Basking in the sun at any point of the day is something we all enjoy. While sunlight offers the much-needed vitamin D that protects the body against various ailments, overexposure can have a negative effect. The power and heat of Surya (the sun) are correlated to Agni or fire.
Suntan or sunburn owing to overexposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can cause cumulative skin damage. Ayurveda recommends using natural healing agents or herbs that offers protection sun spots, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.
In this article, let's explore the signs, symptoms, and age-old remedies for suntan as per Ayurveda.
To understand the root cause of sunburn, you need to know the nuances of the skin. According to Ayurveda, the skin, or twacha, is derived from and nurtured by the Matruj Avayav, i.e., with a maternal origin. As a receptor of one of the five senses—touch—it registers temperature, pain, and pressure changes.
According to Sushrut Acharya, the twacha has seven layers which are driven by our doshas (energetic forces of life):
The outermost layer of the skin reflects pimples, dandruff, sunburns, etc. This could be owing to external factors such as sunlight, pollution, and dust or internal factors such as a vitiated dosha.
It supports the outer layer of the skin. Tilakalaka (moles), hyperpigmentation, and dark circles affect this layer.
It is the third layer from the top, which balances the skin color. When impaired, it results in allergic rashes and eczema.
It nurtures the upper layer of the skin while supporting the immune system in the body. An imbalance in doshas results in skin infection, vitiligo, or leprosy.
It is the fifth layer of skin that controls sensations. Any condition in this layer results in herpes.
This layer is responsible for healing and regeneration. Vitiated doshas result in skin cancer or tumor.
As the innermost layer of the skin, it provides firmness and stability. When infected, it can result in fistulas and abscesses.
According to Ayurveda, there are several reasons behind radiant skin—good metabolism, moisture balance, blood circulation, nutrition, etc. But these alone are not responsible for your skin's good health.
According to Ayurvedic principles, humans don't exist in isolation from their surroundings. It is an integral part of who you are. We rely on environmental factors for our physical and emotional well-being. The sun, therefore, plays a crucial role in our overall health. But it can be both good and bad.
Some of the positive effects of basking in the morning sun are:
Supporting the immune system with exposure to vitamin D
Helping lower the stress hormone cortisol
Helping fight depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Stimulating hair growth and preventing hair loss
Boosting serotonin in the body to boost energy
On the other hand, being overexposed to the sun for a longer duration, especially when you're hungry, angry, or emotionally upset, can elevate the Pitta dosha (fire element). The warmth of the external sun increases the internal heat. Eventually, this makes the skin even more prone to sun damage.
Scientifically speaking, when the skin is exposed to sunlight, it releases melanin to prevent DNA damage in the outermost later. Melanin gives you a unique skin complexion and protects it from damage. Overexposure to UV rays can cause sunburn and oxidative damage. Therefore, the skin releases excessive melanin to absorb this radiation. The oversecretion of melanin causes sun damage in the form of a tan or sunburn.
According to Ayurveda, the result of overexposure to the sun is Vikruta Pitta, or abnormal Pitta, affecting different body parts. In terms of the skin, it can affect the Bhrajaka Pitta or brightness of the skin. This subcategory of the Pitta dosha regulates Varna (pigmentation) and Ushma (body temperature).
Overexposure to Sun
When the sun's UV rays (UV-A and UV-B) increase the production of melanin (the protective shield against photodamage), oxidation makes the skin color darker. At times, it also leads to hyperpigmentation.
While chlorine found in pools does not directly cause a tan, it can contribute to skin tanning by damaging the epidermal barrier that acts as a shield against external damage. The skin becomes more prone to tanning when this barrier is affected.
Some of the most common symptoms of a suntan or sunburn are:
Red, darkened skin accompanied by a burning sensation and mild swelling
Subtle changes in the skin towards pink or red
Small fluid-filled blisters
Peeling or itching of exposed skin in a few days
Migraine and queasiness
Severe symptoms include fainting, vomiting, fever, chills, and nausea accompanied by skin blisters or burns
Coconut milk has antioxidants and amino that heal skin damaged by overexposure to the sun. It contacts vitamin C and lactic acid, which helps remove dead skin cells while lightening the skin and keeping it nourished and hydrated.
