Touch of Ayurveda

The Original Beauty Guru

Ayurveda caters to every possible need that arises in the human body, making sure that the person is healthy and beautiful inside and out. For centuries, men and women have adorned themselves with products to enhance their beauty. These products were developed from natural sources that were easily available. Ayurveda has paid a great deal of attention to cosmetology and that can be seen even today with a number of Ayurvedic formulations in the market. It also prescribes specific cosmetics for specific seasons.

Deities in temples are adorned with turmeric on special occasions. On Mahalaya Amavasya, Goddess Sharada in Sringeri is adorned with haridra (turmeric). Lord Venkateshwara’s Tirunama in Tirupati is made of camphor. He is also adorned with sandalwood paste.

When the Pandavas were in exile, Draupadi worked for the queen of Virata as a beautician and is said to have carried a vanity case, Prasadhana Petika, filled with cosmetics. Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Shakuntalam and Meghadoota also mention the use of cosmetics such as Kajal, Kumkum, Alta and Tilak. Archaeological findings from the Indus Valley civilization and depictions from the Ajanta, Ellora, and Khajurao caves show that both men and women have adorned themselves with jewellery, perfumery, and cosmetics.

The Maharaja of Tanjore, Raja Serfoji, was interested in medical preparations. He even established an institute for medical research called the ‘Dhanvantari Mahal’ where he conducted various experiments. He prepared thousands of Ayurvedic recipes that not only treated skin disorders but also enhanced individuals’ beauty. Many Tamil Pandits were asked to compose verses on these cosmetic preparations on palm leaves. They were then translated to Marathi in the 18th century. These recipes can now be found in Anubhoga Vaidya Bhaaga. It is said that many families of Tanjore still possess the preparations with the original packing and seal.

Some of Maharaja’s preparations included lip balm, skin lightening products, depilatory, deodorant powders, face packs and hair dyes. Lip balms were made using a paste of Bael fruit rinds. A mixture of powdered amla and pepper soaked in the milky latex of Nivadunga (cactus) (Euphorbia nivulia) was used as a depilatory. Powder from the barks of mango mixed with pomegranate and shankhapushpa removed bad odour when applied to the body. Similarly, powder from the seeds of tamarind and Karanja (Indian beech) was also used as deodorant powder.

Acharya Charaka classified cosmetics as Varnya, Kustagna, Kandugna, Bayasthapak, Udardaprasamana and many more.

In most of the preparations, sesame oil was and is used as the base for many cosmetics. The presence of lignan compounds such as Sesamin and Sesamlin has anti-oxidant properties and moisturising effects. Other products include buttermilk and goat’s milk powder. They possess soothing and emollient properties and are hence used in the preparation of face masks.

Plants that are commonly used in the preparation of moisturisers include aloe vera, calendula, turmeric, carrot, tulsi and rose. Sunscreens were also commonly used from time immemorial and contain ingredients such as aloe vera, moringa, and Cyperus rotundus.

Mandukparni is used to darken the colour of the hair although most commonly, Mehendi is used to colour hair. It is now mixed with Indigo to give an intense black colour. Sesame also provides similar benefits.

Pastes or lepas of lavender, rose, kumkuma, sandalwood, and jasmine are used as natural deodorants.

Kajal, a very popular Ayurvedic cosmetic, has multiple benefits. It strengthens the eye muscle and the nerves surrounding it, increases circulation, nourishes dry and rough eyes, and can inhibit any unnecessary growth in the eye.

Kajal is prepared using various methods. Vegetable oil is burnt overnight; the soot collected in the morning is mixed with ghee and applied to the eye. This cools the eye and avoids dust accumulation. Another method involved burning almonds. A piece of cloth dipped in a decoction made of Sahadevi and turmeric is dried and then burnt in a closed Diya along with sesame oil. The smoke collected on the lid is scraped out, finely powdered, and mixed with pure coconut or castor oil.

Lipsticks were also prepared using traditional methods by mixing beeswax and coconut oil. Colouring agents such as turmeric, cocoa and cinnamon powder were used. Castor oil, vanilla or rose essence, and lemon juice were also some of the other ingredients.

Other colouring agents used to make lip and cheek tints included tomatoes, beetroot, carrot and pomegranate.

In the past decade or longer, there has been a tremendous interest in herbal cosmetics. The Indian market has also always been inclined to natural products and many Ayurvedic brands are striving to translate many ancient Ayurvedic recipes and provide various cosmetic products ranging from kajal, foundation, lipsticks, cheek rouge, nail paints and more. Many men and women have also begun developing these formulations at home to avoid the use of synthetic cosmetics. Consumers from across the world are also becoming more aware of these formulations. Ancient Indian Vaidyas and researchers have made fantastic contributions to the cosmetic industry and today, these formulations are getting the spotlight they deserve.



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.


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