This post was last updated on October 29, 2020 by Preethi Sukumaran
Do you have persistent acne? Have you tried all advertised and OTC brands and are frustrated? Do you want to know what ayurvedic acne treatment comprises of? Read on for more on this.
Relief from persistent acne: a krya testimonial
“Hello Team Krya,
Hope you’re well. Sorry for the late reply. The anti acne face wash has been working brilliantly for me. It’s no less than magic. Skin feels AMAZING after it. Regarding my hair, my existing hair feels much stronger now. Regrowth is still taking time. I haven’t been consistent with the abhyanga so far.. Thank you so much “ UN, Mumbai
Here is a bit of background to this email. UN is a young aspiring model who lives in Mumbai and had gotten in touch with us for a skin and hair consultation in August. He was exhibiting the classic signs of high Pitta – acne and hair thinning and was alarmed at the state of his skin and hair, given his profession. He was put on a pitta balancing diet with suggested regimen, lifestyle modifications along with a series of Krya products designed for pitta balance.
His email to us reporting drastic improvement in his skin is extremely encouraging – it means we are on the right track and that his dosha balance has begun improving. If the regimen is fully adopted, we should be able to see much stronger results on his hair as well.
What is acne?
Western science treats acne as a skin disorder where the hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and oily secretions from the skin (sebum). Depending upon how often this acne is picked, and the dust and pollution around the sufferer, the skin will have blackheads, whiteheads, be greasy, and may have scarring as well.
Western cosmetics have also evolved to support this theory: so people are classified by the oil production on their face as those with oily skin, normal skin and dry skin. As the pimples are filled by sebum and dead cells, all external synthetic anti acne cosmetics focus on only 3 goals:
- Dry up the oil secretions on the surface so that the pimple is drained using alcohol based toners, and surfactant based washes
- Aggressively sanitise the skin so that there is no bacterial contamination of the skin
- Use highly astringent substances to give the skin a feeling of being “cool and non greasy”
The problem with cosmetic approaches to acne
Benzoyl peroxide is a common chemical used in anti-acne products. It is a known skin, eye and respiratory irritant. There are also a few concerns about its eco toxicity and its effect on other important organ systems within the body.
Triclosan is another common ingredient used in anti acne products for its anti bacterial effect. There is growing research to suggest that the increased use of Triclosan is giving rise to the growth of superbugs – bacteria resistant to antibiotics. A few studies also indicate that Triclosan could be a thyroid and hormone disruptor.
Oral contraceptives have also been used widely to treat acne. This has been linked to semi permanent and permanent changes in hormone secretion and birth defects if wrongly used in pregnant or lactating women. The worrying issue today is that there is no process of informed consent when such medications are prescribed. Many young teenagers start taking oral contraceptives to control a simple, natural problem which occurs due to a lifestage issue (which is controlled naturally in a few years), starting a vicious cycle of another set of problems due to the medication taken.
The use of alcohol extracts in the toners sold for acne prone skin is also extremely troubling – besides being an environmental and respiratory hazard, this substrate is extremely drying and aging on skin. With constant use it upsets the natural sebaceous secretions on the skin, and dries out permanently areas of the skin where sebaceous secretions are fewer causing the early appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Similar effects are seen in the use of salicylic acid based anti acne products – topical application typically results in dry skin and skin darkening especially when used by people with a darker skin type.
What is acne according to Ayurveda?
Ayurveda treats acne as a vata + pitta or kapha + pitta disorder where these aggravated doshas vitiate Mamsa and Rakta (muscle and blood tissue) leading to small localised eruptions on the cheeks, chin, chest, back, etc. This could arise as a result of the person’s prakriti (individual constitution), the climate they live in (tropical climates tend to have a pitta aggravating effect), food eaten or bad timing of eating (fried food, junk food, hormonally injected meat, excessive meat where there is improper digestion, heavy food, late food), nature of work (high level of stress, focus, aggression required), hormonal imbalance (teenage lifestage, PCOS, PCOD, pregnancy), etc.
