Know your Eczema through Ayurveda
Which Dosha is Out of Balance?
Frigid temperatures can wreak havoc on our skin. One of the most common winter skin ailments is eczema. However, this skin condition is often misunderstood and as a result, mistreated.
This is because it is expressed in so many ways that it’s dizzying. Some eczema is red, some itchy, some flaky, and some cases have bumps in affected areas. In my clinical experience, they are most effectively treated based on type. And while this is not a dermatological diagnosis, looking at eczema from an Ayurvedic perspective can help to better understand solutions and our skin’s patterns. So, what we really need to examine when looking at our skin is which dosha is out of balance.
Vata (Air): Dry Eczema
If eczema is dry, flaky and thin without redness or burning, this is an indication of Vata eczema. This type is aggravated by an excess of air and wind and lack of moisture within our bodies. It is most often aggravated in the heart of the winter season when it is most difficult to stay hydrated and nourished.
To treat Vata eczema, internal and external replenishment in the form of oil and water is key. Internally, taking omega-3 fatty acids and increasing soups, stews and water-rich veggies help maintain internal lubrication while avoiding dry foods like hard to digest, dry meats, breads, crackers and dried fruit helps to stave off dehydration. Externally, this type benefits from emollient creams and rich oils that help retain topical moisture.
Pitta (Fire): Inflamed Eczema
Eczema that appears as red and is accompanied by burning or pain, is aggravated by Pitta - the fire dosha. This is due to an excess of heat energy.
Anti-inflammatory ingredients such as aloe, chamomile, and immortelle soothe this angry eczema. While hydration is important, oil must be avoided as it increases elemental heat. Internally, it is important to examine your digestion. For those of us predisposed to inflammation, turmeric can be a life saver. It can be consumed orally through capsules or using this herb in your meal preparation. However, it’s always wise to speak to your healthcare provider to see if this is right for you.
Kapha (Earth and Water): Wet Eczema
Kapha eczema appears shiny, wet, and has bumps that look like water blisters. Kapha is the earth and water element and prompts skin conditions that are itchy and moist.
This type should be kept clean and disinfected as bumping may indicate bacterial infection. Natural antimicrobial ingredients like witch hazel and peppermint hydrosols help soothe and sterilize without over-drying. Kapha eczema should avoid oil – but this should only be done when there is an eczema flare up. When the skin calms down, keeping the skin moist supports its barrier function.
Internally, avoiding refined sugar, fermented foods, dairy, and yeast, is recommended in Ayurveda as these foods are said to increase internal “dampness”.
While eczema is a common winter-time skin ailment, it is most frustrating when there is no understood strategy. When you are more methodical and holistic about its treatment, the body is able to rebalance, offering your skin a much-needed reprieve.
Kristen Ma is an Ayurvedic skincare specialist and the co-founder of Pure+Simple, a Canadian spa chain and retailer of natural beauty products