This post was last updated on November 21, 2022 by Preethi Sukumaran
Looking for a healthy winter skin care routine to help dry , taut , stretched or dull skin? Synthetic moisturizers are a temporary fix only. They only work on the surface of the skin, leaving it feeling temporarily moisturized. However, this effect is not long-lasting. Worse still most synthetic moisturizers contain srota clogging ingredients which prevent the skin from doing its normal role of thermal exchange correctly.
The effect of winter on skin – Ayurveda explains
A specific winter skin care routine helps heal the imbalance we see in our skin in this season. First, we must understand that Ayurveda divides the 12 months of the year into 6 seasons of 2 months each (and not the 4 we are used to in the Western worldview). Of these, the 4 months between mid-November to mid-March are the 2 Winter seasons – early Winter(Hemanta) and Late winter (Shishira)
Due to the effect of Visarga Kala (away movement of the Sun), these 4 Winter months (both seasons) naturally help increase our body’s strength and immunity. For more on this, please read our detailed post on what Ritucharya is and also our blog post on Hemanta Ritucharya.
The effect of the cold winds in both Winter seasons is that all the heat and moisture in the external parts of the body like the hair, skin, and extremities are all driven inwards into the Digestive tract ( Koshta). This concentrates the Agni in the Digestive tract and intensifies it. This is why in Winter, we have increased appetite, better digestive fire, and sharper hunger.
In order to put this high digestive Agni to work, we are asked to eat well and appropriately for Hemanta Ritu and Shishira Ritu. You can read more about this in our upcoming posts on the Krya blog. As all the body warmth has been driven inwards, and as we are also continuously assaulted by the cold wind, there is an aggravation in Vata build up externally in the body. This leads to dryness in hair and skin. It could also increase stiffness, joint aches, increase clicky knees and trigger backaches.
A holistic winter skin care routine – and why a synthetic lotion is ineffective
This is why using synthetic moisturizing options or synthetic cleansers do not help solve dry skin completely in Winter. As the dryness is due to underlying Vata imbalance, we must treat the vata imbalance in skin. Using moisturizers etc. have only a temporary superficial effect. The dryness keeps coming back as we are not addressing the root cause of Vata imbalance in skin.
On the other hand, if we are able to treat the vata imbalance to skin, we get a much more holistic effect in winter to manage dry skin. The skin is naturally better nourished and is healthier and is able to function better.
6 Ayurvedic winter skin care tips
1. Always Pre-oil your skin before a bath
Vata dosha responds to “Sparsha” or touch and “Taila” or Oils (formulated to balance Vata dosha). Using a vata balancing oil & doing a mini massage of your skin before bath is essential, says Ayurveda. This pre-oiling helps moisturize the skin, bringing in the warmth that helps balance vata dosha. This becomes even more critical in a good winter skin care routine.
The choice of oil is critical. While many online websites and blogs recommend the use of pure cold pressed oils like Almond Oil, Olive Oil or Coconut oil, or Sesame oil, the Ayurvedic view point is different.
Base oils like Coconut oil and Sesame oil are all excellent ingredients to use to manufacture Ayurvedic oils but should not be used in their plain form. Even for baby skin, using cold pressed coconut, or olive oil is unsuitable. Each one of them comes with their own inherent properties. Some oils like coconut oil are unsuitable to use in Winter because of their cold and clogging nature. Olive oil is not nourishing to skin as it has astringent properties. Sesame oil, while excellent for skin, often needs to be tempered with additional vata balancing herbs.
When we add herbs to oils (extracted according to Ayurvedic principles) and then “cook” the oil in the Ayurvedic tila Paka veedhi process, we get an oil that is better absorbed by skin and also contains the benefits of the herbs that we incorporate into it.
