The Sun is the prime source of energy in the
universe. Without the Sun, we cannot even
imagine life and survival of living species.
Sunlight brings down the total spectrum of the
electromagnetic radiation given off by the sun,
including the harmful Ultra-Violet (UV)
radiations, on earth.
Sunlight is crucial for manufacturing of the
vital Vitamin D in the body. When human skin
is exposed to sunrays, it can prepare the best
and the most natural form of Vitamin D, which
not only helps absorption and utilization of
calcium to strengthen our bones, but also
helps provide natural immunity against a
number of infections, including the dreaded
viral attacks like swine flu.
But like all gifts of nature, sunlight too has its
harmful effects. Exposure to sunlight,
especially during peak hours i.e. 10 am to 4
pm, can bring about the harmful effects on
human skin, including sunburn,
hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, undue
tanning, immune suppression, etc. Premature
aging (photo-aging) and some types of skin
cancers are also caused by overexposure to
Skin can be classified based on its melanin
content and its reaction to ultraviolet radiation.
The content of skin pigment melanin being the
least in skin types I and II makes them the
lightest, most prone to sunburns and skin
cancers and least prone to tanning. On the
other hand, melanin content being the highest
in skin types V and VI makes these the
darkest, most prone to tanning, but least
prone to sunburns.
Short term exposure to the sun can usually
result in skin tanning, described as increased
pigmentation on sun exposed areas of skin, or
can further aggravate and darken the existing
dark spots present as either melasma (mask of
pregnancy) or freckles (inherently present
small brown spots).
Long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays from
sunlight causes premature skin aging (photo-
aging); characterized in part by wrinkles,
laxity, uneven pigmentation, brown spots, and
a leathery appearance (loss of skin tone).
In contrast, naturally-aged skin that has been
protected from the sun is thin and has reduced
elasticity, but is otherwise smooth and
Prematurely-aged skin due to sun damage
displays prominent alterations in the collagen,
the tissue responsible for skin’s strength and
resilience. The quantity and thickness of
collagen diminishes with excessive exposure to
the sun. Simultaneously, the natural moisture
and suppleness of skin, otherwise maintained
by collagen, is also gradually lost leading to
dry and rough skin.
Managing Sun Induced Skin Damage
While analyzing the event of sun induced skin
damage from Ayurveda perspective, the cause
i.e. abnormally harmful sunlight or UV
radiations can be correlated to the problem as
the aggravation of Pitta dosha, leading to the
- Abnormalities in the normal Pitta residing in
skin, which maintains normal complexion and
color, leading either to sunburns,
hyperpigmentation or tanning.
- Vitiation of Kapha in terms of its decrease
and, in turn, aggravation of Vata, which
together eventually leads to premature skin
aging i.e. thinning, loss of moisture and
elasticity, dryness, roughness, lines and
In fact, Ayurveda is the first science to
propound and document the concept of ‘human
wellness’ and, therefore, advocates the
importance of prevention (i.e. protection of
health) over cure (i.e. treatment of disorders).
Hence, building up optimum skin immunity or
defense against external onslaughts of UV
rays, hold the key to prevent possible skin
damage. The beneficial food and herbs are as
- Drinking half a glass of plain water every 30
minutes soothes and hydrates the skin.
- Taking green tea several times a day
provides an excellent detoxifying and
rejuvenating aid to skin.
- Fresh, colorful, seasonal fruits and
vegetables, 3-5 servings per day, comprising
of citrus fruits, different berries, papaya,
carrot, pineapple, red grapes, custard apple,
broccoli, yellow carrots, tomato, olives and
consumption of nuts like walnuts, almonds,
and chirauli every day helps to build overall
skin defense against sun damage.
In general, a good number of herbs are useful
against sun induced skin damage. Among
these, licorice can be labeled as the best single
herb, which is beneficial both for prevention
and treatment. Licorice can be used as
external application as well as for internal use.
A paste of licorice powder in water, milk or
Aloe vera gel applied twice daily on exposed
skin regularly can offer an excellent protection
against UV rays.
Internally, 3 gm licorice taken 2-3 times a day
helps to build skin’s defense against external
threats. On the other hand, licorice can treat
all forms of sun damages namely sunburn,
tanning and hyperpigmentation by external
application, and skin aging through regular
external as well as internal use.
Other beneficial herbs like Aloe vera,
Asparagus racemosus root, turmeric, Indian
gooseberry, olive, lemons, etc. can be used
internally and externally for building internal
health or immunity and protection against sun
Applying Aloe vera gel, cucumber juice, sandal
paste and vetiver can be excellent for soothing
sunburns on local application.
Turmeric, saffron, sandal, lemon, Indian
gooseberry, Indian madder, vetiver, lentil,
nutmeg seed etc. are some important herbs
that, when applied on the affected skin singly
or in combinations, can reduce and lighten
tan/dark spots, hyperpigmentation and uneven
Signs of sun induced skin aging can be
improved through regular external application
of Aloe gel, wheat germ oil, turmeric, almond
oil, kokum butter, olive oil, sesame oil, etc.
Internally, Aloe vera gel, asparagus root,
Indian gooseberry, olive oil, almond oil, fish
oil, grape seed extract, etc. are extremely
beneficial when taken on regular basis for
However, Ayurveda strongly recommends
individual based specific management of health
problems. Only a qualified Ayurveda expert,
after thorough evaluation of a person’s
inherent body constitution (dosha prakriti) and
specific pathophysiological traits (dosha
vikrati), can ensure proper diagnosis,
treatment and optimum benefits without any
possibilities of undesirable side-effects.