Ayurveda describes twacha or skin as the mirror of your physiological health and the essential organ of the body, which is often known as the site of expression for the manifestation of diseases in your body. Derived from the root word 'twak savarne,' twacha is the covering that envelops the body's tissues and is one of the five sensory organs or Gyanendriyas.
Some of the primary functions of the skin are:
Avarna - to protect and nurture the entire body
Sparshadnyana - to act as a base for sensation
Ushmaniyantrana - to act as a base for temperature regulation_Pachana_ - to aid digestion through the basic concepts of Shoshana (absorption) and pravesha (entry)
Dharana - to hold on to essential bodily fluids
Roopa-Sadhana - to offer radiance while recovering from any damage or trauma
Skincare has become an important part of our daily life. Thus, it's important to be aware of skin disturbances for better care. One such condition that most of us have often found ourselves scouring through our cabinets for medicines and creams to resolve the skin issue is Blemishes. It can cause irritation with inflamed acne on the skin.
What are blemishes?
Don't we all love a flawless, radiant face that glows? Unfortunately, pesky marks or sun spots often take away your beautiful-looking skin. Simply put, blemishes are noticeable imperfections on the face that leave behind a spot, scar, mark, flaw, or discoloration. Most blemishes are harmless or benign. They are typically acne, sun spots, blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, rash, or melasma. Typically, blemishes appear due to an imbalance in the hormones caused due to ama or toxins.
Some of the typical features of blemishes are:
- Aggressively red/pink-looking skin
- Uneven skin tone
- Skin irritation
- Skin discoloration
- Changes in skin texture
- The appearance of painful or inflamed acne
Types of blemishes
While blemish is a wide term, it can have multiple types. Some of them are listed below:
1. Acne or Yuvana Pidaka: Caused due to the over-production of oil or sebum in the body, acne develops when dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil clog the pores on the face. Picking on the skin can result in dark spots, scarring, or marks. Sometimes, acne can be inflamed and swollen with a small amount of pus inside. Different types of acne are:
2. Hyperpigmentation: Age spots or hyperpigmentation appear when the skin directly interacts with sunlight. The harsh UV rays can leave the face with red, brown, or tan spots that are flat and small. Also known as age spots, they can develop as you grow older.
3. Scars: When the skin's dermis (second layer) becomes damaged, the body forms collagen to damage the repair. The faster a wound heals, the lesser the deposited collagen.
4. Melasma: Hormonal changes during pregnancy or birth control pills can result in the overproduction of melanin, which can make the skin darker. These brown-colored dark patches can worsen with sun exposure.
5. Birthmarks: Blemishes that appear on a newborn are called birthmarks. They often form when the skin pigmentation cells clump together, blood vessels don't form, or a raised patch causes thickened skin.
6. Ingrown Hair: When hair curls back or grows sideways back into the skin, it is ingrowth. If you pick on it, it results in red and itchy skin resulting in blemishes over time.
7. Cold Sores: HSV-1 or type 1 herpes simplex virus causes cold sores and small pus-filled blisters formed around or near the lips. A tingling sensation accompanies them. Once the blister breaks open, it creates a yellow scab that falls over time.
The doshas and blemishes
As per Vedic texts, one of the primary reasons for acne and its resulting blemishes is a result of Agni (the digestive fire in the human body) impairment. When the Pitta dosha is vitiated, it impairs the blood and fat tissues in the body by accumulating heat in the deep tissues - Rasa (nutrient plasma), Mamsa (muscles), Rakta (blood), and Lasika (lymphatic). This results in the production of ama or toxins that block the srotas (microscopic channels on the face). The result is an unwanted pimple followed by scarring or spots.
Ayurveda mentionsthat mukha dushika, or the one that brings harm to the face, is often caused by an imbalance of the tridoshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. At the same time, every individual has a unique Prakriti (dosha constitution), excess or deficiency of any of these doshas in the body results in acne or sun spots in the form of blemishes. To keep your doshas balanced, you must follow a good ahara (diet), maintain a routine dincharya (daily routine), get enough exercise, and control stress levels.
