Sun induced skin damage and ayurveda


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Sun induced skin damage and ayurveda

  1. 1. 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 sunlight.
  2. 2. 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 unblemished.
  3. 3. 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 through Ayurveda 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 following conditions: - 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
  4. 4. elasticity, dryness, roughness, lines and wrinkles. 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 follows. Diet: - 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.
  5. 5. Herbal Medicines: 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 injuries.
  6. 6. 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 skin tone. 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 longer periods. 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,
  7. 7. treatment and optimum benefits without any possibilities of undesirable side-effects.