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Ayurveda Skin Care Offers Natural Relief from Summer Heat

By Smriti Rao | July 30, 2012 12:59pm

NEW YORK—Sunscreen, hats, shorts and sandals may be de rigeur for summer, but keeping skin looking fresh in the blazing heat can be a challenge.

Luckily, Indians have been perfecting the ancient science of Ayurveda, which offers natural, chemical-free solutions to keep skin glowing, for millennia, practitioners said.

“It literally means the ‘science of life’,” explained Dr. Naina Marballi, an Ayurveda physician and esthetician who founded “Ayurveda’s World” spa and clinic in Manhattan.  “It is how one can take ingredients found in nature and use it to heal our bodies.”

According to “Ayurveda” — which stems from two words, “ayur,” meaning life and “veda” which translates to “science” in Sanskrit — everyone has a unique combination of three Doshas—energies that circulate in the body.

Some individuals are dominated by Vata dosha (air and space), others are Pitta (fire and water) Kapha (water and earth), explained Dr. Marballi.

In the summertime, according to Ayurveda, “Pitta” balances increase in the body because of the heat and to counter that, one must be careful of what one eats, drinks and applies to their bodies.  

“Summers can be intense,” said Dr. Marballi, who received her Ayurveda certification. “You have to adopt things from nature that are cooling [to the skin and body].”

Here are some ideas how to develop a natural skincare regime using Indian beauty tips:

Cleanse, Tone, Moisturize (CTM):

Much like every other beauty mantra, cleansing, toning and moisturizing is a no-brainer, said Dr. Marballi.

Make sure that your skin is clean and oil-free, she said, and use a good natural toner like rose water and a chemical-free moisturizer.

Rose Water:

Indians have been using rose water or rose-based products in their food, cosmetics and religious ceremonies for centuries, said Nisha Saini, 42, an Ayurveda practitioner and manager of Fine Living New York Ayurveda spa and clinic on West 14th Street in Manhattan.

Rose water, made with rose oil, is not just refreshing with a crisp, sweet smell but also has moisturizing properties that help tone skin, Saini said.

To cleanse and tone skin in the summer, soak cotton in rose water and wipe down your face to cool and refresh. Do the same thing over your eyelids to reduce puffiness, Saini said. 

It's a beauty ritual Sonia Chawla, 24, who works at Mumbai Grill's sweet shop on 74th Street, swears by.

She said she has been using rose water to cleanse her face for the last five years after her mother introduced her to the product. "She always said...'Use this [rose water], your face will glow,'" she recalled.  

Rose water is available in Indian specialty stores like Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights.

Aloe Vera:

Aloe is easy to get and simple to use, said Saini. Simply apply the gel from the plant on the face or on the whole body to cool down and keep skin looking smooth and clear. 

An herb with fleshy, prickly leaves, Aloe Vera's naturally occurring gel has nutrients that hydrate skin and accelerate its repair, she added.

Calling it the “best thing to use” on your body, Saini said to get fresh aloe vera stalks in the market, slice them open and scoop the gel to slather on the face or the body.

“You can also put it on the soles of your feet—it’s very cooling," she said.

Fresh Aloe Vera is available at health food stores and Whole Foods.

Sandalwood Powder:

Another standard in the Indian beauty regimen is a paste made of sandalwood powder and water. The musky smelling paste, called “Chandan,” is an integral part of beauty rituals in India, Naini said.

With its fragrant smell and antiseptic qualities, the paste is also used by Indians to heal minor cuts and scrapes, Ayurveda practitioners said. 

Just mix sandalwood powder with water or rose water and apply the paste to the face. The cool paste instantly soothes sun-ravaged skin with its natural nutrients and provides a fresh, clean look.

I love sandalwood paste," said 28-year old housewife Kavita Kannan, of Elmhurst. "It smells beautiful and [the paste] gives you a golden glow." 

Sandalwood powder is available in Indian specialty stores like Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights.


No Indian beauty ritual is complete without a pinch of tumeric, experts said.

“Adding a pinch of turmeric powder to anything is never a bad idea,” said Saini. “It’s anti-bacterial, anti-septic."

Mix sandalwood powder, rose water, cucumber juice and a pinch of turmeric to make a face mask. Apply evenly on the face, leave it for 15 minutes and wash off with warm water, Saini said.

The refreshing face mask cleans and moisturizes the skin and is safe to use once a week. But be warned, too much turmeric can stain skin yellow, Saini added. 

Watermelon and Papaya Mask:

Take chunks of watermelon, add some papaya, drop some fresh lime juice in and mix in a bowl. Apply the paste to the face for about 15 minutes and wash off with warm water.

“It’s really good for summer, especially the papaya, which has enzymes that nourish the skin,” said Saini.

Honey, Lime, Cucumber Mask:

Grate some fresh cucumber into a bowl, mix it with plain yogurt, drop in some lime juice and mix with a dash of honey. The mask may be a bit sloppy, but the cucumber and yogurt cools the skin while honey keeps it soft and supple, experts said.  

However, keeping skin looking good on the outside is a function of how you are doing on the inside, said Marballi, who added that it was important to eat right to look good.   

Stick to fresh, light foods in the summer instead of fatty and oily choices, she said. Oats, fresh salads and Quinoa also got a thumbs up.

“You have to remember that your skin imports and exports all the time,“ said Marballi. “If you import bad stuff into your system, it will export it outside and it will show on your skin,” she said.