Better Skin, Hair, and Sleep: 7 Easy Ayurvedic Habits
If you need living proof that Ayurvedic techniques work, meet Shrankhla Holecek, the founder of UMA, a beauty and lifestyle brand run on Ayurvedic principles (that also happens to have the prettiest packaging of all time). Holecek’s glossy hair, supple skin, and graceful energy that somehow melds calm with ebullience are all deeply inspiring. And her approach to Ayurveda is a lot simpler and more elegant than the practice is often made to sound. “It emphasizes the power of rituals to see the results you want,” she says. The rituals are easy and quite beautiful, and the results—great-looking skin, better sleep, and shinier hair to name just a few—are more than worth it.
To say Holecek was born into Ayurveda—the ancient Indian system of plant-based medicine that defines health and well-being as a balance of mind, body, and spirit—is something of an understatement. Her family’s estate has been growing and producing some of the world’s highest-quality botanicals, herbs, and oils for centuries. The family served as pharmacists to Indian royalty since the 1200s, and that tradition has evolved into a business that produces not only best-in-class Ayurvedic botanicals and oils but also ingredients for fine perfumes (think Tom Ford and Estée Lauder). “I didn’t study Ayurveda; I lived it. I grew up eating and living a certain way without even realizing it was Ayurvedic. It was just my life,” says Holecek, who was born and raised in Mumbai. Now the thirty-seven-year-old lives in LA, where she developed the idea for UMA, a high-performance beauty and lifestyle brand that’s as based as much in Ayurveda as in luxury.
UMA’s approach to both beauty and health is holistic. “Skin doesn’t age overnight, for example,” Holecek says. “So the I-want-results-now mentality is a bit myopic.” As with many things in life, daily habits make the difference, she continues: “Whether that’s eating lycopene-rich foods every day to help protect the collagen in your skin from the sun, doing yoga, finding a few minutes to meditate, or using high-quality skin care, consistency and practicing inward-focused rituals promote the change you want to see.” Here, seven easy Ayurvedic habits to make.
Oil Is Great for…Everything
“We use oils for everything in Ayurveda—you can go through twenty pounds of oil during a panchakarma treatment [the classic Ayurvedic detoxification procedure using medicated oils and herbal remedies to restore balance in the body]. Simply put, oils are the most efficient way of distilling a plant’s essence: They’re concentrations of plant nutrients,” Holecek says. She formulates liberally with rose oil, which, she says, is incredible for aging complexions because it helps retain moisture and keep skin robust. “Forty-year-olds have drier skin than twenty-year-olds. A great oil or anything with a solid hydration profile is a phenomenal complement to our routines as our skin starts to produce less oil and the lipid barrier starts to thin as we age,” she says.
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Massage Your Own Skin
Giving yourself a face massage not only feels fantastic but also wakes up your entire face, so your skin looks smooth, depuffed, and vibrant. “Face massage is incredible at any age but especially in your late thirties and early forties,” says Holecek, noting that it’s nearly impossible to mess up: With gentle sweeping motions—going upward, against gravity, for a lifting effect—smooth in face cream or oil, using your fingers or a face-massage tool (the one below gently vibrates to temporarily sculpt, firm, and drive ingredients in).
Dry Brush Your Body for Allover Results
Dry brushing is an incredible way to exfoliate, not to mention invigorate. “Skin turns over about every thirty days in your twenties and thirties and then slows to every forty-five days in your forties,” says Holecek. “The important thing to note about dry brushing is you want to keep medium pressure on the handle, as opposed to digging in; your skin should feel tingly and gently exfoliated but not like it’s undergone brutal chafing. This ritual is supposed to be pleasurable, so you look forward to it every day.” For the softest skin of all time, Holecek dry brushes, then applies body oil. “On the best mornings, I dry brush, smooth in body oil, and let it sink in for at least fifteen minutes as I catch up on email, put coffee on, oil pull, daydream. After fifteen minutes, I take a shower. On more hurried days, I turn the shower on, dry brush while I wait for it to get warm (I have solar-powered heated water, so it takes about a minute for it to warm up), and then step into the shower.” (For more on how to dry brush, click here.)
Detox and Nourish Your Hair and Scalp
Ayurveda attributes thinning hair to a shift in doshas, biological energies that regulate our physical and mental health (there are three: vata, pitta, and kapha). “As we age, vata increases, which is why older people can have similar characteristics like dry skin, the inability to sleep as well as they used to, and wiry hair,” says Holecek. “A nutrient-rich oil and scalp treatment can help offset some of these issues, as can the action of massaging in whatever your treatments might be.”
For a Moisturizing,
Clarifying, Nourishing Detox:
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For a thorough scalp detox, Holecek sometimes improvises. “We have lemon oil in our hair oil because lemon is clarifying. Sometimes I’ll take half a lemon and scrub it over my scalp to give it a good cleanse,” she says.
A Sleep Routine Makes All the Difference
“The first things that suffer when you’re sleeping poorly are your skin and energy,” says Holecek, who emphasizes the importance of rituals before bed to slow a churning mind. Steeping in a steamy salt bath for twenty minutes eases stress on many levels—the warm water physically relaxes tense muscles—as does smoothing on calming body oil (UMA’s is a soothing, exquisitely scented mix of chamomile, lavender, and jasmine that doubles as a body- and foot-massage oil). “You might also burn a candle while you soak,” says Holecek. “A candle’s also great for self-massage or to burn as you do a few minutes of meditation.”
Food Is Powerful—for Skin and Body
“Getting good fats through foods like avocado, coconut, ghee, nuts, and seeds is vital in Ayurveda for maintaining great skin and healthy joints as we age,” Holecek says. “The way food is prepared is important, too: Avoid raw, cold food—cooked food is easier to digest.” She also suggests cutting back on caffeine (because it’s drying) and eating plenty of spices. “They’re a source of nutrients and make the food you eat work better for you,” she believes. “And drink room-temperature water, as ice water can break down our metabolic fire. Growing up, my mother never let us shower after having a big meal—you want your body to be warm after eating, so it can more efficiently process food.”
Master Your Own Health
Ayurveda is a powerful way to take care of yourself, maintains Holecek. “When you feel unwell, you go to the doctor and get ten minutes with them only to be told that nothing showed up in your blood test—that’s frustrating,” says Holecek. “Ayurveda improves my life profoundly by giving me approaches that work across every part of my life. It’s a system of medicine that also allows you to be the steward of your own health. For me, that can even mean filling up my well by looking at the ocean or finding creativity or respite in nature. These are the things I’m leaning into as I get older.”