Beauty Is Not Skin Deep

Everyday Ayurveda by Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya

The skin on the face is an important reflection of the health of any person. Imbalanced hormones due to a poor daily routine, poor dietary choices, and inability to control one’s emotions, reflect as excess oil, moisture buildup, and mucous oozing out of the skin as acne. These are symptoms of the body trying to rebalance what is deeply imbalanced inside. Toxins stuck in the pores as blackheads, whiteheads, comedones usually reflect poor gut fire and lack of proper processing of food. Wrinkles reflects imbalance of the unctuousness in the body, known as snigdha, with the gut being too dry. Discolorations reflect the actions of the tint-producer of the body, the liver. One of the recommendations for switra – known as vitiligo or leukoderma, which shows as white patches on otherwise darker skin — is to regularly cleanse the gut of its unprocessed goop by taking Cassia fistula leaves, known as aragwadha or amaltas. As the gut cleanses, the skin normalizes.


The mother of herbs for the gut is haritaki, a fruit used in triphala and having unique property of helping digest the partially-digested goop lingering in your gut.  Why does food linger? When your mind is not focused on your food, your emotions turn the switches of your digestive enzymes, distracted by the video, TV, phone, a conversation, loud noise, or lots of people talking. These distractions go into the five senses and alter the signals on the brain-gut highway. Watch what happens when you are hungry, start eating, then get a distressing phone call with bad news. Your hunger disappears and often you may feel the food does not move.  The heaviness in the gut, putrefaction or rotting of old food, and miscalculations on how much to eat create lingering food and lurking bad bacteria, waiting to feast.

Ayurveda thus changes the foods with the qualities of the seasons and gives solutions for every combination of environment, body type, time of day, and digestive strength. Those who can coordinate these factors instinctively glow with vitality and youth, having strong hair, supple skin, and tight muscles on the face and body.

Ayurveda is replete for solutions to heal the gut and thus fix the skin. Ayurveda oils, moisturizers, poultices and creams are all made from plants which can be eaten and digested too. Medicines for skin are prepared in the kitchen. It recommends you put ghee, sesame oil or mustard oil on your feet daily if they are dry. It recommends you put ghee in your navel or belly button, if your lips are dry. For dry eyes, ghee is also a panacea.

Today’s modern world entices us to use makeup to fix the problem, insisting to us that it is only skin deep and can be solved with a quick liquid coloring fluid cleverly called “foundation,” or face powder, blush, eye shadow, or a face cream or face pack. The billion-dollar cosmetics industry depends on you believing that makeup will change your life. It will give a better first impression of who you are, and thus change your role in society, among friends, and improve your romance. Ayurveda whispers that you should apply on your face only those compounds you would eat, reminding you of the connection between your gut and your face. Beauty without makeup is the truest testament to beauty.

This influence of the gut on the body’s skin is yet to be discovered by dermatologists, who are still applying steroid creams, antibiotics, dermal abrasion, and various chemicals with unknown mechanisms of action. Ayurveda whispers that the proof is in the millions of people who clean their guts and immediately see the improvement in their skin.

The South Asia Times columnist Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya is a Fulbright Specialist 2018‐2023 in Public Health and Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. Her bestselling book Everyday Ayurveda is published by Penguin Random House.   [email protected]  | 

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