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Perhaps the most important requirement in a facial mask is that there are no chemicals or preservatives. Think about it: the last thing you want in your mask are chemicals that are going to sit on your skin for a long time, right?
Secondly, you want to make sure the mask is not just a pulling detoxifier of your skin. These masks may effectively pull out impurities but often leave the skin very dry.
A mask has to have a mission.
First, it should exfoliate, and then penetrate into the deep layers of the skin where it can cleanse, rejuvenate and pull impurities. Then it must deeply moisturize at that deep layer to restore the health and luster of the skin. Then, to wrap it up, it must tone and deliver a glow, a noticeable radiance.
A good mask should be able to substitute for a cleanser, exfoliator and toner and even a moisturizer, and leave your skin glowing.
When I first opened my Ayurvedic center in 1994 in Boulder, I had only one skin care recipe, and it was our mask. When I was given this formula by my teacher during my Ayurvedic studies in India, I was told that this was all you needed for the skin. A family recipe, it was a cleanser, moisturizer and toner all wrapped in one.
In the early days, that is the only skin care treatment we had and it worked so well that many folks asked if they could take our mask home with them. I used to sell just the herbs in a small baggy – the entire recipe was too messy to put in a baggy.
According to Ayurveda, every formulation must be intelligent, which means the herbs are combined in such a way that it works with the body as opposed to just moisturizing the surface of the skin. A skin treatment had to restore the health, function and radiance of the skin.
Our Ancient Skin Care Recipe Revealed
The first ingredient is besan, or garbanzo bean flour, which acts as an exfoliator and moisturizer with a gentle pulling or toning effect. Then a combination of herbs are added to the flour. They are: Triphala to cleanse and tone, Amalaki to revitalize any damaged skin, Bacopa for its calming properties and Neem, which is known in Ayurveda as the “Queen of the Skin” to cleanse, moisturize, rejuvenate, feed, tone and restore the skin’s radiance. These herbs have to all be organic whole herbs, not extracts, because the microbes that support the radiance, health and luster of the skin do not exist in herbal extracts and are present in much lower quantities in conventional herbs.
Then, raw honey is added to the mix. Raw honey in Ayurveda is called an anupan, which means a carrier of nutrients into the skin. It is also a great moisturizer and restorer of a healthy microbe culture on the surface of the skin,which is so needed in truly transformative skincare. The raw honey carries the herbal formula into the skin, where the mask works its magic and has a lasting effect. Then bentonite clay is added, which also has a deep exfoliating effect along with the honey and herbs. This acts as a force to pull impurities from their hiding places in the skin. But because it is paired with honey, the bentonite clay isn’t given the opportunity to dry out the skin.
The result is an intelligent process of cleansing, rejuvenating, moisturizing and exfoliating the skin. Of course, an Ayurvedic mask would not be complete unless it restored radiance – called ojas in Ayurveda. Ojas is the glow and vitality of healthy skin, that radiance that we so often refer to when we speak of natural beauty.