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Holistic Beauty: Understanding the Mind-Body of Skin Care

Contact Author Denmo Ibrahim October 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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Holistic Beauty

Emotions, thoughts, impulses, behavior ... what do these have in common? They’re energy. But far from fleeting, these energies can inform the kind of career you desire, the type of place you call home, your style, your cravings and the company you keep. These energies can also directly impact the shape of your body and the quality of your skin. This is why holistic wellness—learning to work with the mind and body—can be a gateway to whole health. As a skin care professional, there is an opportunity to practice beyond topical treatments. You can become a guide on a client’s journey when you integrate mind-body healing.

In Ayurveda, the ancient health system of India, the five elements—space, air, water, fire and earth—make up a person’s most essential matter. Understood through the three doshas, vata (air + space), pitta (fire + water) and kapha (water + earth), whole health is achieved through the harmony of these five elements.

One way to begin finding balance is by tuning into where your client has lost it. The body always provides clues about what a client needs more of or less of, or what needs to change. Erratic moods, unhealthy eating habits, constant exhaustion, sudden rashes or chronic pain are indications that the mind-body system is calling for support. The quality of the skin is a blueprint to understanding overall health. With time, you can learn to read the signs of skin beyond the level of the epidermis, and teach your clients to reclaim their ability to heal the self. This is the key to true radiance. (See Discover Holistic Beauty.)

What is your client’s skin saying?

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Following are just a few thoughts about what certain skin types are communicating. Empower your clients to learn to read their skin and notice how it changes, based on hormones, seasons, age, climate and lifestyle. Teach them to look at their skin daily with a fresh mind, and invite them to learn about its subtle changes.

Depleted and premature aging. Skin that is dry, dehydrated and flaky is depleted of essential moisture. This may be an excess of vata energy that manifests through the skin. Vata symbolizes movement, so routine becomes a powerful ally in regaining balance. If skin feels rough or tight, encourage your clients to begin incorporating practices that support flexibility, hydration, nourishment and ease.

Inflamed and irritated. Redness, rashes and acne-prone skin are indications of escalating irritation or sudden rejection. This skin type can be quick to react and often changes in extreme bursts. This type of client may have an excess of pitta in their life that manifests through the skin. Pitta governs digestion. Fire must be contained; otherwise, it will spread and burn everything in sight. Finding regular ways to assimilate is key for this client. The best practices for reducing pitta are aimless wandering, cooling foods, swimming and kind words. Advise this client to go slow.

Congested and blocked. Oil-rich skin that appears dull with clogged pores is a sign of a congested complexion. This skin type is thick and smooth, but lacks luster. This may mean your client has an excess of kapha in life that is manifesting through the skin. Kapha types tend to be stubborn and resistant to change. The most healing practices to restore balance for this type are opportunities to purge, flow, forgive and let go. All kinds of simple cleanses, exfoliations and exercise do wonders for kapha.

These are simple ways to empower your clients in shifting the way they think about skin. Skin is not a separate entity that covers the body. It is a part of the whole ecosystem of the mind-body. Pull one end and the entire matrix is affected.

The skin offers insight into what will bring a client joy. According to Ayurveda, the physician is within. Like any great doctor, before you treat the issue, you have to understand the cause. Spend time listening to clients before making any suggestions. Ask powerful questions that invite a deeper reflection. As a professional in the field, you’re modeling how to look at the self through a different lens and become a witness to it.

This is another aspect of what makes the principals of Ayurveda such profound modern medicine. You don’t need to take ashwaganda, a Ayurvedic herb; practice pancha karma, a cleansing, rejuvenating program for the body; or cook a pot of kitchari to reap the rewards of this ancient wisdom. The principles of the vedic system are a living guide for all to awaken absolute beauty. Go beyond the symptom. Address the cause. If clients have dry or mature skin, anti-aging creams will only go so far if a speedy lifestyle remains.

Help your clients understand what their skin is communicating and recommend ways to explore lifestyle balance. Healing is a dialogue. Quiet the mind and all becomes evident.

It is highly recommended that you explore this practice of holistic skin care first with yourself. A healer is one who has made a life-long commitment to their own healing. The deeper you understand your own mind, and how it’s reflected through your body and skin, the better you’ll be able to both heal yourself and guide your clients by example.

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Discover Holistic Beauty

To support a whole-health approach to vibrant skin, ask about clients’ daily habits. What do they do? What kinds of foods do they eat? What sorts of thoughts keep their mind? How much movement is in their life? What do they love? What did they lose? This will help give you more of a bird’s-eye view on how to move beyond just topical treatments to holistic health, but it will also enlighten the client to begin engaging.
Following are several recommendations for practices you and your clients can embrace in the process of discovering holistic beauty.

Exercise. Daily exercise of 30 minutes is an important part of keeping systems healthy and aligned. Brisk walking, yoga, dance classes and swimming are fantastic ways to cleanse the mind and strengthen the body. You or your clients may find great joy in working out with a buddy or enlisting the support of a personal trainer. Make this a priority.

Food. Eat whole, organic foods. Shop the periphery of your natural grocery store or, better yet, attend a farmers’ market near you. Cook as often as possible, at least once a day. Limit fried fast foods, foods in pre-packaged plastic bags, foods made or grown without care, or foods that contain any ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Meditation. This is the secret to happiness on Earth and the key to freedom. The ability to learn how to sit still and work with feelings, thoughts, physical pain and emotional turmoil is the foundation of how you instill confidence, accept yourself, and radiate love and kindness. This can be as short as five minutes or as long as a 50-minute session. Sit with an upright spine on a cushion or at the edge of your chair. Start by becoming aware of your breath—cool inhale, warm exhale. Remain at the tip of the nose. If your mind wanders, no worries. Return to your senses.

Skin care. Consider choosing nontoxic skin care made of organic and natural ingredients. Avoid mass-produced products that contain harmful detergents, irritating alcohols, shelf-stabilizers and synthetic ingredients. Skin, the largest organ, can draw in up to 60% of what it comes into contact with. Choose products you would eat. What goes on goes in.

Sleep. Good quality daily rest is key to health. If you or your clients have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, try a nighttime routine that involves breath work, aromatherapy and visualization.

Sunscreen. Apply sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF daily, even on cloudy days, to keep premature signs of aging at bay.

Thoughts. Notice what you’re saying when no one is around. Are your thoughts full of anger, resentment, worry, criticism, fear or grief? Can you instead choose love? Can you shift your mind into the great expanse of the sky and evoke the goodness of the world in you? Let this moment be complete.

Water. The recommendation for water intake is half your body weight in fluid ounces. Choose a water bottle that works for your lifestyle. Figure out how many bottles you need and drink the first one before breakfast. Hint—try it warm with a slice of lemon as your morning tonic.

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