Your Job Is Giving You Acne, and Other Ayurvedic Lessons


So, you're breaking out. Or getting terrible dark circles. Or suddenly just dull. You can always visit a dermatologist who'll prescribe some cream to (safely) burn off your top layer of skin, but maybe retinoids aren't addressing the real issue. What if, for example, you're riding a wave of acne-causing, circle-enlarging, glow-impairing hormones triggered by some hellacious office deadline? That skin problem's not going away; Retin-A can do a lot of things, but Microsoft Excel ain't one of 'em. Luckily, there's an alternative (medicine)—Ayurveda. If you're not familiar with the ideas behind India's traditional Ayurvedic system, here's a quick definition from practitioner Dr. Pratima Raichur: "Ayurveda," she says, "believes that nothing is independent. Everything you do, eat or expose your body to has an effect." Which means that skincare, diet, meditation, and exercise are all interconnected, and negative feelings have a negative effect on your body. As a result, visiting an Ayurvedic doctor is less a "check-up" and more a "total life makeover." You'll get a personalized health plan with prescriptions for everything from meals to face oil and yoga postures. It's a serious commitment, but Christy Turlington lives by it, so... you know, we're willing to give it a try.

If you decide to see an Ayurvedic doctor, the first thing she'll do is look you over head to toe and examine your nails, tongue, and skin to get a sense of what internal health issues are manifesting on your exterior. Stress, exhaustion, poor diet—they all show up on your face. So an Ayurvedic doctor uses your current physical state to diagnose larger health issues. All sounds pretty sensible and scientific, right? Ayurvedic diagnoses are where things start to require a bit more... credulity.

The three doshas, or manifestations of the elements—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—are key to Ayurvedic treatments. The best way to explain them—"best" meaning "most bizarrely accurate pop culture reference"—is as metaphysical versions of Alvin and the Chipmunks, where Simon is Vata (Air), Alvin is Pitta (Fire), and Theodore is Kapha (Water with Earth). The idea is that each represents a cluster of related physical and personality traits, and that people are healthiest when all three are balanced (perfect, squeaky harmony).

The doctor takes observations from your exam and assigns you a dosha ratio—so you could have a personal dosha that's something like 40% Pitta, 30% Vata, and 30% Kapha—then they use Vedic prescriptions to create a plan for evening-out your proportions. Too much Pitta dosha, for example, is associated with inflammation (ALVIN!!), so if you're 60% Pitta and have red, irritated skin, one of your diet suggestions might be to cut out inflammation-triggering spicy food. If you have too much Vata, you might get warned off caffeine because it's drying your face out, and people who scored high for Kapha could wind up on a vegetarian diet to help with congestion.

If this sounds like a bunch of commonsense recommendations paired with some not-so-empirical ancient Indian philosophy, that's OK. Healthy skepticism is never a bad thing, and deciding to do a complete karmic overhaul based on the results from some 10-question "What's Your Dosha?" quiz is a terrible idea. Which is to say: if you're interested in getting a diagnostic, please see an actual physician who incorporates Ayurvedic tenets into her overall medical practice. That way, you get a licensed professional who's bound by the Hippocratic Oath (!) and can still talk to you about whether your frustration with liquid eyeliner is harming your liver. Best of both worlds.

—Lacey Gattis

Photos by Lacey Gattis.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • poppynogood

    Have always wanted to order her products, but shied away from the prohibitively costly shipping fees!

    • Addison Cain

      Same here. It's ridiculous!

  • Jean

    What a title! I used to have acne because of my job, literally. Then I quit and learned to handle stress, and from that day on I haven't had a pimple. If that's what Ayurveda is about, I'm in.

  • schuiling

    I love articles about these kinds of things, one of the main reasons why I go on this website. Well done Lacey Gattis.

    • ITGLacey

      Thank you so much! Ayurveda (and holistic medicine in general) deserves more attention, & I didn't want to write an article that made it seem like this entire huge constellation of thought could be reduced to neem oil baths and massage packages at Aveda.

      • kneelbeforetigers

        More holistic beauty options, less about juicing!

  • ITGLacey

    She is absolutely lovely, & so insightful. I rarely meet someone who combines a depth of empirical knowledge with such a perceptive, empathetic personality.

