The skin of the eyes, lips, and neck/chest is delicate and needs special care. It is often thinner and more easily injured, and these areas are the first to show signs of aging. These fragile parts of the body also divulge many facets of our internal health and can reveal early imbalances and indications of disease.
EYES: THE WINDOWS TO THE SOUL
Your eyes are one of the first things others notice about you, and while the saying goes that they are windows to the soul, they are also windows to your health. You can learn a lot about your health through iridology (reading the iris to diagnose health) and ayurveda. When your eyes are bright and alert, they reflect an astuteness and a clarity of mind; when they are cloudy or tired, they display imbalance. Bloodshot or yellowed eyes indicate pitta ama (toxicity) in the body, whereas brown spots can indicate parasites. The skin around the eyes also tells a story. The area beneath the eyes is related to the kidneys, and undereye bags or darkness can be attributed to weakness in these organs.
Coincidentally, the eyes are also one of the first areas to show signs of aging. Because we often overwork them, they are prone to exhaustion. There are many outrageously expensive eye creams and treatments on the market, demonstrating just how much we treasure beautiful eyes.
Many of us have sensitive eyes due to genetics, eye-strain, or poor daily care. Since the eyes are the domain of pitta, which governs heat, redness, irritation, and inflammation, sensitive eyes—with their dryness and burning sensations—are related to excess pitta. People who work with and care for many patients throughout the day, such as massage therapists, health practitioners, and estheticians, have a higher tendency for accumulating pitta in the eyes, because they pick up heat from the many individuals they touch and interact with. One ayurvedic remedy for eyes that become easily inflamed is castor oil drops, which help dissipate and purge excess heat. Put one to two drops of pure castor oil in each eye every night for calm, less sensitive eyes.
From a more conventional standpoint, sensitive eyes can be treated with a cooling, hydrating eye cream or gel. A water-rich product is key; oil-rich eye products are more warming and should only be used by those who are less prone to eye inflammation. Cool compresses soaked with rosewater or chamomile water also reduce heat in the eyes.
Many people with sensitive eyes may be allergic to the ingredients or preservatives in eye products, but sometimes stinging can be mistaken for a reaction when it is just an initial response to the product’s cooling properties. If stinging dissipates quickly, the eyes are simply adjusting to the anti-inflammatory action.
Mineral eyeshadows and liners made of pure ingredients are the products to choose, because they do not contain irritating dyes. Organic kajal eyeliners are Most Unexceptional for allergy-prone eyes. Traditional ayurvedic kajals are cream liners (usually black in color) made from the carbon of burnt ghee; they are completely natural, and ghee is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
There are many causes for “raccoon eyes,” but most people assume it is a genetic trait because it’s something they’ve had for as long as they can remember. Undereye circles may be inherited, but the genetics that cause them may affect the kidneys more than the eyes.
In ayurvedic diagnosis, the lower lid is an adrenal area, and lower than this —where the eye socket begins—is a kidney area (feel the bone under your eye). As you get older, the skin around your eyes gets more saggy and baggy, with dark circles becoming more pronounced. This is because the kidneys are vata organs, and the vata dosha becomes much stronger in maturity and old age. Those with high vata often have undereye discoloration even from a young age.
Another cause of dark circles is deoxygenated blood. Blood without oxygen is dark, which causes bluishness under the eyes. Using products with antioxidants and eye creams that promote circulation can be very effective to counteract this. Arnica, along with other stimulating plants, is excellent. Arnica also helps drain lymphatic fluid and moves stagnant blood that causes undereye circles.
Puffiness is a kapha trait. Any glandular or sinus congestion or other type of fluid retention is governed by the water element. Puffiness in the face is a combination of excess water in the body combined with the presence of heat; heat rises, bringing water retention into the upper body. If heat is not strong, the water retention is found only in the lower body, most notably in the legs and ankles. So puffy eyes are an indication of excess kapha and pitta elements/toxins.
Lack of sleep also makes the eyes puffy, because the lower eyelid corresponds to the adrenal glands and kidneys. Though affected by the adrenals, the kidneys are also important for filtering and absorbing water into the body. Inadequate sleep leads to a vata-induced kapha-pitta imbalance.
Puffy eyes can also be attributed to constipation. When the body is not emptied of waste, it holds turbid water and increases kapha energy. Because the kapha dosha is heavy and sluggish, this contributes further to the lack of movement in the bowels. Ensuring proper and full elimination helps decrease facial edema and water retention.
Kapha is strongest in the morning, and this is usually when your face looks most bloated and puffy. As the day wears on, you become more active and stimulated, so the puffiness drains away. To accelerate this, give yourself a pressure-point massage while washing your face in the morning. Press gently around the bones of the eye socket in a circular pattern, then gently press and release the other swollen sinus areas. Engaging in this lymph-drainage massage every morning helps my own kapha puffiness subside. Exercising early in the day also moves lymph and stimulates drainage.
Sometimes we acquire little whiteheads near the eye area. These bumps—referred to as cholesterol or fat deposits—sit on the skin and are so difficult to extract that they can often only be removed when punctured with a needle. Only trained professionals should do this since the delicacy of the eye area makes it easy to bruise the skin or break capillaries. Fat deposits can be caused by a number of things, but most often they are the result of using pore-clogging skin care products. Because the pores in this area of the face are smaller, it is important to use a natural eye cream that will not block them. As we’ve discussed in other articles, when buildup accumulates in dehydrated skin, it dries and hardens in the pores.
Cholesterol/fat deposits can also be due to toxins or excess fat in the internal organs. This results from a high-fat diet or the inability of the body to flush cholesterol. Most often it is a combination of clogged pores and internal problems that cause these deposits. Fat deposits may disappear when you switch to a more natural, non-clogging eye cream or gel, but I advise pairing this with a kidney cleanse or some other type of detox treatment.