Faulty eating habits that elevate blemishes in the body include:
- Adhyashana or eating at short intervals without the previous consumption being digested
- Vishamashana or eating while disregarding the body's needs, such as eating when not
- Viruddhashana or consuming incompatible food at once, such as hot and cold food, milk, and meat
Ayurvedic herbs for blemishes
- Ghrit Kumari or Aloe Vera: Whether you're dealing with sun spots, inflammation, or acne - the super moisturizing and evergreen aloe vera is an Ayurvedic herb that works wonders for your skin. This plant of immortality is loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and bioactive such as amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It has phytochemicals that miraculously help soothe angry, red-looking skin while providing much-needed hydration.
- Manjistha or Indian Madder: As per research, manjistha inhibits the bacterium propionibacterium acnes that triggers oxidative stress in the body. It contains potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties by suppressing the free radicals induced by propionibacterium acnes, reducing the production of pimples. As a_varnya_ herb, manjistha inhibits an enzyme known as tyrosinase which helps fade dark spots.
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- Kesar or Saffron: Grouped once again under the varnya herb category, kesar gives a soft, radiating glow to the skin with its tridoshic properties (balancing all the doshas). Kesar contains a variety of powerful plant compounds that such as crocin and crocetin, that act as antioxidants while reducing inflammation. As a skin-brightening agent, it contains active compounds that reduce hyperpigmentation and even tone the skin.
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- Tulsi or Indian Holy Basil: As a medicinal and therapeutic herb, tulsi has sattvic energy with warming and clarifying properties. Research has proven that tulsi's antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial elements help reduce hyperpigmentation and scars. Its potent antioxidant properties and Vitamin C, A, and phytonutrients also reduce free radicals that cause fine lines and wrinkles.
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- Madhukarkarti or Papaya: Loaded with antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, madhukarkati contains vitamin A and the antioxidant papain that breaks down inactive proteins by giving clear, radiant skin. The enzymes and vitamins in papaya help soothe inflammation, remove dead skin cells and unclog pores, making it a perfect ingredient for blemish-free skin.
- Nimba or Neem leaves: The Ayurvedic text Bhava Prakash Nighantu mentions several neem leaves' cleansing and moisture-absorbing benefits. The neem tree is known to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal agents that inhibit the growth of acne-forming bacteria. When applied to the face, it also reduces the appearance of scars.
- Amlaki or Indian gooseberry: A powerhouse of vitamin C (ascorbic acid)and antioxidants, amla or amlaki lightens scars, spots, and pimples. Its potent antioxidants also protect the skin from external factors such as UV rays and pollution. Research has proven that amla extracts stimulate the production of collagen, which brightens and lightens skin texture while promoting skin cell turnover.
- Jaiphal or Nutmeg: Jaiphal has several antioxidants and essential vitamins such as ascorbic acid, magnesium, zinc, and copper. With its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, nutmeg controls sebum production and has a soothing effect on the skin. It can even out skin tone with phenolic compounds and flavonoids to give you healthier-looking skin.
Tips to keep blemishes at bay
Now that you've understood the causes, types, and treatment for blemishes, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Increase your water intake by consuming at least 8-10 glasses of water a day to flush out ama or toxins from the body.
- To maintain a balanced diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily routine.
- Practice healthy habits such as keeping stress at bay, getting sufficient sleep every night, avoiding caffeine intake, and exercising regularly.
- Avoid picking on touching your blemishes; it can further aggravate your condition.
- Learn to be gentle with your skin.
- Follow a proper skincare regime based on your dosha and skin type.
- Introduce natural Ayurvedic products into your skincare routine, and be patient with the results.
You are not alone if you're struggling with blemishes - acne, hyperpigmentation, scars, or cold sores. Treating and managing blemishes can sometimes be a long-drawn process. Factors such as lifestyle, diet, and hormones play a key role in resolving it. Working towards a blemish-free skin texture is not a quick fix; you require time and patience. With disciplined consistency, you can keep them at bay.