  • Aly

    I'm so over Western medicine. This has really piqued my curiosity.

    • Leetoki

      Amen. Coming off the back of mental treatment pill popping, I saw a naturopath yesterday and actually cried on him because he asked me more than two questions before deciding how to influence my life.

  • Mary

    London recommendations anyone???

    • elisabeth

      not sure about ayurveda but there is a spanish reiki master there named sol meruelo who is fantastic, in case you would be into that :)

    • Amy

      Embody Wellness in Vauxhall. I have used their services for Ayurvedic treatment but have seen that they do it.

  • cat

    I love love love LOVE it when you guys write about holistic nutrition! thanks lacey xx

    • ITGLacey

      Thank you for reading!

  • kathS

    Love this. I want to know more though! About Pratima and about Ayuverdic beauty.

  • personagem

    Thank you for featuring Dr. Pratima Raichur on ITG! I remember I used to order her oils from her website and though they worked wonderfully I would much prefer an actual appointment so I can get feedback in person on my problem areas. Will schedule it as soon as I get back to nyc!

  • bijoux

    Recently learned I am Vata, and what foods suit me (not for dieting, just for life and happiness) it has made me feel so much better! Some of these concepts of whole life wellness are addressed in a book I just read "Mind over Medicine", which makes you realize the control you can have over your health. I am not in complete agreement with the book but it's undeniably interesting.

  • Cat


  • Clever Girl Reviews

    Lacey, thanks for this article! I hope we can see more like it from you. I think it's really important to show all kinds of ideas about health and products here because your site is so influential!

  • Tina@OurWonderLust

    I've seen Pratima for my unbalanced Vata- anxiety, break outs...etc. I love her products and her facials. I use the Neem Cream, Purifying Oil and Sandalwood Mask. Love all three. Her book is great too.

  • tanya

    Skin apotheke on Etsy is AWESOME ayurvedic skincare!!!

    • Geeta tomar

      It is indeed, I love their Ubtan face scrub, it is to die for! hands down the BEST scrub I have ever used and this is coming from someone who used to get microdermabraision done, but I no longer need it just because of this scrub.

  • Jackie

    Any Los Angeles recommendations for Ayurvedic skin/life care?

  • Christine Stevens

    I loved this article so much and it answered so many questions that I HAD to send it to a friend who's been struggling with constant breakouts even though she's using amazing skincare products that should be clearing that right up. I've always been more in to holistic medicine/remedies, and had heard of Ayurveda before, but now I'm really interested in it. Thanks Lacey for this lovely, eye-opening article! You are the bestttt of the best!

  • Guest

    I've been dealing with allergies and sinus issues for the past three years. My eyes get inflamed and I have deep, dark circles that may lead you to think I've been partying all night. After numerous visits to the allergist and countless sprays, oral medications, nasal irrigation with saltwater-you name it- I'm ready for a different perspective. The strict confines and parameters of western medicine sometimes don't allow doctors to think outside the pharmaceutical companies' box.

  • Janelle Gutierrez

    I started seeing an Ayurvedic doctor 2 years ago and I cannot believe we're not using this wisdom in western medicine. I'm all in. Don't need another doctor (unless I break something, maybe?)! And many friends have now been helped (mind/body/soul) with this beautiful wisdom! We need to remember, it's 5000 years old...why would it still be around if it didn't hold truth and light? I really don't mean to be an evangelist BUT I'm just so joyful about the changes in my life since I met Dr. Joshi! Like I said...mind/body/soul. Blessings <3

  • Geeta tomar

    I love Skin Apotheke on Etsy, it is the same Ayurvedic philosophy and if you buy their stuff, they will even let you know for free what your dosha is, my skin is so glowing and beautiful ever since I started using Skin Apotheke, Ubtan Scrub, hands down the BEST thing I have ever used in my life! not kidding, don't to get it!

  • Lauren

    I agree the Pratima products are the best I have ever used. Beautiful packaging, amazing scents, very potent natural ingredients. They cleared my horrible cystic acne breakout in 2 weeks. I never wear perfume and I am constantly getting compliments on how lovely I smell...100% worth the price!!!!