We may note these changes around us, but too often, in the busyness of our lives and the many distractions and demands of family, friends, and work, we get stuck in one gear or another. We fall into routines that we assume we need to keep day in and day out, regardless of the fact that the world around is changing and whispering to us that all is impermanent, thus influx.
Intellectually, we understand this – a bit. If you are a woman, you are more intimately familiar with the times of ovulation and menstruation and how, when you are in a state of reasonable health and supportive daily routine, that such changes occur around full and new moons. Men have such cycles as well, but few want to admit it.
Thus, hygiene and how we tend to our bodily needs and functions by definition, need to adjust to times and circumstances, the most consistent being the seasons through which we live. This also logically implies skin care.
In Ayurveda, the 5000 year old science of longevity of the East, the saying goes, “skin is the cream of rasa.” Rasa has to do with blood quality. Blood quality is determined by diet and other supportive and/or maladaptive lifestyle habits. The healthiness of the skin is then tested by the season, climate, and environment in which we find ourselves. Client’s skin may get dry or oily, sweat, go blotchy, or break out – all these conditions being ways in which the skin projects how well clients fortify themselves to adjust to various demands.
With this way of Ayurvedic thinking in mind, let us turn to skin in the summer.
The Skin’s Response to Summer Heat
In general, increased heat or warmth is what is seen for the summer season. This warmth will, in turn, accentuate moistness in more humid parts of the country and dryness in more arid parts of the country. So there is more heat with increased moisture or heat with increased dryness. Skin care professionals need to understand how the skin will respond.
We already have dry, cool skin traits of what is known as vata dosha in the Ayurvedic scheme of things – if the air is warm and humid, we bask in the sun and soak up the moisture. Wrinkles soften and the skin tans easily and evenly. If it is warm and dry, we enjoy the warmth, but, like mud that cracks as it dries, the skin may wrinkle more.
If a client’s skin is sensitive and reactive to product (perhaps fair and/or with freckles), traits of what is known as pitta dosha in Ayurveda, there is more oil in the skin already and the heat tends to inflame the skin. Skin easily burns. Pittas are the lobsters on the beach. Warmth with dryness is a bit better, but humid heat is a definite challenge. Breakouts are likely to occur.
If the skin is thicker and perhaps a bit clammy or tends towards congestion in general, traits of kapha dosha in Ayurveda, this type of person enjoys the heat. It enlivens. With dry, it feels even better as they already have enough moisture in their skin. If humid, therefore, the skin can feel more congested and the skin easily has oil rise to the surface.
If skin care professionals understand this about the skin, clients can relax with the reactions the skin expresses in the season. At the same time, there are some general seasonal diet and lifestyle habits that are useful and will ensure that your client’s skin is as fit and healthy as it can be in this time.
Seasonal Diet and Lifestyle Habits
According to Ayurvdea, summer is a pitta-enhancing season. As the environment heats up, we need to meet that heat with an ability to stay cool. Sadly, the modern lifestyle tells clients to crank up their air conditioners and drink lots of iced drinks. By not encountering the heat of the time in a more natural way, clients force their bodies to heat up more than to cool down. Then we have the picnic, holiday, party attitude where we tend to eat too much for the season, especially too much meat grilled on barbeques, and other such foods. Again, such habits build up additional heat in the body. The results of these habits are flus, colds, and inflamed skin as fall approaches.
What Clients Should Wear
When it comes to garments, it is better to meet and adjust to the heat than to deny that it is there. Advise clients to wear a light cap for sun protection, cool, natural-breathing fabrics, and when possible, sandals or footwear that allow their skin to breathe.
What Clients Should Eat
Regarding diet, clients should be eating lighter in the summer than they do in the winter. More than just food calories, we also ingest energy from the sun, the warmth, the increased vitality of the environment. Diets should include more fruits and vegetables. Hot and spicy foods should be reduced and balanced with salads and other green vegetables that help the body to cool down.
What Clients Should Drink
In the summer, digestive fires (known in Ayurveda as agni) are supported by the heat of the environment. Thus, this is the best time for juicing. That said, clients need to keep fruits blended with fruits (berries, apples, pears, grapes), tropical fruits (oranges, grapefruits, mango, banana), and melons by themselves. Vegetable juices are more of a challenge to the digestive system. Everyone loves carrot-based vegetable drinks, which are best when combined with ginger. And kale – bottom line – is best and most digestible when cooked. In general, room temperature drinks are better than chilled or iced drinks. And even hot drinks, such as tea, are good as they encourage the body to sweat, a natural way to cool down. Antiperspirents, chemicals that inhibit the body’s natural ability to adjust to the environment, are generally toxic. They enter the bloodstream and eventually find their way out to the face.
Protecting the Skin During Summer
Of course, there is tremendous fear about skin cancer and the idea that the risk goes up as bodies are revealed to the sunlight. But consider the fact that there are a great number of people living in tropical lands and very sunny climates of different skin hues who do not use sunscreen and do not have a very high rate of skin cancer in their population. This suggests that exposure to the sun alone is not the only factor in this disease. In oriental medicine, it is said that where there are higher levels of exposure to molds and fungus in homes and environments, the rate of skin cancer goes up. If diets that are deficient and/or encouraging of fungal and mold growth are added, the situation becomes exacerbated.
Using Oils to Protect the Skin
In India, Ayurveda has for centuries encouraged people to oil their skins. It is a fact that sesame oil, an oil commonly rubbed on the skin, has an SPF of 15. Facial, body, and hair oils feed healthy microbes on the skin and scalp. This creates a healthy barrier to the sun, pollutants, and other environmental challenges. Along with such oils, Ayurveda teaches that clients should put nothing on their skin that they cannot eat. Thus, if the ingredients cannot be pronounced, the product should be avoided. The skin is an eating, digesting organ. Just like the organic foods that should be put in bodies, clients should consider finding natural and/or organic products to feed the skin.
Putting healthy products on the skin, eating foods that build our strength and vitality, and wearing clothing that allows the body to feel cool and comfortable in the heat of the season creates the perfect environment for healthy, strong skin to withstand the heat, humidity, and the dryness of summer.
With an educational background and training that is as conventional as it is alternative, Robert Sachs is a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed massage therapist, yoga instructor, and has been a student of Indian and Tibetan spiritual and healing traditions since the early 1970s. Along with his wife, Melanie Sachs, runs Diamond Way Ayurveda, the foremost promoter of Ayurveda in the spa and beauty industries. The Sach’s live in San Luis Obispo, Calif. 866-303-3321