By Betsy Aaron
For over a decade, I have been investing time, effort and money in search of organic food for my personal temple. But when it came to my face, I was slathering myself with cutting-edge synthetics from the chemistry lab. I’m no biochemist so when I began to navigate the sea of anti-aging products for the face, I felt like I was in over my head. I’m all for the innovations of modern science but I am most at home with bodies of knowledge that have passed the test of time, say 5,000 years or so, like yoga, Chinese medicine and ayurvedic treatments.
Ayurveda is Sanskrit for “the science of life.” The skin products treat the doshas–pitta, which is hot, vata, airy and kapha, oily. Some of the products I tried were tridoshic, for all skin types, and though one-size fits all doesn’t generally fit me, these did. Everything I used was redolent of herbs and earth and worked like food for my face.
The products are composed of natural ingredients like organic ghee and essential oils and are used to restore balance. In India, Ayurveda is part of everyday life. Though I had a facial there that used cow urine, I can happily report that none of the products below list that particular ingredient.
I began my stateside experience with two products from Ajara. The Ayurvedic Eye Gel is cool, soothing and absorbed instantly, leaving me sans puffs, creases or residue. The ingredients include aloe vera, green tea leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract and Indian herbs like Tulsi and Brahmi oil. The Tridoshic Herbal Mask is suitable for all skin types – and if some gets on your lips, it tastes good too. The ingredients are raw honey and organic herbs, some of which I’d heard of, like arrowroot, and some I hadn’t, like ashwaganda and bakuchi. The mask left my face feeling cool, soothed, moist, nourished and not taut the way clay masks can.
Next, I sampled products from Shankara. The Hydrating Cleansing Gelee smells like a delightful dessert. The creamy lotion (I used Vata-Pitta, or Dry-Normal/Sensitive Skin,) is infused with Ayurveda Energen Complex which includes licorice, calendula, comfrey, lemon balm and chamomile. Very little is needed to thoroughly cleanse the face – and mine felt soft, soothed and again, nourished after use. I followed with Microcrystal Exfoliation Treatment, which is pleasantly lemony without feeling astringent and is fine-grained. The exfoliation is thorough yet gentle. I also used Regenesis-Energen ATP Cell Serum, which was readily absorbed and left my skin looking radiant. I finished with Ayurveda Energen Facial Oil lI, a rich, essential oil blend that is moisturizing. I worried about putting oil on my face but it left a luminous glow with no residue.
I was pleased to use two products from Pratima: Rejuvenating Pearl Cream and Age Delay Serum. The serum claims to visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles – and astonishingly, it does. I used it twice daily for a week and can report improved firmness, tone and hydration. But the cream, oh the cream – what a way to end the day. It’s dreamy, rich and thick, and contains rosewater, wheat germ oil and botanicals that feel luxurious, smell yummy and left me looking radiant. Dr. Pratima Raichur makes her products in her kitchen, a claim few manufacturers of facial products can make.
Available: Ayurvedic Skincare Spa Clinic, 110 Greene St, Suite 701, NYC 212-581-8136 and http://www.PratimaSkincare.com
I also used Kama Ayurveda’s Pure Rosewater, a natural toner made from the roses of Kannauj, India. The Miraculous Beauty Fluid contains saffron, licorice, sandalwood, vetiver and lotus and will send you off to sweet dreams with a happy face. I wasn’t used to seeing myself looking so good in the morning mirror: unlined and looking lifted. The beautifully packaged box of beauty I received from Kama Ayurveda also contained a tin of Mridul, Soap-free Face Cleanser, a traditional mix of herbs and cereals that gently cleanse and exfoliate. This product can be mixed with the rosewater and left on for a minute or so – time to decompress from the day and meditate on the power of nature to nurture. The Lavanya Natural Plant Mask is blended from herbs like cilantro and licorice and soothingly seals and then reveals one’s inner glow.
I concluded my adventure with an Ayurvedic Facial, courtesy of Nammi Lee Nabe at Element Natural Healing Arts in Brooklyn – and I plan to return. The facial included gentle cleansing, light exfoliation, super-gentle extraction and featured a variety of delightful potions and oils, a mask, and a moisturizer carefully concocted for my vata-pitta skin. But the highlight of the luxurious, unrushed process is Nammi’s massage: gentle, yet precise. She focused on the marma, vital pressure points in my face, chest, hands and head, which left me feeling both energized and serene. I didn’t know it was possible to walk so slowly. When I got home, I saw that my face looked deeply relaxed, not only cleansed but glowing from the inside out, an effect that has not diminished a few days later. Nammi’s magic facial would provide the perfect pampering for June brides or their mothers.
Element Natural Healing Arts, 518 Henry St., Brooklyn, 718.855.4850, http://www.elementhealing.com
To get your inner glow on and look your best naturally, I recommend facing the aging process not as a battle to be won using biochemical warfare but peacefully, the Ayurvedic way.