If you have the time, it is an excellent idea to build a regular Abhyanga into your Hemanta routine. These are some of the benefits you will see with a regular Abhyanga:
For pre-oiling, you could choose from our Abhyanga oils or our Baby oils. If you choose our Abhyanga oils, you will get added benefits like pain relief, bringing down fatigue and deeper vata balance. But in order to get the best benefits from our Abhyanga oils, it’s advisable to do a proper complete Abhyanga massage.
If your purpose is simply to nourish skin, and take care of skin dryness (or) when you don’t have time to do a full Abhyanga, krya baby oils are the best option, even for adults. The baby oils are to be applied pre-bath, 20 minutes before, on all dry skin areas.
Skin Massage Oils
Please follow up with a warm water bath using a properly formulated Snana choornam.
1a. Post bath – repeat oil application in case of intense cold or super dry skin
In most cases, the pre-bath oiling is more than enough to manage dry skin. But if you live in a particularly cold and windy climate or have extremely dry skin, you can also lightly moisturize your skin post bath with the Krya baby oils again. Again, do note that this is only needed if you feel that pre-bath moisturization is not sufficient.
For post-bath moisturization – Apply a tiny amount of oil on damp skin and massage in. The skin must not feel like it has a layer of oil post-application.
2. Bathe in Warm and not hot water.
Ayurveda tells us that we must bathe in “ushnodaka” or warm water for good health. This is advised through the year, except in greeshma (summer) ritu, when the weather may permit baths with cooler water. However, in many cases we tend to go overboard with this recommendation. In very cold climates, people often bathe with extremely hot water and not warm water. This dries out our skin worsening dry skin conditions.
Also, The Ayurvedic recommendation of bathing with “ushnodaka” is only for the portion below the neck. Hot water must never be poured on the head region or on the face (however cold the weather may be). Hot water on the head weakens the nerves, and damages eye health over time.
3. Use a Snana Choornam and not a Soap / Gel for your bath
In Ayurveda, the Acharyas recommend using a carefully selected mixture of finely ground lentils and a selection of dosha appropriate Ayurvedic herbs to cleanse skin. We have written more about this here and here.
This beats using soap / gel throughout the year. In Winter, we get further benefits from a Ayurvedic Choornam. Snana Choornams (when carefully formulated) are very gentle and mild on skin. They leave the natural oils in skin intact, and also work to balance minor dosha imbalances in skin.
Choosing the right Snana choornam is very important. Please Avoid choornams that are made with high percentage of drying ingredients like turmeric or those that use high amounts of besan or channa dal.
At Krya, We have carefully formulated different products that suit different skin types. Choose the Snana choornam according to your body / skin needs. For example, if you tend to have high body odor, you can choose either the Krya Classic or Krya Classic plus body wash. If you have back or chest acne, you can choose the Krya Anti acne body wash. For normal to dry skin, choose the Krya Moisture plus body wash. For skin that is very tanned from high sun exposure, choose the Krya After sun body wash.
Herbal Body Wash powders (ADULTS)
All our Snana choornams are extremely gentle and do not dry out skin.
4. Use correctly formulated Facial oils for facial skin
If you have been using gentle Ayurvedic facial products for your facial skin, it is not essential to pre-oil facial skin. However, post Snana, oiling of facial skin is essential. This is because facial skin is thinner and more delicate compared to body skin. Moreover, the face is also heavily exposed to the Sun & air, unlike body skin. Because of its thinner and more delicate nature, facial skin finds it hard to absorb heavy, sticky oils. So we suggest using a light, nourishing, completely natural Ayurvedic facial oil (serum)l for moisturisation. Facial skin requires just 2-4 drops of a well-formulated facial oil. This should be applied after gentle cleansing on damp skin and patted into the face and neck.
Avoid using heavy oils like cold pressed sesame oil or coconut oil on your face. Classical Ayurvedic Abhyanga formulations like Dhanwantaram tailam, Nalpamaradi Taila, may also be extremely heavy for facial skin. Formulations like Kumkumadi tailam do not suit all skin types (read this guide to Kumkumadi Tailam here). So make sure to choose your facial oil correctly.
