Acne and skin problems are usually the result of an imbalance of Pitta dosha, which governs metabolism, heat and digestion. Pitta dosha has five subdivisions, and one of them, Bhranjaka Pitta, resides in the skin. Its imbalance can cause rashes, boils, acne and skin disorders of all types.
One of the reasons that acne is common in early adolescence is because that is the age when Pitta begins in increase in the physiology. An increase in Pitta is also the reason why skin problems can flare up in during the summer months.
In babies and young children, Kapha is the predominant dosha. Kapha is responsible for structure. It is the formative element that maintains the physical structure, providing support and substance in the body. Kapha makes up our bones, muscles and fat, lubricates joints, gives energy to the heart and lungs, and maintains immunity. During this crucial time of growth and physical development, Kapha is in high gear.
As children approach adolescence, however, the body begins to transition from Kapha-predominate to Pitta-predominant. The hormonal changes of puberty are activated by Pitta.
An increase in Pitta is also the reason why skin problems can flare up in during the summer months. In both cases, the Ayurvedic approach to acne and skin problems has to do with pacifying Pitta dosha.
1) Avoid foods that aggravate Pitta dosha, such a fried or oily foods. Avoid hot, spicy or sour foods (including cheese). Avoid red meat, which is especially Pitta aggravating.
2) Opt for foods that pacify Pitta. Sweet fruits and fresh vegetables are your best choice in the summer. In addition to being cooling, they provide essential nutrients and have free-radical fighting properties. Look for locally grown asparagus, zucchini and other summer squashes, celery, and leafy greens in the summer months. Sweet, juicy fruits such as watermelon, mangos, grapes and pears help cool, nourish and cleanse.
3) The sun can increase sebum production, causing your skin to look more oily than usual. When the oil combines with dirt and sweat, pores can get clogged, leading to skin problems. Be meticulous about your cleansing routine, morning and night. Do not apply oils to areas affected by acne, even when you do your daily Ayurvedic oil massage.
4) Avoid harsh chemicals. Make sure the water you bathe with is not highly chlorinated or chemically treated. Swimming pools, while providing a cooling sports activity during the summer, can aggravate Pitta-related skin conditions. Ideally, use a water filter on your shower.
5) Instead of washing your face with soap, mix room temperature purified water and barley flour to a thin paste to make a gentle and effective cleanser. To really pamper your skin, remove the paste using room temperature milk — followed by a final rinse with room temperature, pure water.
6) Drink more water. Water is the best beverage for those with skin problems. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are also fine but avoid canned or bottled juices and sodas, as those contain less of the vital qualities needed to nourish your body.
7) Avoid caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks and iced drinks. Caffeinated drinks are actually dehydrating. Ices and carbonated drinks can diminish our ability to digest food, leading to a toxic accumulation of ama. Because the skin is one of the leading organs for elimination and purification, an accumulation of ama can lead to skin problems.
8) Get plenty of rest. Because the summer daylight hours are longer, it can be tempting to stay up late. However, no matter what the season, the rest gained from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM is considered to be the deepest and most regenerative sleep.
Your pineal gland is your internal clock. As the sun sets, the pineal gland senses the change in light transmitted through your eyes and it begins to secrete melatonin, thus preparing your body for sleep. Typically, within one to two hours after the sunset, you will begin to feel drowsy as melatonin levels rise. This is the body’s signal to go to sleep. By midnight your melatonin levels have peaked and there is a gradual decline in melatonin levels after midnight.
If you are still up and active after 10:00, the “second wind” phenomenon kicks in. This is driven by Pitta dosha. However, the true value of this night-time Pitta cycle is to repair and regenerate the body. This can only be experienced if you are asleep. Repeated staying up during the evening Pitta cycle can create Pitta imbalances, as well as interfere with the body’s ability to stay balanced and healthy.
9) One of the main seats of Pitta is the eyes. Wear sunglasses in the summer. In the evening, try splashing cool water on your eyes. Soaking a cotton ball with cool water or rose water and placing over your eyes for 10 minutes can help cool the eyes.