Dr. Pratima Raichur, an expert chemist, botanist and physician, is what many women might call a superwoman. Profoundly wise and incredibly sage, she has garnered a cult following in New York with her organic, customized Ayurvedic skincare solutions for busy, multi-faceted women. A firm believer in holistic wellness, positive thought and wholehearted living, it's easy to see why our favorite doctor is spotlighted as today's Everyday Icon. Hear from Dr. Raichur below as she shares her brilliant path to founding Pratima Skincare - with a slew of tips along the way:
Why did you decide to pursue the study of medicine? Did you always want to be a doctor, or was there a primary catalyst in your life?
I always felt that my purpose was to be able to help people heal. At 13 years old, I was fortunate enough to assist my next door neighbor, who also happened to be one of India’s foremost Ayurvedic physicians, Dr. Rele. I was able to experience first hand how much he helped people and at that time in India, Ayurvedic medicine was very accessible so he was able to help a lot of people, which I think also inspired me. I have always had a deep-seated devotion to nature, intrigued by its ability to profoundly cure and I wanted to spread the wisdom of nature through Ayurveda, giving people the tools they need to stay healthy and happy, independent of medical doctors. Ayurvedic medicine was a way that I could fulfill this curiosity and devotion.
How have you infused the philosophies of chemistry, botany and naturopathy to develop your skincare practice?
My studies in chemistry, botany and naturopathy taught me that these disciplines are interconnected and profound results can be achieved when you understand this connection as it relates to people and nature. Ayurveda, the science of life, looks at every individual as a unique person with unique needs. Your Dosha, or current condition, gives you a roadmap to understanding how each energy (Air, Space, Fire, Water and Earth) manifests itself into your mind-body system. The PRATIMA line is the result of my studies and the science of Ayurveda, achieving optimal skincare health by customizing your daily regimen to your Doshic needs. My formulas are 100% natural, comprised of herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, plants and mineral and no fillers. This means that every ingredient is an active ingredient that is conscientiously blended and serves a direct purpose to heal, restore and maintain healthy skin. Focusing on fewer ingredients that are ideal for each Dosha, but with higher concentrations and proportions, grants every ingredient the ability to work harder and more effectively.
What is the most common issue or problem area you've found in the skin and bodies of today's women, and how might Ayurvedic skincare rectify that?
What I have noticed in my years of practice is that today’s women seem to suffer from imbalances due to stress and the so-called “superwoman syndrome” where their “job” never seems to end. Whether its a career, family, social life or any combination of these roles, women put enormous pressure on themselves to be the perfect woman. It’s so hard to meet the standards of perfection today. I see it cause a lot of frustration and stress, which in turn manifests itself through the skin in the form of premature aging, acne, allergies, dehydration, etc. It’s one of the body’s ways of trying to dispel negative emotion. And while we try to mask these emotions to maintain our image of perfection, our bodies cannot not lie. Ayurveda teaches the notion of holistic health and learning to listen to your unique needs. Our diets, our emotions, our physical fitness and most certainly what we feed our skin… everything plays a role in our health and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to health and beauty.
What are some small ways average, ordinary women can take better care of their skin? What is the #1 tip you offer to your patients?
Sleep is so important for the whole mind-body system, especially the skin. At night, when we rest, our whole body is going through restorative and rejuvenating processes. And when we don’t get enough sleep or get regular sleep, we disrupt our body’s ability to heal.
Another easy tip is to drink warm water throughout the day. By doing this, we cleanse our insides and help keep everything in flow. It flushes out toxins and assists with better digestion. The result is clearer, smoother, more radiant skin.
What are some common foods that can cause mayhem in our bodies?
Since Ayurveda believes that we need to cater to our own unique mind-body types, recommended foods to avoid will vary by person, according to their Dosha. Vatas, governed by Space and Air, should avoid an excess of cold, raw foods as their energies responds best to warm, nourishing meals. Pittas, governed by Fire and Water, are unbalanced with spicy foods as it creates excess heat and can cause redness and irritation on the skin’s surface as well as heartburn and acid reflux. Kaphas, governed by Water and Earth, are the most prone to excess ama, a toxic byproduct of poor digestion, that can be caused by an unbalanced diet with too much sweet, sour, and salty foods. (Editor's Note: If you're curious which Dosha you are, here's a quiz!)
What do you recommend for stress relief in your patients?
Meditation is incredibly helpful in relieving stress. However, sometimes our stress is so great that engaging in meditation feels impossible. So what do we do then? The first thing is change your perception. What is stress? It’s part of life. It will come and it will go. So whatever that stress is, know that it will be resolved somehow. Take a deep, long breath and say to yourself, “It’s going to be ok”. Just by doing this, your hormones will change. Do this mental check-in and change your perception about whatever is stressing you out. If you get stuck in the narrow lenses of stress - smell something beautiful, listen to music, talk to a friend - take your mind to a different place. Then when you are ready, you will be able to look at your stress clearly and meditate on some answers and ways to bring about a sense of calm and relief.
What are five everyday products that you, personally, wouldn't want to live without?
(1) My Vata Herbal Cleanser and (2) Nourishing Essential Oil - I know the quality ingredients that have gone into these formulas, so it feels great for my skin, but also feels great mentally knowing that I am giving myself the best skin nutrition possible. I use them everyday, my skin just doesn’t glow or feel the same supple quality otherwise. (3) Organic India Tulsi and Ginger Tea - very calming and wonderful for digestion. (4) My all-natural, burgundy lip color. I never leave home without it. (5) I treasure my Indian saris. I have a large collection that has accrued over the course of my life. They make me feel elegant and remind me of my culture and where I came from. I also treasure the variety of patterns and the boldness of color. I can never find those colors anywhere else. If I am in my sari, I feel I am dressed appropriately for any time of day and any ocassion, I never have to worry.
Finally, what are you learning about currently?
Something I have been practicing and learning for some time now is immersing myself into a higher level of meditation to achieve complete contentment and gratitude. And not in any one area, but in all aspects of life: work, relationships, my community and of course, within myself. I enjoy every moment. I thank the universe and thank everyone who is in my life who has helped to make it so beautiful. Every day is a day to be grateful. There is something beautiful and profoundly healing in that.
p.s. Want to hear from another positive thinker? Meet Erin Hasler, the breast cancer survivor.