THE PRUNE FACTOR
Sooner or later, wrinkles! Men get them. Women get them. Nobody likes them. A few smile lines around the eyes are one thing, they may even be kinda pleasant, trenches at the sides of the mouth are another. A saggy baggy throat can be downright depressing.
Ever noticed that people who are the same age often exhibit quite different wrinkle collections? One reason for this is that a Vata person with dry skin areas will always be more vulnerable to wrinkles than a Kapha Person with oilier, plumper skin. A Pitta person, or Pitta/Vata, often with pale skin and reddish hair, can be subject to lifetime of wrinkle issues. Of course, all three predominant body types—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—naturally wrinkle with age. Wrinkles are part of being human and still being alive, so God bless ‘em, but even so, I’m a proponent of trying to gentle them out of the picture.
On the other hand, we each do what we have to in order to come to a bearable living arrangement with all of the phenomena of aging—and a positive attitude is a good place to start! and cling to, all the way home.
If we don’t want to ignore our wrinkles, there are things we can do. It’s a matter of degree: we can puff them up with Botox, or pull them flat with cosmetic surgery. In both cases you trade your wrinkles for looking just a little unnatural, a little “off.” And not in a good way. My choice is to oil them into soft submission. (There’s an outside chance that there may be a fourth alternative, which I have yet to investigate. But I will.)
Unless you already have an oil you swear by (and I have tried them all), the best oil for every type of skin—Vata, Pitta, and even for Kapha dosha when coupled with either Vata or Pitta—is organic olive oil, especially on the dry parts. (How handy is it that if we run out of it in the bedroom, there’s usually more in the kitchen.) In fact, each time you walk into your kitchen, dab a little on your wrinkles and dry places! Easy is also important in life, and olive oil happens to be extremely good for your skin. If it weren’t a traditional culinary oil, all the cosmetic companies, both natural and nasty, would be trying to sell it to us for a LOT of money!
Try an olive oil with a low acid content, one which smells “green!” (And tastes good too!) You don’t have to stick with Italian oils, some Greek and Spanish oils are wonderful.
Certain oils are most effective at certain seasons. Sesame oil is very beneficial in cool weather, during both Vata and Kapha seasons. Coconut is great in the heat, or during Pitta season. Olive oil can be used as an alternative to either of these at any season, and as I said, it’s an ideal facial oil!
We also know from Ayurveda that different oils are appropriate for different types of skin. Sesame oil, for instance, is beneficial for Vata skin, but is frequently too heating for Pitta skin. If your constitution is that of Vata and Pitta combined, you can usually assume that your skin is more Pitta. Pitta does very well with olive oil, or in extremely hot weather, coconut. Fortunately, it’s simple to experiment with the suitability of different oils on our skin.
I used to worry that using oil would clog my pores but the reality is that the proper oil, when heated, acts to dissolve even the early manifestations of blockage. If acne is a problem, I would use oil only on dry areas around the eyes, for instance, and seek the help of a good Ayurvedic and/or allopathic physician to deal with the acne condition.
According to Ayurveda, before we use a new container of Sesame oil it must be “cured.” (But only once.) This means heating it in a pot on the stove to the point at which 1 or 2 drops of water, when carefully dropped from the fingers, will sizzle in it! Be sure not to let the heat become so high that the sizzling oil jumps out of the pot, and always cool the sesame oil to a comfortable temperature before applying.(You really would think that we wouldn’t have to be told that, but the tendency is to rush.)
It’s important to know that the penetrating ability of the oil will be greater and the sensation much more soothing and relaxing, if we gently heat either olive oil or our previously cured sesame oil (even just by bathing the bottle in a some of hot water) and then massage the warmed oil into our skin.
Ayurveda holds that daily oil massage not only promotes and maintains good skin, it is important for purifying and helping to heal, stimulate and calm, every part of our physiology, even our brain!
One very highly renowned eighth-generation Ayurvedic doctor, or Ashtavaidya, recounted to me that he had never known his mother to ever be ill because she had been immersed in heated oil each day! I often regret that I was too surprised to ask about the details.
Over the years I’ve found very few things that reliably improve my skin, and, even though I love their effects, I hardly ever use them. This begs the question, which I have often asked myself, Why on earth not?
In a more perfect world I would live as I want to live AND also take fabulous care of my skin. But I only have so much time, energy, and cash, so it’s a question of priorities. (You may well have more of all of these, and will, therefore, make different choices!) I must say, however, that if I could afford it, I would certainly take advantage of many of the longer and seriously effective Ayurveda treatments that are available at the Raj in our beloved Fairfield.
Not only do they restore and rejuvenate the skin (I immediately see the benefits), but more importantly—memory, energy, and all-over health! They are ideally done at the beginning of each season, and involve a substantial commitment of time and money, and there are a few people (not me!) who find them arduous. But I would go through them regularly for the rest of my life if I could!
Rather than putting much attention on caring for my skin, these days in addition to the glories of my meditation practice, I’ve become addicted to the delicate other-worldliness of my senses floating on layers of subtle shades and tones of scent as I create rare organic essential oil perfumes. And whenever I meet and resolve new painting problems (which are many because I am a relative beginner), I become absorbed by the challenge, and energized, delighted, and uplifted by the Aha! factor, followed by the pleasant peace of fulfillment.
If I should glance into a mirror and see that I have become a bit of a mess, I don’t care. Because when all is said and done, it is how we feel and not how we look.
For me, after a lifetime of heightened awareness to beauty, not caring is a kind of freedom. It’s not a rejection of beauty, but a refocusing. So if you see me walking around Fairfield in ugly old paint-stained clothes, with wild hair, and a delighted expression on my face, it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate lovely clothes and jewels and make-up, and the best skin I can have for my age, but you should know that something good is happening and I am enjoying at last being the creator of beauty rather than the object.
Look at the strong intelligent face of this woman who lived in the late 1500’s (see the date at bottom right corner of the canvas). As small as the picture is, I hope you can see the slightly humorous cast of her expression!