Cystic acne where eruptions are larger and pus filled is usually due to vitiation of Kapha + Pitta dosha – if the acne is painful with prickling sensation there will also be the involvement of aggravated Vata dosha in the mix.
As the root cause of acne is identified as out of control Pitta + Vata dosha or Pitta+Kapha dosha due to some inherent cause, ayurvedic acne treatment will attempt to correct this dosha imbalance by changes to the food, changes to the way you conduct your life, additions to your daily regimen, and changes to the products you use. This depends greatly upon self awareness – if we do not understand that our choices are erroneous / harmful, we will not understand its effect on our body and we will not be able to communicate this properly also.
Pitta dosha deconstructed
As Pitta is a primary factor in acne, let us understand this dosha better. In the Pancha mahabutha theory of Ayurveda, Pitta dosha which is made up of Agni (fire) is usually held responsible for the outbreak of acne. The seats of Pitta in the body are the Amasaya (stomach), sveda (sweat), Lasika (watery discharges from soft tissues and membranes like Lymph), Rudhira (blood), rasa (the nutrients absorbed by the body after digestion), Drk (the eyes) and Sparshana (the skin).
Do make a note of all these diverse organs which are controlled by Pitta, because we will soon see the connection between what you eat, the nutrients you absorb, your eye sight and the state of your skin.
The Ashtanga Hridaya describes the qualities of Pitta dosha thus:
“Pittam sneha teekshano ushna laghu vishram sara dravam”
“The characteristics of Pitta dosha are Sneha (oiliness), Teekshana (sharp and intense), Ushna (Warm or hot), Laghu (light), Vishra (offensive or strong odour), Sara (fast moving) and Drava (liquid like).
Skin and hair characteristics of people with high Pitta dosha
As Pitta is oily and warm, people with high pitta dosha will have oily skin and hair with a feeling of heat. This means they will feel increases in temperature much more. Pitta is the seat of liquid secretions and offensive odours, so people with high Pitta dosha will sweat much more than others and may often have strong or intense body odours.
Pitta is also fast moving so all fast moving skin disorders come under Pitta’s influence: this include redness or itching that spreads on skin like prickly heat, measles, chickenpox and acne. Pitta dosha affects hair by burning it and thinning it down and burning out its natural colour. So if your pitta dosha is high, you will grey faster, you will start balding faster and your hair will also thin much faster.
The connection between your food and acne
Pitta dosha comprises of 5 types of Pitta which operate in different parts of the body using the intensive metabolic activity of Agni to give the body its vital nutrients. In acne we are concerned with 2 important types of Pitta Dosha. The Bhrajaka Pitta dosha is located in the skin. This form of Pitta dosha gives skin what we are looking for in all skin products – true lustre and radiance from within.
But here is the key to understanding how Pitta dosha operates. The master key to Pitta dosha is the Pachaka Pitta dosha. The Pachaka Pitta dosha operates in your stomach and its key role is to digest your food and separate the useful part of your food which can be reabsorbed and separate the useless part which gets excreted. The Pachaka pitta in your stomach, nourishes and kindles the other forms of Pitta including the Bhrajaka pitta which affects your skin.
Food and digestion: the master key in an ayurvedic acne treatment plan
If Pachaka pitta, which handles digestion in your stomach is the key to all pitta dosha we must understand how we can influence Pachaka pitta through our food and our lifestyle. For people with a predominantly pitta constitution, the Agni in their body is very high and intense. Think of it like a forest fire which rages out of control if left unchecked. So the key to controlling the disorders of high pitta lies in controlling the Pachaka pitta in the stomach. Therefore what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and whether we eat according to seasonal guidelines will form part of an ayurvedic acne treatment program.
Even if we are not of a dominant Pitta constitution, we can develop acne if we over harness Pachaka pitta. How do we end up doing this? when we eat foods which are oily, heavy which require greater digestive super power. The more heavy the food we eat, or the later we eat, we utilise MORE packaka pitta and more pitta in general.
