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Continuing on the topic of Ayurveda, here are some basic Ayurvedic principles for making your own simple beauty treatments. As detailed in my last column, the Ayurvedic system relies on a rather precise diagnostic system, and furthermore all diagnoses take into account the basic constitutional type of the individual. These types fall into roughly seven categories, based on various combinations of the three principles: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

As it is often difficult to do more than make a general guess at one’s own specific constitutional type, it is always advisable to consult with an Ayurvedic specialist to determine your type, and to diagnose any particular condition that might require medical treatment. That said, there are some fundamental guidelines that can help you determine which general type you might be. Many, many more characteristics are taken into account than I mention here, including skin color, hair color and texture, eyes, appearance of the teeth, natural cravings, temperament and regularity of bowels. Note that the characteristics listed are those of the normal physical state — e.g. your skin may normally be very oily (Kapha), but if your diet or health are imbalanced, it could become abnormally dry (resembling Vata). Keep such possibilities in mind and adjust accordingly.

Basically, the Vata skin type is described as dry, cold, leathery or hard, rarely sunburned and easily tanned. The nails may be brittle, ridged and dry. The individual is very active and often sleeps poorly. Whether tall or short, the frame is narrow.

The Pitta type has skin which is somewhat oily, warm, tans fairly well, burns easily and is soft. It may be subject to rashes or pimples. The nails are clear, rosy-colored and pliable. The body is usually slender, of medium height and weight, strong, and well-proportioned. Pitta is intense, sleeps well and likes cool temperatures.

Kapha skin is very oily, soft and smooth, cool, tans well, but can burn. The nails are strong and pale. The body type is soft, can be heavy or plump, not muscular, and has a wide frame. Kapha likes warmth, is very stable, may be sluggish and likes to sleep.

As mentioned earlier, most people are a combination of types. However, for the purposes of casual experimentation with the following recipes for face packs, it should be possible to decide which of the three principles seem to dominate. Each of the following recipes are specifically recommended for one of the three types, but will not cause any problems if used by other types.

Vata face pack

2 tablespoons plain whole-fat yogurt, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 tablespoon wheat germ oil

Mix ingredients to a creamy consistency and apply to a freshly cleansed face. Leave on for 10-15 minutes before rinsing. This pack is designed to refresh, nourish and soften the skin.

Pitta face pack

2 tablespoons licorice root tea, 1/2 very ripe banana, mashed oat flour

Mix ingredients together to a creamy consistency and use as above. This is designed to revitalize, heal and tone the skin.

Kapha face pack

2 tablespoons honey, 5 very ripe strawberries, mashed rice bran

Mix ingredients together and apply as above. This pack is designed to refresh, purify and balance the skin.