With global warming and the pandemic currently taking over the world, many have resorted to leading an eco-friendly, sustainable and conscious lifestyle. This includes the cosmetics that are part of their everyday routine. People are on the look-out for products that are safe on the skin, anti-ageing, not tested on animals, have natural ingredients, and are vegetarian/ vegan. Ayurvedic or otherwise known as “herbal” cosmetics has become a very popular choice among the consumers over the past decade or more.
In India, the beauty industry is booming with more than 1000 global and Indian brands with most brands having a strong e-commerce presence. It is important to point out the many skin-whitening and make-up products that most Indian and foreign brands promoted in India struck a negative chord in the majority of the population. However, now there are conscious brands that suit the Indian dusky tone. The Ayurvedic cosmetic industry is growing at a rate of 15-20% every year with an annual turnover of 300 billion rupees. According to experts, it should reach more than 700 billion rupees by 2024. Lotus Herbals was the very first Ayurvedic cosmetic brand to be established in India. They started out with a couple of products and today there are more than 400 products that are natural, cruelty-free and affordable. They also export to more than 15 countries across the globe. The country now sees a plethora of Ayurveda-based cosmetic brands that tend to different concerns of the skin. These brands also cater to the needs of specific age groups making it more attractive to buyers. Luxury Ayurveda cosmetics such as Forest Essentials and Kama Ayurveda offer a well-rounded wellness spa-like experience. Their ingredients are all locally sourced and this happens to be a key rule in Ayurveda. Everything that one consumes or applies to their body must contain ingredients that are locally found because that affects the genetic make-up of the person and ultimately the physical appearance.
Ayurvedic cosmetics can be found in every kitchen in every household. For a long time, men and women have used natural items that they find in the kitchen to treat their skin such as lemon, turmeric, besan, cucumber, banana, orange peel, honey, ghee and more. Natural home-made remedies were the go-to for any skin issue. However currently, the word “DIY” cosmetics have rather a huge opposition and consumers prefer these ingredients packaged in an aesthetically pleasing tube or tub. Many cosmetic brands, both Ayurvedic and synthetic, use active components from the above-mentioned ingredients in their products.
Cosmetics date back to the Vedic period when deities were adorned with Haridra (turmeric), Chandana (sandalwood) and others. These cosmetics were prevalent during the Indus Valley Civilisation as well. It is interesting to note that cosmetics were not used to only look attractive but to also achieve good health. Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acute dermatitis, dandruff, skin cancer were a result of many factors that contributed to poor health.
Ayurveda focuses on both external and internal beauty. Tending to both were stepping stones to healing, reducing Ama (toxins) in the body, balancing the three doshas and maintaining healthy cellular functioning. The skin is the largest organ of the body with differences in texture and sensitivity according to the location. For example, facial skin differs from the rest of the body. Changes in the skin are attributed to changes in seasons, diet, lifestyle choices, disease and more. Ayurveda recommends Dinacharya, Ratricharya and Ritucharya. Dinacharya and Ratricharya refers to the daily day and night-time routines respectively. Ritucharya refers to following a specific lifestyle routine according to the season. Each season specifies the diet, exercise and lifestyle to be followed. Detoxification (Shodhana) is also done in specific seasons according to a person’s Dosha type. These routines help one lessen the toxin load in the body, slows down ageing and keeps diseases at bay.
Ayurveda describes the principles of anti-ageing in the following manner- Vayasthapana (age-defying), Varnya (skin brightening), Sandhaniya (cell regeneration), Vranaropana (healing), Tvachya (nurturing), Shothahara (anti-inflammatory), Tvachagnivardhani (strengthening skin metabolism) and Tvagrasayana (retarding).
Acharya Charaka and Sushrutha have provided the descriptions of over 700 herbs in their Samhitas that are used to manage ageing and ageing-related conditions. Moreover, there are 200 herbs, minerals and fats that are used to maintain and enhance skin health. (Hema SD et.al. 2010)
Some of the very commonly used Ayurvedic products for skin health are Kumkumadi lepam, Nalpramadi Tailam (contains turmeric), Raktha Chandana lepam, Nilibringraj tailam. Shikakai (soapnut), a herb that is rich in saponins, is used as a hair and body detergent. Ayurvedic oils act as rich emollients and can replace petroleum jellies. They help trap moisture in the skin and the herbs present in the oil improve the condition of the skin.
Centella asiatica (Gotu-Kala) has anti-ageing effects and enhances collagen synthesis. It also helps to heal wounds. Sandalwood and Vetiver (Khus) provide a radiant and healthy glow to the skin. Aloe Vera has anti-inflammatory properties and soothes the skin post an injury.
As much as tending to the external is important, making sure the channels in the body are not clogged with Ama is to be taken care of. Many herbal formulations de-clog the channels and improve circulation thereby reducing the appearance of wrinkles and dullness. Safi, an Ayurvedic tonic, is popularly used as a blood-purifier tonic that has added benefits of improved skin health such as clearing acne, skin rashes, boils and more. It also helps to boost the physiological functions in the body.
Ghee is used in the preparation of many make-up products such as lipsticks and Kajal. This is highly sought out by many to avoid using products that may contain traces of lead. They are also made of herbal dyes, beeswax and oils thus making the product extremely safe to use on the skin. They also contain traces of essential oils that don’t irritate the skin.
Every product in the market has been well-researched to make sure customers receive all the benefits of Ayurveda. From topical applications to rasayanas or tonics to cleanse the body and purify the blood are available to all. Ageing is unavoidable but can be slowed down. The industry is sure to keep growing owing to the multiple benefits it has towards healthy looking skin.
About the Author
Ms Varsha Venkataraman
Varsha Venkataraman is a graduate in Applied Microbiology and Cancer Studies. Currently she is the Senior Researcher for the Centre for Soft Power with an avid interest in Ayurveda and wishes to focus on the integrative approach of Ayurveda and modern medicine in the treatment of cancer.