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NEW YORK — It’s almost a shame to label Dr. Pratima Raichur’s beauty business as one that follows an Ayurvedic skin care philosophy. What with the dozens of less-than-authentic beauty companies claiming they, too, follow the 5,000-year-old tradition, women have grown skeptical upon reading or hearing about the latest guru from the East. But Raichur, who began practicing Ayurvedic skin care in the late Seventies, seems to be the real deal.
Born, raised and educated in Bombay, Raichur learned Ayurvedic traditions in childhood. Her next-door neighbor was an Ayurvedic practitioner, and Indian people, as a part of their culture, she said, are brought up to learn and practice the ancient philosophy. Ayurveda, as Raichur describes it, follows the belief that the universe is made up of five energies: space, air, fire, water and earth. Our bodies, she said, are composed of these energies, and our skin reflects whichever energies are most predominant.
In keeping with Ayurvedic philosophy, Raichur looks to improve skin conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, cystic acne and eczema not only with traditional services from Pratima Ayurvedic Skin Care Clinic, her business located at 162 West 56th St., but, more importantly, with services that heal “from within.”
Raichur’s newest treatment arena is the 900-square-foot Rudraksha room, a space filled with thousands of Rudraksha beads, orbs that are actually fruit from the Rudraksha tree and were imported from the Himalayas, one of the few places on earth the tree grows. The beads are traditionally used by Hindu and Asian cultures to control stress through “the magnetic force” the beads generate. Each bead is naturally carved with lines; the number of lines appearing on each bead denotes special properties. All the beads in the Rudraksha room have five lines “because five is a good number for everyone,” Raichur explained. Known botanically as elaeocarpus ganitrus roxb, the Rudraksha beads resemble peach pits and are strung with copper wire through a naturally formed hole in each bead’s center. Hung from the ceiling, they barely touch the person lying beneath them.
Sessions in the Rudraksha room start out with Raichur draping several strands of beads on a person’s chest, followed by a short Hindu prayer and a dab of oil on the forehead, or third eye. A CD plays Hindu chants throughout the 45-to-60-minute session.
“This is a really new treatment for stress reduction without human touch. It’s 100 percent natural that has a profound impact on the psyche,” Raichur said. Raichur, who earned a BS degree in chemistry and botany from the University of Bombay, didn’t begin her career in beauty. In 1967, she worked in London’s Seaman Hospital — which has since closed — in the clinical chemistry department. In 1968, she joined England’s University of Hull as a biochemistry researcher. From 1969 to 1970 she moved to the U.S. and worked in Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center as a research assistant. In 1970, she moved back to India and worked in People’s Mobile Hospital in Bombay, a cancer research hospital, as a researcher. She also began to practice Ayurvedic skin care from home.
The constant travel — which was due to Raichur’s husband, an anesthesiologist with a quest to work in a variety of hospitals around the world — brought Raichur back to the U.S. in 1977. It was then that Raichur supplemented her university studies with courses in acupuncture and Ayurveda. She also became a licensed aesthetician, earned a doctorate in naturapothy and authored a book, “Absolute Beauty,” published by HarperCollins, about the subject of Ayurvedic skin care in 1996.
It seems that switching from a lab environment to one that serves New Yorkers’ skin problems could be quite a drastic change in atmosphere, but Raichur approaches skin conditions as she once approached testing blood as a researcher.
Myrna Ekmekji has been a client of Raichur for three months. Her skin still bares scars from the cystic acne she contracted in the weeks following 9/11, but the scars, she said, are better than the cysts. Ekmekji sought help from a number of dermatologists before hearing about Raichur from a friend. “[The doctors] just kept prescribing me different pills, mainly Accutane. Nothing worked,” she said. Raichur said Ekmekji’s diet and stress levels were the main cause of the cysts, so a prescription of herbal supplements, weekly facials, a healthy diet and skin care products from her Bindi line were administered. The scars, Raichur said, will fade within three months with additional treatments.
The clinic’s list of services also includes a Kalyani facial, which uses cooked rice, milk, saffron and bala, an herb that helps to improve the immune system. A problem-skin facial is designed in accordance with an individual’s dosha, or energy imbalance, and one-on-one facials with Raichur are available for problem cases. Body treatments, such as an Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage, helps to increase energy with Raichur’s special blend of herbs and body oils. A cellulite reduction program consists of 12 treatments, which combine herbal exfoliations, anticellulite formulas and rhythmical pulsing actions to break down cellulite. Prices range from $45 for hand or foot treatments to $1,050 for the 12-session cellulite program. Rudraksha treatments start at $72 for 45 minutes and go to $90 for a 60-minute treatment.
Raichur is careful not to use the word “cure” when talking of the remedies she offers, “but I can say that the Ayurvedic philosophy definitely works to help the healing process. Just by using products externally, I don’t think we achieve beauty.”