Cosmetology is defined as the professional skill or practice of beautifying the face, hair or skin. Nurturing your body with adequate nutrition, sleep and hygiene are prerequisites for a healthy lifestyle and can be supported by application of natural products. Nowadays however, cosmetology is relegated to an external and superficial application of store-bought cosmetics and hair dyes that serve no purpose other than coating your skin with chemicals and toxins. While this may be the current day scenario, it is a far cry from its inception.
The earliest records of the existence and application of cosmetic substances dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation when a wide variety of natural substances were used by both Indian women and men. These beautification practices were intrinsically influenced by the different ritus (seasons) keeping in mind the dincharya or the natural daily routine. Cosmetics were viewed not just as a means to achieve an outwardly pleasant appearance, but more importantly good health, longevity and happiness.
One of the earliest mentions of beautification can be found in the epic Mahabharata where Draupadi is referred to be carrying a Prasādhana Petikā or a vanity case, with cosmetics, toiletries and decorative accessories. This article will dwell on some tried and tested beauty recipes collectively known as Anubhoga Vaidya Bhāga that were prevalent in ancient India.
This is an ancient rejuvenation treatment that is known to bring about an overall change in a person’s appearance such as enhance the texture of the skin, colour of hair, improve eyesight etc. For this, take equal quantities of Kadunimba (Azadirachta indica Juss) leaves, Maka (Eclipta alba Haask) leaves, Mundi (Sphaeranthus indicus Linn) leaves, Nirgundi (Vitex negundo Linn) leaves and Vova (Carum copticum Benth) leaves. Dry these 5 ingredients in the shade and powder this mixture. Take internally 2 pinches of this powder twice a day. While this treatment is ongoing, the subject is advised to be on a diet of milk (organic milk from an organically bred desi cow) and rice. Within a few days of kayakalpa, the person will look younger, hair will have turned black and skin would be glowing.
Skin Lightning & Exfoliating Scrub
Pound together the root of Kosta (Costus), til seeds, the leaves of Sirisa (Albizzia lebbek Benth) and Chopda (Pongamia pinnata Pierr) with the wood of Devdar (Cedrus deodara Roxb) and Zadali Haled (Berberis aristata DC). Roast this mixture between dried cakes of buffalo dung and then grind to a fine powder. A paste of this powder when applied to the body for 3 consecutive days will make the skin a shade or two lighter and lend it a natural glow.
Take Masura (Lens culinaris Medic) – a common lentil and pound it with honey. When applied as a face pack for 7 consecutive nights, it ‘gives the splendour of the petals of the white lotus flower to the face.’
Powder from the barks of Sahakara (mango tree) and Dadima (pomegranate tree) when mixed with Shankha (fragrant shell) powder and applied to the relevant part of the body, removes bad odour. Another deodorant powder recipe includes powder made from Chincha (tamarind) and Karanja (Indian beech) seeds.
The presence of hair on the face, arms and legs can be undesired and to remove them, the following formula is effective. Pound together dried fruits of Aavalakatti (Emblica officinalis Gaertn) and Pimpali (Piper longum Linn) and then soak in the milky latex of Nivadunga (cactus). This mixture when applied on a desired body part would result in the hair from the area to fall off.
Premature greying of hair
Juice of Bhringaraja, together with Lohakitta (red oxide) and Triphala (a collection of 3 fruits namely Harada, Beheda and Amla) when cooked in oil and applied to the scalp would cure dandruff, itching, hair loss as well as darken hair that has prematurely greyed.
Application of a paste of Kustumburu (coriander), Vekhanda (Acorus calamus Linn), Lodhra (the Lodh tree), and Kosta works as an effective cure for acne.
To cure cracked lips, powder and mix the rind of Bel fruit (Aegle marmelos) in milk and apply the paste on the chapped lips. Within a few days the cracks will heal and lips will be hydrated.
Pound khas khas (poppy) seeds in milk and apply the paste to the scalp. This works as a natural cure for dandruff.
The above mentioned recipes are some of the popular cosmetic formulae involving natural ingredients that were practiced in Indian society, some of which are still in use by vaidyas practicing the Ayurvedic branch of treatment.