The winter season brings cold temperatures, freezing rain, snow, a significant drop in humidity, and dry, gusty winds. Your skin—the largest organ in your body—acts as a barrier to these harsh weather conditions. If you want to avoid dry, flaky, and cracking skin this winter, Ayurvedic wisdom can help you nourish and hydrate your body all winter long.
In this article, you’ll learn how to soothe common winter skin imbalances, become familiar with natural Ayurvedic moisturizers, (including a DIY Ayurvedic facial!), and how to hydrate from within using specific foods, drinks, and herbs.
Winter: The Best Time to Nourish Your Skin
As odd as it may seem, winter is actually the best time of year to nourish the skin, because it is dryer and more receptive during this cold season. In warmer seasons, the skin is naturally detoxifying more, and therefore less absorbent. Take advantage of the winter season to make your skin healthier and more vibrant.
Winter is Vata Season
Skin appears to age in winter because it is Vata season (November to February). Common symptoms include dryness, cracking, dullness, and roughness of the skin. This is common in cold, dry, windy weather. If you have a predominantly Vata constitution, have a Vata-aggravating diet and lifestyle, or happen to be in the Vata time of life (starting in middle age), the effect is amplified.
Winter Can Bring Pitta and Kapha Imbalances to the Skin, Too
Interestingly, some winter conditions actually cause heat to build up in the skin. If the weather is freezing but not windy (such as in some areas of the north), the freezing temperatures tend to “close up” your pores to protect you from heat loss, dryness, and the cold. As internal heat builds up, Pitta dosha becomes imbalanced, resulting in increased sensitivity, occasional blemishes, rashes, or sometimes redness. Increased hunger is also a result of this kind of weather.
A third winter skin condition occurs when the weather is cold and wet, causing Kapha dosha to increase, producing oily, heavy skin. This is more common in late winter, although in some climates, it can be cold and damp all winter long. During this time, toxins (ama) tend to accumulate, which may make the skin dull and clog the pores, leading to skin irritation and breakouts.
Nourish Your Skin According to Your Skin Type
Below you’ll find some helpful hints for nourishing your skin type in all three winter weather conditions.
For Vata Skin (or during cold, windy weather)
- Daily Organic Cured Sesame Oil massage
- Keep skin covered as much as possible
- Use natural fabrics such as silk or wool
- Walking or other light enjoyable exercise is recommended
- Use floral or herbal essences of rose and/or lavender in your bath
Recommended Herbal Products
- Youthful Skin Cream on face during the day
- Youthful Skin Oil on face at night
- Moisturizing Massage Oil
- Calming Vata Aroma Oil
- Youthful Skin Herbal Soap for face
For Pitta Skin (or in freezing but not windy weather)
- Daily oil massage with our Soothing Herbal Massage Oil—or try an oil with an organic coconut base
- Brisk exercise
- Avoid excessive exposure to the sun (skiing, for example, exposes skin to freezing temperatures and long periods of sun)
- Include Organic Rose Petal Spread in your diet
- Eat lots of sweet, juicy fruits
- Cook with cumin, coriander, fennel, and licorice
- Avoid hot, spicy foods
Recommended Herbal Products
For Kapha Skin (or in cold, damp weather)
- Drink warm water through the day
- Daily warm oil, full-body massage
- Exfoliate non-facial skin periodically with a loofah
Recommended Herbal Products
- Stimulating Herbal Massage Oil
- Youthful Skin Cream on the face
- Youthful Skin Herbal Soap for the face
Hydrate & Protect Your Skin
Oil massage, natural moisturizers, dressing in natural fibers, and humidifying your home all help to keep your skin soft and supple throughout the winter.
Ayurvedic Oil Massage
A warm Ayurvedic oil massage (abhyanga) administered before your bath or shower is an excellent method of hydrating the skin and improving circulation. This practice will lubricate and protect your skin, giving your complexion a radiant sheen that lasts throughout the day.
It's important to choose pure, non-clogging oils. Youthful Skin Massage Oil (available in specific formulas for men and women) contains an astonishing two dozen restorative herbs in a pure jojoba oil base, rejuvenating your cells and skin for a truly luxurious experience. Moisturizing Herbal Massage Oil is another great choice for balancing Vata dosha.
Let the oil seep into your skin for at least 20 minutes, and then wash it off with a warm (not hot) bath or shower. Hot water dries the skin, while warm water soothes it.
Soothe Your Skin with Natural Moisturizers
Moisturize while you cleanse. In winter it's especially important to avoid harsh cleansers that dry out the skin. Our Youthful Skin Herbal Soap is very good for dry skin, which includes just about everyone in winter. This rich, gentle formulation can be used more than once a day—leaving your skin soft and moist as well as clean. With its herbal wisdom, this soap nourishes and moisturizes the deeper layers of the skin as it cleanses and tones the surface.