Kesar (Saffron or Crocus Sativus)
With antioxidants like cyanidin and kaempferol, saffron is a natural protector from the sun's harmful UV rays. It contains phytochemicals such as safranal and nutrients such as riboflavin that help promote a brighter, lighter skin tone. TRY Saffron infused Kesaradi Oil
Daruharida (Indian barberry or Berberis Aristata)
The Indian barberry is known for its antioxidant properties and has been used in Ayurveda for centuries. The extracts of this berry contain alkaloids such as berberine and palmatine, which have proven to help fight photodamage to the skin. TRY Paraania - The One-Pump Power-Dose for Pristine Skin
Ghee, or clarified butter, is considered to be amrita or nectar, according to Ayurveda. Rich in antioxidants and omega fatty acids, it helps neutralize free radicals while reducing damage caused by oxidative stress and boosting collagen production. When applied to the skin after a suntan, it helps reduce pain and inflammation. Explore our range of ghee here.
Ghrit Kumari (Aloe Vera)
Aloe Vera gel contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which help reduce skin irritation and sunburn. It contains active ingredients such as salicylic acid, amino acids, and vitamins A, C, and E, which are antioxidants. TRY Rufolia Periorbital Eyemulsion - with Manjistha & Aloe Vera | Sweetgrass Aloe Refreshing Toner for sensitive skin
Amlaki (Indian gooseberry or Phyllanthus Emblica)
Known for its inherent antioxidant properties, amla, or Indian gooseberry, contains vitamin C and emblicanin, which helps brighten and lighten the skin complexion. It supports the skin in fending off sun damage caused by UV radiation while reducing redness and uneven skin tone. TRY Elaari Ultra-Rich Moisture Concentrate - Face and Scalp Concentrate for Dry, Sensitive Skin
Sveta Chandana (Sandalwood or Santalum Album)
An integral part of traditional Ayurvedic practices, sandalwood is a natural astringent with purifying and cooling properties that help reduce skin inflammation. It contains antioxidants that prevent the skin from sun damage while helping tone, cleanse, and nourish the skin. TRY Sandalwood Ylang-Ylang Serene Serum (For Sensitive/Pitta Skin) | Sandalwood Rose Age Defying Eye Butter
Manjistha (Indian madder or Rubia Cordifolia)
Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant in nature, manjistha helps treat hyperpigmentation and blemishes of the skin while helping cure suntan. It contains glucosides such as purpurine that even out and brighten the skin tone. TRY Manjistha Magic Duo – For Uneven Skin, Age Spots and Sun Spots | Day & Night Face Oil Duo - Best Moisturizer for Healthy Skin
Tvak (Cinnamon or Cinnamomum Zeylanicum)
This condiment is loaded with cinnamaldehyde—a compound that inhibits melanin production in the skin. It has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, making it perfect for treating suntan and sun spots.
When your skin is badly burnt, it may be hot to the touch. Ayurveda recommends the use of cold compression and oils depending on your dosha. Applying oil to sunburns helps reduce dryness and fasten the healing process. According to Ayurvedic principles, abhyanga, or the art of oil massage, can help heal damaged skin and nourish it.
Since Vata skin is dry, flaky, and uneven, a suntan can be painful and inflamed. Using nourishing oils such as castor, which is antibacterial and heavy, will help this skin type.
Pitta skin is sensitive and warm, making it prone to suntan and burn. Using coconut oil can be good for this skin type owing to its antifungal, antibacterial, and cooling nature.
Kapha's skin is thick, dense, and moist. It can tolerate suntan compared with other skin types. Neem oil works wonders for Kapha skin,stimulating blood flow while nourishing it.
Facial skin tissues can be susceptible to sun damage. It can even be a painful experience for some. Excessive skin damage from the sun's harmful rays can have an immediate, long-lasting impact on your skin.
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you have been sunburnt:
Avoid further exposure to the sun
Use a scarf or a wide-brimmed hat if you have to step outdoors
Consume tender coconut water and fresh fruit juices to keep your body temperature low
Avoid oily, spicy food that may be abhishyandi (unctuous) in nature
Do not pick on your skin. Avoid discoloration or further scarring
Inculcate the use of Ayurvedic products in your daily skin routine
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