How does eating late trigger this? When we eat in accordance with the sun cycle, we eat our largest meal during noon when the sun’s energy is at its peak. This Solar energy works harmoniously with the Agni in our body, especially Pachaka Pitta, supporting its work of digestion. so at noon, we are able to digest heavy food more easily. On the other hand, if we eat a heavy meal late at night, the entire strain of digesting this food falls squarely on our body. As we do not have any solar energy to help us, the entire digestive load falls on us. so we over stimulate Pachaka Pitta increasing its availability in the body.
5 diet changes you must make in your ayurvedic acne treatment program:
- Reduce the intensity of Pitta by reducing Pitta increasing foods: – eliminate or reduce highly salty, highly spicy and highly sour foods which include:
- Red and green chillies
- Tamarind, Kokum, Tomato, Raw mango
- Foods that are high in salt – papad, wafers, commercially produced salty snacks, commercial chips
- Foods that are high in salt – preserves, pickles
- Pitta increasing oil seeds – sesame, sesame oil
- Pitta increasing pulses – Tuvar / arhar dal (Pigeon peas)
- Pitta increasing sugars – jaggery
- Ensure you eat according to the ayurvedic clock
- Eat strictly on time at the same time everyday
- Eat with the sun – follow the sun cycle so that you eat when digestive power is aided by the sun. If you eat lunch at 2:30 pm for example, you have to rely on your internal Pitta dosha to supply a high amount of digestive fire power. If you eat lunch at noon on the other hand, the sun will help your internal pitta, so energy is not depleted from your body.
- Do not skip or delay meals – Pitta will rage on, feeding on your soft tissues leading to disorders like ulcers in advanced cases or a feeling of light headedness
- Cut down on excessive fried food, maida and heavy food
- Fried food and maida aggravate kapha along with pitta
- Eating heavy, untimely food especially at night aggravates the amount of Pitta required to digest the meal
- Constantly over eating and eating unsuitable food therefore triggers many issues along with acne
- Add foods that are cooling and opposite to that of Pitta dosha
- A small amount of bitters help calm down Pitta – this is why Ayurvedic solutions for acne use bitters like Neem. Similarly eating a small amount of bitter foods like bitter gourds are very useful in bringing down Pitta
- Add cooling foods to the diet: Aged Mung dal, the liberal use of coconut, mucilaginous vegetables like okra, ash gourd, pumpkin, and beetroot, native greens are all useful vegetables to add in Pitta disorders. Ensure the vegetables are pesticide free, fresh and in season.
- Bitters and pitta balancing food also help clarify skin, improve immunity and accelerate skin healing. These are useful foods to have as a part of daily diet and should be chosen according to Ritucharya
- Regulate consumption of hormonal animal foods (meat and dairy) – source this responsibly and eat according to seasonal rules
- Acne is often hormonally linked
- Today many of the animal derived foods we eat like dairy and meat comes loaded with hormones, pesticides, etc. Hormone laced milk, dairy and meat can also trigger hormonal conditions like acne, pcod, hypothyroidism,etc
- So carefully curate and source animal foods correctly.
- Restrict the consumption according to season , ayurvedic rules and digestive ability
- Carefully curated dairy foods can be very rejuvenating for the body – but they must be sourced correctly
- The way we live our life can itself be aggravating Pitta dosha. So we will see next the regimen changes we advise when Pitta dosha is aggravated.
6 Regimen changes to make in your ayurvedic acne treatment program
- Regular head oiling – One of the important seats of Pitta is the Sira (head), and this is the seat which generates Ushna (heat) by the activity of the eyes and the brain. When this Pitta is left uncontrolled, it not only greys hair prematurely, causes thinning and balding, but it also affects vision. Apart from directly affecting the hair and the eyes, excess pitta in this area ultimately affects digestion, Pachaka Pitta and therefore your skin. The hair oil chosen should be formulated with pitta cooling and pitta channelling herbs so that it effectively traps the constant pitta being generated and releases it from the scalp. Please note: that a mineral oil based hair oil SHOULD NOT be used on the head as it increases pitta dosha.