Choose a moisturizer with non-clogging oils such as avocado oil, primrose oil, or nut oils. Before buying a moisturizer, make sure that the oils it contains are healthy ones. Youthful Skin Cream uses pure oils from organic sunflower seeds and organic macadamia nuts, which are known to deeply moisturize without blocking the pores. It also contains "humectants," such as organic vegetable glycerin, which is a class of ingredients that attract moisture to your skin. Youthful Skin Cream is packed with organic ingredients, providing a pure and natural way to deeply nourish your skin.
Our Youthful Skin Oil is also a good choice for delivering deep-layer lipid support. The Ayurvedic herbs, rich oils, and antioxidants in this formulation combat free radical damage and offer sustained nourishment for your skin, leaving it less vulnerable to the ravages of winter weather.
Pay special attention to your feet. The feet, and particularly the heels, tend to dry out more in winter, which can create painful cracks. Your feet contain nerve endings to every organ in your body, therefore it's important to massage and pamper them for your overall health. Try massaging your feet before bed with pure, organic ghee (cover with a pair of old cotton socks to protect the bed sheets). You’ll sleep deeper and feel less stressed the next day.
Add Moisture to the Air
If your skin is super dry, try running a steam-based humidifier in your bedroom at night. This prevents excess water loss from your body during the night and can do wonders for dry, itchy winter skin. You can also increase moisture by setting out pans of water under your plants (this helps the plants breathe easier too), and by boiling hot water on the stove.
In the winter, you can steam your face once a week to open up the pores and deep clean your skin. Or, try our exfoliating and nourishing DIY Ayurvedic facial below!
How to do an Ayurvedic Facial
- Cleanse your face and neck with our Youthful Skin Herbal Soap to remove makeup and impurities.
- Apply several drops of Youthful Skin Oil on your fingers and gently massage your face and neck. Repeat three times.
- Massage milk foam onto your face and neck. (Slowly bring organic milk to a boil, add a few drops of Organic Rose Water and beat until it’s thick and a layer of foam appears). Repeat three times.
- Use a facial steamer for 5 minutes or until your skin perspires. Make a tent for yourself using a towel or sheet.
- Apply a thin layer of bentonite clay to your face and neck. Leave it on for 3-5 minutes or until your skin begins to feel tight.
- Remove the clay with the remaining organic milk and then rinse the milk off with warm water. Use natural sponges for removal of the clay.
- Apply a thin layer of Youthful Skin Oil to your face and neck. Dab off excess with a tissue.
- After one hour, apply a thin layer of Youthful Skin Cream to your face and neck.
Wear Natural Fibers
Protect your skin before you venture out into the cold weather. Wear clothing made from organic, natural fibers such as wool or silk, because these are gentle on your skin, allow the skin to breathe better, and do not contain harmful toxins. If your skin tends to chafe with wool, try organic cotton. Always dress in layers, so you can add or remove layers for comfort. Bundling up too much can cause moisture loss through sweat. For longer periods of time in the sun, consider a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen—protect yourself against damaging UV rays that contribute to dry skin and aging in winter.
Hydrate from Within
Eat a balanced, Vata-pacifying diet. Enjoy lots of organic, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, light dairy products, and nuts and seeds. In particular, squashes, sweet juicy fruits, green leafy vegetables, and lots of water are essential for purifying and hydrating your skin. Include an abundance of omega-3 rich foods, such as nuts, seeds, fresh coconut, avocado, and ghee. Try to eat as many whole, organic, fresh foods as possible as they have more life-force and help create radiant skin from the inside out. Avoid leftovers and canned, frozen, and packaged foods as these are hard to digest, creating impurities that damage the skin.
Cook with healthy oils. Because digestion is higher in winter, and to balance the prevailing dryness, Maharishi AyurVeda recommends eating more oily foods in winter than other times of year. But choose healthy oils, such as organic ghee for cooking and baking, and first-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil for dressing salads and cooked vegetables. Avoid heating olive oil to high temperatures, as this destroys its natural nutrients.
Drink hot water and herbal teas. Sipping hot water throughout the day helps cleanse impurities from the body and improves digestion and elimination—and contributes to healthier skin. Try to avoid ice-cold drinks as these disrupt digestion. Because caffeine dries the skin, try herbal drinks such as Raja's Cup, a coffee-flavored herbal drink that is brimming with antioxidants, or our Moisturizing Herbal Water Recipe below!
Herbals support the skin. To nourish your body and skin from the inside, take Maharishi Amrit Kalash regularly. The Rejuvenation for Men or Ladies formulas also strengthen and balance the entire system from the cell up. Premium Amla Berry, among other things, supports skin health and appearance.
Try This Moisturizing Herbal Water Recipe
This winter, take advantage of these time-tested Ayurvedic recommendations to combat dry, rough skin. Caring for your skin with moisturizing, all-natural products and hydrating your body from the inside out with warm, unctuous foods will help to keep your skin soft and supple all winter long.
© 1999, 2021 Maharishi AyurVeda Products International, Inc. (MAPI). All Rights Reserved. MAPI does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. See additional information.