The early and mid-winter season is characterized by cold, dry and rough weather. These are the hallmark traits of the Vata Dosha, one of the three fundamental energies of life in Ayurvedic philosophy. To achieve balance according to Ayurveda, maintaining harmony among the three Doshas is key. So, with the increase of Vata Dosha in the environment, we need to emphasize certain foods and daily activities to pacify this excess Vata before it creates imbalances in our minds and bodies. Many of these imbalances show up in our hair and skin health.
Signs of a Vata imbalance
Dry and splitting hair
Dullness or dryness in skin
Dry and brittle nails
The holistic approach to combating winter's cold, dry and windy weather
There are many ways to combat the harshness of winter all naturally using Ayurvedic lifestyle guidelines and remedies. As Vata creates an excess of dry, rough and cold qualities, we counteract excess Vata by introducing moist, smooth and warm qualities. The emphasis is on soothing, hydrating and protecting formulations & products to pacify Vata-imbalanced skin & hair.
Top 5 things you can do to protect your skin from winter elements
1. Pay attention to your diet
Eat a diet rich in fresh seasonal vegetables and antioxidants. Generally in the Vata season, increase moist and nurturing foods. As Kapha Dosha may also be on the rise during mid to end of winter, be mindful that foods aren’t too heavy, unless it’s particularly dry - i.e., no snow, rain or minimal moisture in the environment. You can favor sour, salty and sweet tastes and reduce spicy, sour and oily foods. Drink warm water throughout the day and minimize caffeine, cold drinks, raw veggies and protein shakes.
2. Quality rest is important
Sleep deprivation shows up with lackluster skin and pouches under the eyes. Your skin is like a mirror - it reflects everything that is happening inside your body and mind. Adjust your bedtime - going to bed early (before 10pm) is very soothing and helps to improve skin. When you have enough rest, the result is glowing skin and clear bright eyes.
3. If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin
Avoid cleansing products that dry out the skin, like alcohol-based cleansers or those containing synthetic materials and chemicals. Products for acne in particular can be especially harsh and lead to dry skin, which incidentally can worsen acne when it builds up in the pores.
4. Using soothing, hydrating and protecting products
Skin with a Vata imbalance needs soothing and coddling. Products that are gentle, natural and nourishing will work to restore moisture and rejuvenate the skin’s appearance and tone.
Kerala Ayurveda’s SuVeda line of traditional Ayurvedic oils are all natural and can be used regularly for self-abhyanga, or massage. For the winter season, we recommend the following daily massage oils: Ksheerabala Thailam Oil for the face, Pavan Oil, Eladi Keratailam Oil (coconut base) and Eladi Tailam Oil (sesame base) for the body and Pinda Thailam Oil for the feet.
5. Perform regular Ayurvedic full body massages with oil
Daily self-massage is a daily practice in Ayurvedic lifestyle to nourish the body both inside and out. In Ayurveda, the term Sneha for oil is also a word for love, for oil infuses everything it touches with an all-enveloping, nurturing energy. You can perform this rejuvenating treat for yourself every day before your morning shower or an hour before you go to bed.
A relaxing self-massage increases circulation, helps the body flush out toxins and tones the skin, keeping it looking soft, smooth and supple. If you allow the oil to sit for a few minutes, it penetrates the body’s inner tissues for more supple bones and joints.
Selecting your oil
To combat excess Vata in the winter season, you want to choose a warming oil like sesame or almond. Kerala Ayurveda's traditional Ayurvedic oils mentioned above in #4 are perfect for this season.
How to perform a self-abhyanga or body massage
- Warm the sesame oil under warm water for a few minutes, or rub between your palms if you are short on time.
- Apply the oil to the entire body, massaging with even pressure.
- Allow the oil to absorb into your skin for 5-10 minutes.
- Follow up with a warm shower or bath to remove any excess oil.
6. Use a natural external moisturizer for touch ups
The best way to nourish skin is internally through diet and externally through oil massage - you will get the best, long lasting results with self-abhyanga. For a quick fix when you are on the go or struggling with an extra dry patch, external lotion can help to temporarily soothe the issue. Try a homemade lotion using all natural ingredients to ensure what you put on your skin is nontoxic and easily absorbable by the body.
Natural Moisturizing Lotion DIY Home Remedy
½ oz cocoa butter
4 oz avocado, sunflower or almond oil
Orange peel, sandalwood or rose water essential oil drops
Melt cocoa butter and oil over medium heat. Remove from heat and add a few drops of essential oil. Apply to face and body after cleansing.
5 things you can do to protect your hair from winter elements
1. A healthy diet is just as important for healthy hair as it is for healthy skin!
In the beauty industry, products are heavily emphasized for relieving imbalances. However, changes to our diet target the internal, root problem of hair imbalances for longer lasting results. Just as with your skin, dry hair benefits from nourishing warm and moist foods. Emphasize organic fruits and veggies and reduce spicy, sour and oily foods.
2. Avoid extreme temperatures both internally and externally
Minimize extreme temperature fluctuations to reduce stress on the hair. Outside, dress for the weather including hats and scarves to keep your hair protected from the cold and wind. In your daily routine, opt for warm, not hot showers, and avoid hot water on the head in particular. Minimize using blow dryers and other hot styling tools as you probably already know - they ultimately dry out and damage hair.
3. Read product labels carefully and avoid synthetic ingredients
Limit products containing chemicals or harsh ingredients that can damage or dry out your hair. This includes avoiding products containing sulfates, parabens, synthetic colors, and unnatural fragrances.
4. Use natural, soothing and hydrating products to nourish and protect hair
Opt for a shampoo and conditioner with natural or organic ingredients, especially those which support moisture and combat dryness.
Sneha, or oil is loving to the skin and the hair, which is why the people of India have nourished their hair with oil for thousands of years. You can apply hair oil to the scalp and all the way down to the roots, depending on your hair’s unique conditions. You can use any hair oil you like, or try Kerala Ayurveda’s Kesini Oil - a natural blend of traditional Ayurvedic herbs and oils for revitalizing scalp and hair health.
5. Try a scalp massage
An easy way to combat seasonal influences to your hair is a bi-weekly scalp massage. Just as a body massage nurtures our skin inside and out, a scalp massage nurtures the skin, stimulates the hair follicles and improves the health of our hair.
How to perform a scalp massage
- Warm up your hair oil (such as Kerala Ayurveda’s Kesini Oil) or massage oil of your choice and gently massage into the scalp with your fingertips. Avoid using your nails as that can damage the delicate scalp.
- Cover strands of your hair as well and leave in for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Shampoo hair with natural product to remove excess oil. You shouldn’t need conditioner, as you already deep conditioned with your oil.
Fill your teacup with a Vata-pacifying blend
True health for our skin and hair starts from the inside. Try this flavorful & nurturing tea on a cold day to warm you up and pacify Vata! You can sip it throughout the day.
Vata Tea Recipe
4 cups water
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 pods cardamom
1 tbsp sucanat or rice syrup
Heat water in a pot. Add slightly crushed fennel seeds, coriander seeds and cardamom pods. Boil for 3 minutes. Add the sucanat or rice syrup and boil for 2 more minutes. Strain and serve hot.
Reduce your stress and promote calm
Sometimes it is easy to forget that the state of our minds has a direct impact on the health of our appearance. For healthy skin and hair, remember to make time for your daily calming rituals such as Yoga, deep breathing, meditation, or any activity you find soothing to the mind and spirit.