For centuries, it has been believed that greying hair and newly formed wrinkles are classic signs of wisdom. While aging is a universal concept, it is also an inevitable process that begins with the origin of life. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that aging, or Jara (also known as Vardhakya), is a natural and beautiful aspect of life. Just like seasons change every year, so does human life. This natural phenomenon is as common as hunger, thirst, or sleep.
Today, let's explore the Ayurvedic perspective on skin aging, some early signs, and ways to reduce premature aging. We will also study some herbs and tips to follow during this phase of life.
According to the Ayurvedic clock, human life is divided into three specific stages:
The Kapha Phase of Life or Childhood (from birth to 16 years of age with the primary elements of water and earth)
The Pitta Phase of Life or Youth/Adulthood (from 16 to 50 years of age with the primary elements of fire and water)
The Vata Phase of Life or Elderhood (from 50 years of age to the end of life with the primary elements of air and space)
During these phases, Kala Parinama (the result of time), i.e., the physical and emotional transformation of an individual, plays an important role in influencing Jara. Another essential factor is Ahara or diet. Any disharmony in one's food choices results in vitiated doshas.
Scientifically though, aging, as a whole, is divided into three types - chronological (defined by age in numbers), biological (defined by body function), and psychological (defined by mental well-being).
Ayurveda describes aging as “jīryati iti jarā” or that which has become old by wearing out. The ancient holistic healing practice of Ayurveda believes that the skin is the reflection of the dhatus, or the seven tissue layers of the human body. When they work and function synchronously, in tandem with the doshas, it reflects your overall well-being and good health.
Ayurvedic scholars specify that the process of aging is influenced by several factors that affect the Shareera (physical body), Satwa (psychological being), Indriya (emotional being), Agni (the digestive fire), and Bala or Ojas (the immune system).
The most common age-related factors related to skin deterioration are:
Over-exposure to the Sun with harmful UV-A and UV-B rays
Pigment-related conditions with thinning of the skin around the eyes and lips
Under-production of oil or sebum, leading to skin drying
Affected capillaries that result in frequent bruising
Skin growths and appearance of patches over time
Hormonal perturbations owing to lower estrogen levels
Genetic factors that increase susceptibility to aging
Smoking, improper skin care, and pollution, leading to dry, patchy skin
Increased skin fragility
Scratches, bumps, or cuts that take longer to heal
READ MORE: How To Manage Mature Aging Skin The Ayurveda Way
Sun Spots: Years of over-exposure to the Sun causes age spots and Sun-spots. These hyper-pigmented spots appear on the face, back, hands, and forearms. They may be light brown, dark brown, or grey.
Hyperpigmentation: As you grow older, you may notice flaky or hyperpigmented patches on the chest caused by cell damage or sun exposure. Sometimes, blue light exposure from televisions, cellphones, and laptops also results in the appearance of brown spots. This occurs when the skin cell turnover rate reduces with age.
Itchy or Dry Skin: When the skin thins out with age, it loses elasticity and becomes more susceptible to dehydration. The lack of elasticity may lead to gaps in the skin's topmost layer, which can let out moisture. This results in drier and flaky skin that needs constant moisturization.
Sagging Skin: With the loss of elastin and collagen, your skin loses its natural texture and firmness. Over time, it begins to sag. Factors such as sudden weight loss or weight gain can also make the skin saggy.
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Tight Skin: One common mistake is washing the face too harshly or too often. This results in a damaged skin barrier at an older age, causing extreme skin tightness.
Papery Texture: As you grow older, you may notice the skin beginning to thin out owing to low levels of calcium, which helps keep the skin firm. A high skin pH (above 5.9) also strips the skin of collagen. This results in the skin having a papery texture.
Wrinkles: As you enter your thirties, your skin produces lesser collagen (the protein that gives your skin its shape and texture). Skin cell renewal also begins to slow. With visibly less bounce, you might notice fine lines or wrinkles around the eyes, forehead, neck, or lips.
READ MORE: How To Get Rid Of Fine Lines With Ayurveda
Dark Circles or Puffy Eyes: As you age, the skin around your eyes thins out. Waking up with puffy eyes, inflammation, and dark circles is an early sign of aging.
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Appearance of tiny bumps: Milia are small white bumps that look like acne but are keratin-filled cysts. They appear when the skin loses its ability to exfoliate naturally.
The Ayurvedic therapy of Rasayana discusses preventive measures for premature aging at length. Some of the Vayasthapana or age-defying herbs you can use include:
Ghrit Kumari or Aloe vera
The plant is known for its healing and restorative properties. Aloe vera contains molecules known as sterols. When applied appropriately, sterols increase the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen in the upper layers of the skin. This, in turn, helps the skin retain moisture, resulting in fewer wrinkles. Scientific studies have also confirmed that using this medicinal herb can slow photoaging and chronological aging. One can apply aloe in the form of a fresh pulp.
Haldi or Turmeric
A commonly found kitchen ingredient, turmeric contains a powerful compound known as curcumin. It helps reduce the build-up of the protein amyloid-b while helping the skin fight free-radical damage. Turmeric also contains strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help reverse the signs of premature aging. Haldi is best used as an additional ingredient in face masks or moisturizers. Using it directly on the skin may result in damaged, yellow-looking skin.
Gotu Kola or Centella asiatica
A perennial plant native to Asia, Gotu Kola was proven to reduce skin breakdown. It inhibits the activity of enzymes that degrade skin quality. The correct use of this herb can help increase collagen production, because the herb contains glycolic acid and vitamins A, C, and E. It also protects the DNA in skin cells from UV damage. This herb can be applied topically in combination with other Ayurvedic recommendations.
Brahmi or Bacopa monnieri
It contains essential ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid, brahmine, and herpestine. Brahmi is one of the oldest medicinal herbs recommended by Ayurveda. It contains powerful healing properties that protect the skin from environmental damage while encouraging skin cell turnover. This herb can either be consumed as a ghrita, churna, taila, tablet, or syrup or applied topically.
Chandana or Sandalwood
With extracts from the Santalum album tree, sandalwood is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. It protects the skin from free radicals, which leads to fewer wrinkles and fine lines. It has a soothing effect on the skin and prevents it from sagging. Owing to its antiproliferative property, it also inhibits the growth of unhealthy cells. Sandalwood reduces hyperpigmentation and helps maintain the plumpness of the skin. It can be used topically like a face pack, gel, or in the form of a taila (oil).
READ MORE: 7 Ayurvedic Herbs To Supercharge Your Aging Skin
Some additional tips to keep in mind:
Enjoy restorative Nidra or sleep every night to help your skin rejuvenate. Good sleep is the elixir of life.
Undertake adequate and light strengthening exercises at least three times a week.
Healthy aging is about a regulated Agni (digestive fire), so focus on consuming a nourished and well-balanced diet.
Reduce the intake of caffeine and consume herbal teas instead.
Try periodic cleansing for your digestive system to boost cellular regeneration.
Practice yoga, mindful breathing, or meditation to help retain mental and physical well-being.
Do not step out without applying sun protection.
Regular oil massage or abhyanga with constitution-specific herbs can help delay aging.
READ MORE: 3 Wisdoms For Aging Gracefully
Remember, Ayurveda recommends living in harmony with nature, practicing healthy lifestyle habits such as the intake of dosha-specific food, a wholesome diet, universal consciousness,following a Dincharya (routine), Ritucharya (seasonal routine), and Abhyanga (self-massage), avoiding over-exposure to the Sun, individual constitution and yoga to maintain optimal health. Paying attention to self-care is key to longevity and graceful aging.
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