- Weekly / Bi-weekly Abhyanga – The practice of a regular abhyanga unclogs the srotas of excess oil secretions, and gives the heat generated by the body an effective medium to be trapped and come out. The process of the abhyanga generates heat, helping unclog blocked skin pores and removing dead cells, micro organisms and excess sebum. Oil application may seem contrarian when viewed from the Western lens – if we see the problem of acne as being simply oily skin, then oil application seems unjustified. But if we view acne through the lens of Ayurveda and understand aggravated Pitta as the problem, then an abhyanga is perfect. When done with the right oil and in the right manner, an abhyanga traps excess pitta immediately and effectively and leaves the body in a state of balance. Regular abhyanga practitioners will find that their skin and hair improves in appearance, their digestion improves and their moods become much more balanced. This is the magic of the abhyanga!
- Thoughtful exercise followed by a proper cool down to bring the body back to balance – In many cases of Pitta-Kapha based acne, we see clogged fat deposits leading to acne, pcod, etc. Here thoughtful regular exercise can be a game changer to help the condition. To ensure that Pitta and vata do not get unbalanced after exercise, we recommend regular abhyanga and proper cool down after practice
- Practice of meditation to calm down the body and bring down high stress levels – Meditation and pranayama (along with yoga) are extremely useful in controlling the high focus, high stress and high tension brought on by aggravated Pitta. The mind becomes clearer and sharper and is able to work better when given a restful and healthier environment. Stress is an important trigger of acne. This must be balanced daily by mindful practices
- Reduce eye strain: As the eyes are also an important seat of Pitta, we advise reducing eye strain by following a few Ayurvedic methods.
- Rinsing eyes in cool water, gazing into the horizon during sunrise and sunset, walking on bare earth, and taking screen breaks are all important ways to calm and nourish the eyes.
- In addition a regular pada abhyanga greatly helps cool pitta in the head region, reduce mental stress and anxiety and nourish the eyes. This is a practice we strongly recommend if you have chronic acne
- In addition , using a face lepa (mask) regularly is also a great practice both to heal the skin and nourish the eyes. Please read below for our acne lepa suggestions.
- Reduce the use of synthetic cosmetics on skin
- At Krya we regularly have customers who are models, and beauty bloggers coming to us for acne products
- This can be attributed to the excessive use of clogging cosmetics on skin due to the nature of their work
- Using many external cosmetic products can clog the srotas externally leading to pitta build up, Srota blockage and eventually acne formation
- Ensure that you toughly cleanse your skin of make up every day. Krya has an excellent Make up cleansing skin oil you can use to double cleanse skin
- Give you skin breaks where it is completely bare
- Try to restrict the number of brands you use on skin – do your research and choose as natural a product as possible
- Ensure you follow all our other suggestions including abhyanga if you are unable to help using these cosmetics.
The ayurvedic acne treatment program
We have seen how Ayurveda diagnoses and treats acne, so you should expect a different approach from Krya’s anti acne products as well. We have seen how western cosmetics superficially attack acne. The focus there is on removing excess oil through surfactants and alcohol, controlling sebaceous production and the use of anti bacterial agents to control the spread of bacteria.
We have seen the environmental and personal dangers behind the ingredients used on these products. Apart from these, most acne sufferers find that their skin becomes patchy, dull, unbalanced and loses its radiance with these solutions. Faster aging of skin is also a common complaint with the rapid appearance of wrinkles and fine lines with constant product use.
However correct cleansing of skin is very important in acne. We must take an effort to deep cleanse the srotas, encourage proper cell renewal and keep on sloughing off dead cells, excess sebum and debris, without disturbing or aggravating the skin.