We have a good range of specially formulated facial oil serums for different skin types at Krya. Do explore our skin serums here.
Face Serums & Oils
If you would like our help choosing the right skins serum for you, do WhatsApp us on this link
6. Use the right cleanser – this is CRITICAL
We do not think enough about how we cleanse our hair and skin. And this is often the start of sensitivity, dryness and fizziness (in hair) because the cleansers we use are harsh and unsuitable for human skin or hair.
Facial skin is much thinner and more sensitive compared to the rest of our skin. This is because it has been weathered by the constant exposure to sun and wind. Facial skin needs a very delicate and gentle cleanser that is pH balanced, uses high-grade food-like substances, and also contains dosha balancing herbs. An Ayurvedic powder cleanser that has been correctly formulated and thoughtfully manufactured to be fine and gentle is ideal for facial cleansing.
Consistent use of the right facial cleanser keeps skin from being over-sensitive, cleanses delicately and gently and also aids proper dosha balance, especially when we accumulate extra heat due to high sun exposure, or extra vata due to excess wind or cold weather.
When looking for an Ayurvedic powder cleanser, look for a cleanser that is free from essential oils and botanical extracts – these ingredients can be highly sensitive to facial skin. Choose a product that is formulated for your skin type as well. Generally, a catchall face and body cleanser is not suitable for either body cleansing or facial cleansing. Body cleansing requires different kinds of herbs to solve issues like body odor, etc. Facial cleansing tends to focus more on unclogging, improving skin texture and evening out skin complexion. Read this post to find out how to use an ayurvedic facial powder cleanser.
Choose from Krya’s delicate facial cleansers here.
If you would like our help choosing the right skin cleansers for you, do WhatsApp us on this link
Makeup is very harsh and drying on skin, especially in Winter. Make sure you remove every trace of makeup before going to sleep. Give your skin time in between without any makeup or foundation to breathe.
6. Eat correctly for this season – Choose warm, well cooked, nourishing and heavy foods and hot drinks
In Hemanta Ritu, we see distinct things happening in the body. The cold wind pushes all the agni inwards and it concentrates in the Koshta (digestive tract). This makes the outer body, skin and hair and extremities cold and vata aggravated. However, the Agni in the Digestive tract is highly intensified leading to high appetite, greater ability to process food. You can read more about this in our Hemanta Ritucharya guidelines blog post.
This intensified Agni must be given a good amount of work to do, otherwise it can eat up the internal tissues. Hence food must be extremely well planned in this season and strictly follow Ritucharya guidelines. We must eat heavy, slightly difficult-to-digest, nourishing, freshly cooked, and warm food.
Along with this, we must make an effort to drink only well boiled, hot or at least warm water preferably with the correct herbs added to it.
To sum up: Ayurvdic winter skin care
Ayurveda is a science dedicated to the first principles of health care. The Acharyas have benevolently and generously shared the principles of health by focusing on what we need to do to prevent disease. When we follow the principles outlined like daily living (Dinacharya) and seasonal living (Ritucharya), we come into health, harmony, and balance.
Ayurvedic skin is never merely surface level. Ayurveda tells us that organ systems like skin and hair reflect our deeper state of health. So we see how the external weather and season-related dosha imbalances can lead to the dry, uncomfortable skin we often face in Winter.
We hope this article helped you understand how to heal dry skin in Winter and also understand the underlying principles for different Nithya karmas we are asked to do like Abhyanga, Snana, Ahara (food) in the context of Hemanta Ritu and how these activities should be modified for better balance and health.
If you would like our help customizing an Ayurvedic winter skin care regimen for you, please email us or send us a message on WhatsApp using this link. In our next post, we will dive deeper into Abhyanga for Hemanta and how the Abhyanga routine should be modified for this season and the benefits it gives us.