Even though you may not be familiar with the word Ayurveda, you’ve likely incorporated rituals from the ancient Indian healing system into your life without even realizing it. Drinking hot water with lemon in the morning to flush the body of toxins is a traditional Ayurvedic exercise, as are dry brushing the body, tongue scraping, and oil pulling; all of which have become mainstream wellness practices in recent years. But perhaps the biggest way that Ayurveda has infiltrated the Western wellness culture is with Ayurvedic beauty products. With a focus on natural ingredients and healing oils, Ayurvedic beauty, or “I-Beauty,” as it’s being called, might just be the new K-Beauty.
To back up a bit: Ayurveda is a 5,000 year old medical science that originated in India, which relies on daily self-care rituals like meditation, movement, and diet to keep the mind and body in balance. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because Ayurveda is the “sister science” to the more popular Indian import, yoga. “Ayurveda and yoga were always meant to be practiced side by side,” Sahara Rose Ketabi, the author of Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda and the Ayurvedic cookbook Eat Feel Fresh, tells The Zoe Report. “If you’ve walked out of yoga classes feeling amazing and wondering, How can I keep this peaceful energy the rest of the day?, then Ayurveda is the next step.”
Of course, there are a wealth of benefits that can be attributed to an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle — but Ayurvedic skincare is a great introduction for those new to the concept. “The Ayurvedic approach to skincare is centered around fostering balance, and taking into account that your skincare, well-being, and health work in concert,” Shrankhla Holecek, the founder of UMA Oils and an Ayurvedic expert, tells The Zoe Report. “It’s very intuitive — when you’re sleeping poorly, or are anxious, your skin is likely to not look its best; and Ayurvedic skincare is all about ensuring you take that 360 approach.” That means caring for your skin with gentle, natural, multitasking ingredients. “Often, things that are great for pacifying your skin can also have a balancing effect on the mind and body,” Holecek says, citing the skin-soothing and aromatherapeutic stress-reducing effects of chamomile as a prime example.
In fact, ingestible ingredients like chamomile are the cornerstone of Ayurvedic beauty. “In Ayurveda, we don’t put anything on our skin we wouldn’t eat,” Ketabi tells us — which is exactly why the ingredient label of an Ayurvedic skincare potion might read more like a recipe from Ketabi's Eat Feel Fresh cookbook.
Papaya, aloe, clove, moringa, and turmeric are a few go-to ingredients. “Papaya, with a naturally occurring enzyme called peptin, has skin resurfacing properties, so it tends to be brightening and anti-aging,” Holecek says. “Aloe is much beloved for its calming and hydrating properties, so we use it a lot in both our anti-aging, as well as blemish fighting products.” Clove is an anti-blemish treatment as well, and can be found in UMA’s Deeply Clarifying Face Oil; while moringa stars in the brand’s Absolute Anti Aging Body Oil since it's been known to reduce the appearance of fine lines.
But turmeric is far and away the most celebrated Ayurvedic skincare must-have to hit the West so far, and can be found in everything from YLLO Beauty Turmeric Face Elixir to Volition Beauty Turmeric Brightening Polish for its ability to reduce inflammation, brighten hyperpigmentation, and gently exfoliate. It’s not just a niche ingredient specific to Ayurveda, either — luxe botanical beauty brand Sunday Riley is set to release its new CEO Glow formula early next year, which boasts a healthy dose of turmeric alongside vitamin C for seriously radiant skin.
“Oil is a big part of Ayurvedic skincare,” Ketabi adds. “In fact, the Sanskrit word for oil, sneha, is the same word for love — therefore, when you oil yourself, you love yourself.” Sandalwood and neem oils are often used to keep breakouts at bay and brighten up acne scars; while hydrating sesame seed oil, calming coconut oil, and balancing grapeseed oil act as carrier oils in many traditional Indian skincare formulations. But it’s not just the oils that are important; it’s the way you apply the oils. “Always massage in upward motions,” Ketabi instructs. “This helps drain the lymphatic system of the face, decreasing bloat and puffiness. It also promotes skin elasticity, preventing wrinkles and fine lines.”
From aloe to oils, Ayurvedic skincare ingredients are safe for use on even the most sensitive skin types — and actually, Ayurveda recognizes three “energy types,” or doshas, which correlate to skin types: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. “Vata is the air element, and a Vata person’s skin will reflect qualities of the air and has the tendency to be dry and parched,” Ketabi tells us. “Pitta is the fire element and a Pitta’s skin will be oily and sensitive; Kapha is the Earth element and a Kapha’s skin is combination, with an oily t-zone.”
While most Ayurvedic skincare is “tri-doshic,” meaning it works for any dosha or skin type, many Indian-inspired beauty brands formulate products that specifically speak to the Vata, Pitta, or Kapha skin concerns. For example, Poppy and Someday created its grounding, moisturizing Ojas Face Serum for dry Vata skin. “The modern way of focusing on cleansing and detox can actually create a more aggravating environment to the Vata dosha,” Kari Jansen, the brand’s founder and an Ayurvedic practitioner, tells The Zoe Report. “But the oils in the Ojas Face Serum are restorative to the nervous system, promote cell regeneration, and help boost vitality to ground dry, airy Vata types.”
Even though these ingredients and practices have been around for over five millennia, it seems they’re just hitting peak popularity in the United States — so why now? “I believe we are seeing skincare as something so much more than a topical cream, and really diving in deeper into what true ojas, or radiance, means,” Ketabi says. According to Ayurveda, lasting radiance is the result of a routine that incorporates self-care, diet, and mindfulness practices… but who says you can’t start your personal Ayurvedic journey with a touch of Indian-inspired skincare?
Ahead, discover the modern beauty brands reinterpreting ancient wisdom in a whole new way.