourishing, and oily. Heavy doesn’t mean unhealthy; but something more in the realm of comfort food. And oily doesn’t mean fried, but moistened with some healthy fats like ghee, sesame or olive oil.
Fall is not the season for raw, dry or cold foods because they aggravate vata. Do your best to avoid raw veggies, cold foods like ice cream, smoothies, and ice water, and dry foods like crackers.
Instead, go for steamed vegetables, soups, stews, and hearty grains—all of which have a high water content and add internal moisture. Garnish your foods with healthy oils to boost that internal moisture even further.
Each season, nature gives us foods that balance out the effects of its forces.
In the fall, farms are full of vata-balancing foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkins and carrots. If you’re not sure what’s in season right now, take out the guesswork by shopping at your local farmer’s market. You’ll inevitably eat in rhythm with nature and your skin will benefit.
2. Rub yourself down with sesame oil.
Two of vata’s primary qualities are dryness and coldness (sound like fall weather?) and sesame oil is just the opposite: unctuous and warming.
Rubbing yourself down with sesame oil in the practice of abhyanga adds some much-needed moisture to fall skin. It calms the nervous system, boosts immunity, and improves circulation—and these internal benefits inevitably show themselves on the outside, too. I highly recommend that you incorporate self-massage into your daily routine.
The commercial beauty market’s dominance of oil-free products has left a lot of women weary of oil. However, high quality oils suited to your body type are in fact the best thing you can put on your skin. They’re devoid of chemicals and toxic perfumes, they smell amazing (in a very earthy way, which I adore), and subtly bring internal balance.
To practice abhyanga, buy organic, unrefined oil. While coconut oil is generally best for pitta types, mustard oil for kapha types, and sesame oil for vata types, most of us do alright with sesame in cool fall weather.
Put some oil in a glass jar and heat it up in a bowl of hot water. Lay a towel on your bathroom floor, get naked, and give yourself a head-to-toe massage, rubbing the oil in circular motions on your joints, long strokes on the arms and legs, and big clockwise circles over your belly. Give it at least 15 minutes to soak in (this is when I throw on some scrubby yoga clothes and do my morning yoga practice) and then wash it off in the shower. I think you’ll find this practice very grounding. And of course, you’ll see its benefits on your hydrated skin.
3. Moisturize your face with a plant-based oil.
Some people really don’t need a face moisturizer, but others dry up without it—especially in the fall and winter.
For all the same reasons I mentioned above, I recommend massaging a plant-based oil onto your face at night. You’ll lock in moisturize, combat wrinkles, and enjoy a mini facelift.
Sesame, coconut, and mustard oil can feel a little thick and greasy on delicate face skin. However, there are a multitude of other plant-based oils to choose from.
One of my favorite face oils is tamanu oil. It’s native to Southeast Asia and traditionally used by Polynesian women to promote clear, beautiful skin. Tamanu oil is thick and rich. However, it quickly absorbs into skin and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling. It has antioxidant, anti-fungal, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and it promotes the formation of new tissue. And it can help with acne and acne stars. Plus, nut-containing tamanu fruits are only collected once they’ve dropped from the trees, making their harvest a sustainable practice.
Another favorite of mine is rosehip seed oil. It’s not as thick or rich as tamanu oil, making it a better choice for combination or slightly oily skin. However, rosehip oil is still incredibly hydrating. It nourishes dry, weathered, or dehydrated skin; also absorbing quickly without leaving a greasy residue. Plus, while rosehip oil hydrates, it also helps to lighten scars and treat wrinkles. It’s really a wonder oil!
When you apply oil to your delicate facial skin, be gentle. Turn the practice into a soothing face massage, using upward strokes for a natural facelift.
By incorporating these Ayurvedic practices into your life this fall, you’ll lock in much needed moisture for skin that glows.
Reference: Kilham, Chris. Tamanu Oil: A Tropical Topical Remedy. HerbalGram. 2004; 63: 26-31.
>> Castor Oil Bath: the Ashtanga Yoga Saturday Practice
>> Ayurvedic Beauty Secrets: DIY Facial Cleanser & Mask
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