Step 1: Cleanse with the Krya Anti Acne face Wash
Krya follows the Ayurvedic rule of opposites when treating acne which is a Pitta prone disorder. Pitta is strong, intense, sharp and rapid. We formulate our acne products to be cool, gentle, mild and soft on skin. So you will find that the Krya anti acne face wash is very soft textured, very gentle on skin, cleanses very mildly and does not provoke any intense or adverse reaction. Among all our products it is the most gentle and healing. The most differentiated aspect of a Krya anti acne face wash is that it is one of our most gentle face wash products among a range which is already very gentle. This is very different from how western cosmetics are formulated – a synthetic anti acne face wash will usually be very drying and stripping on skin.
Step 2: Mask with the Krya Anti Acne face mask
Ayurvedic Face Lepas (masks) are excellent in rejuvenating skin, deep cleansing the Srotas and locally balancing dosha imbalances. They are formulated differently from synthetic face masks and work at a deeper level to balance skin. We have a longer post on Ayurvedic face lepas and how to use them correctly here.
For acne, the Krya Anti acne face mask is a good choice. It is made from 35 potent Ayurvedic herbs including Manjishta, Daruharidra, Lodhra, and rakta Chandana. Regular use helps heal acne and improves complexion evenness, texture and lustre.
Natural herbs to combat acne and reducing scarring in an ayurvedic acne treatment plan
The Krya anti acne skin products use our special patent-pending production process and herbs recommended by Ayurveda as a part of the ayurvedic acne treatment program. Manjishta (Indian madder) is one of the herbs we use extensively in Krya’s anti acne products. Manjishta is a gentle, bitter herb that is renowned for enhancing complexion and radiance.
Acharya Charaka describes Manjishta as a Jwarahara (reduces fever) and Acharya Sushruta describes it as a Pittasamaka (balances Pitta). All the Ayurvedic texts have described Manjishta as a herb that enhances complexion and radiance of skin. It is a famous Rakta Shodaka herb (blood purifying herb) in Ayurveda and Siddha. When used in our products, Manjishta improves micro circulation of the skin, cleanses well, draws out toxins and evens out scarring and complexion with regular use.
Lodhra (Symplocus racemosa) is another famous Ayurvedic skin repair herb that we use in the Krya Anti acne products. Lodhra is astringent, cooling and a tonic Ayurvedic herb. It helps gives firmness to skin, reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and helps reduce pitta in skin.
Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is another renowned Ayurvedic herb used to reduce acne in Krya’s anti acne products. It is widely known as a drug given to improve cardiovascular health without side effects. Arjuna is an astringent Ayurvedic herb and is also classified in the list of “Udarda prashamana” herbs – that are used to treat certain skin disorders and infestations like ring worm. Being cooling in nature, it balances pitta dosha. We use it in Krya’s anti acne products to bring down the inflammatory effect of acne, shrink down pimple volume and cool aggravated pitta. It also helps treat minor skin infections which may arise in recurrent or cystic acne.
Ayurvedic acne treatment : to sum up
Through this post, you should be able to understand how the ayurvedic acne treatment is unique, different, well rounded and holistic. The difference lies in understanding the root cause of acne unlike western treatments which are merely superficial.
When viewed as a pitta and vata or pitta and kapha disorder, the solution to acne becomes multifold: the use of high quality, timely food which is right for you, a balancing regimen that brings down dosha imbalance through corrected behaviour and the use of high quality, and natural herb filled products that are formulated based on Ayurvedic first principles.
It is no wonder that our consumer, UN, saw an almost magical cure to his yearlong acne problem. In fact he is also seeing changes in the health of his hair by just working on reducing his Pitta holistically. We hope you enjoyed reading this post and also hope you were able to appreciate the difference in approach Krya followed when treating hair and skin problems.
If you too have battled acne , scarring, stubborn pimples and are looking for a more holistic ayurvedic acne treatment, do WhatsApp us on 075500-89090 or write to us. For Teen Anti acne solutions, please explore our Teen skin care products.