Is the fear of tanning stopping you from stepping outside or taking a dip in the pool? External factors such as sun exposure and chlorine water can cause skin darkening, giving you an uneven complexion.
“Although cosmetically undesirable, skin tanning is the body's healthy mechanism of coping up to exposure to UV radiation,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
A simple tan is not much of a worry, but constant exposure to the sun can lead to serious skin damage. Fortunately, the ancient science of Ayurveda has brought to us natural remedies that can reverse the effects of skin tanning.
Scroll down to know what causes your skin to tan and how you can prevent it using simple Ayurvedic remedies.
What Is Tanning?
When your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, as a protective measure, melanin is released to prevent DNA damage to epidermal cells. Melanin is a pigment produced by cells called melanocytes in a process known as melanogenesis. A primary function of melanin , apart from giving you an unique skin complexion, is protection against photodamage. Exposure to UV rays can cause sunburn and potential oxidative damage to your skin. To prevent such DNA damage, excessive melanin is released to the upper layers (epidermis) to absorb the UV radiation. The increased melanin in your skin causes your skin to darken, resulting in tanning.
There are 2 different processes that cause skin to darken when exposed to UV radiation.
1. Immediate Tanning
Oxidation of preexisting melanin, usually caused by UVA rays, can result in immediate darkening of your skin. This happens when pre-formed melanin in your melanocytes is released and it oxidizes to fight sun damage. This redistribution of the pigment is your body’s quick sun defense mechanism.
2. Delayed Tanning
The other kind of tanning occurs when intense sun exposure triggers melanogenesis, resulting in the formation of new melanin. This causes delayed tanning and indicates more severe skin damage.
What Tanning Does To Your Skin?
Excessive release of melanin to combat sun damage results in skin darkening, which is referred to as tanning. Hence, tanning is a clear indication of skin damage . Below mentioned are the damages caused by tanning on your skin..
1. Skin Pigmentation
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) can cause serious skin damage including tanning. The increased synthesis of melanin in the presence of UV radiation is a photo protective mechanism of your body which results in skin pigmentation or skin darkening.
2. Sun Burn
Skin that is tanned is at risk of being sunburnt easily. Since, tan is a sign of skin damage, it makes your skin more vulnerable to further damage from sun exposure. Sun burns are painful and may require medical attention.
3. Oxidative Stress
Increased exposure to UV radiation causes damage to skin cells which is also called oxidative stress. Free radicals generated during oxidative stress cause various skin damages including inflammations, DNA damage, cell death and skin cancer.
4. Premature Ageing
Those wrinkles on your face can be a direct symptom of photodamage or damage caused by exposure to UV radiation. Areas affected by tanning are usually rough, dry and darker in complexion and confirm skin damage. The excessive melanin produced to protect your skin from sun damage may not be enough if your skin is constantly exposed to the harsh rays of the sun. This will eventually cause skin cell damage due to oxidative stress and result in photoaging.
5. Enhanced Risk Of Skin Cancer or Malignant Melanoma
Constant tanning can increase the risk of skin cancer . Exposure to UVA rays is more harmful and is proven to be carcinogenic. Immediate tanning is caused by UVA rays where existing melanin is released and oxidizes to create a darkened complexion. Most sunscreens are not equipped to block UVA rays, thus making them more dangerous to your skin’s health.
Melanin acts as a natural sunscreen and antioxidant which absorbs UV radiation and prevents free radical damage to your skin. Thus, skin that naturally has more melanin  (dark complexions) is less susceptible to sun damage and risks of skin cancer.
Causes Of Tanning
Skin tanning is caused by exposure to UV radiation. However, certain external factors may also contribute to your skin damage caused by tanning. Let us take a close look at the causes that result in skin tanning.
1. Sun Exposure
With the depletion of the ozone layer, there is an increased rate of skin damage due to ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB rays). Your skin tans when UV rays of the sun increase the rate of melanin synthesis, which is a protective measure against sun damage. Further oxidation of this melanin results in the dark tan or skin pigmentation.
2. Chlorine Water
A plunge in the pool can make you tan is a common belief amongst swimmers. While chlorine water often found in swimming pools cannot directly tan your skin, it is certainly a contributing factor. Chlorine is harmful for your skin and impairs your epidermal barrier that protects your skin against environmental damages. Once the skin barrier is weakened, your skin is left vulnerable to sun damage. Thus long exposures to chlorine water can cause severe skin tanning.
According to the ancient medical science of Ayurveda, our body mechanisms are governed by the three life energies or Tridoshas. These three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, when in harmony ensures smooth functioning of your body. However, a vitiation of their levels can put your body in a state of disease including skin disorders. The ‘Bhrajaka Pitta’ which is a subcategory of the Pitta Dosha is present in the skin and regulates ‘Ushma’ (body temperature) and ‘Varna’ (skin pigmentation). Over-exposure to the sun aggravates the ‘Bhrajaka Pitta’ which in turn triggers melanin production and causes skin tanning.
Consult your Ayurvedic doctor to determine your Prakriti based on the level of your Doshas. This will help you to know the perfect skincare regime that will help rejuvenate your tanned skin and improve your overall skin texture.
How To Remove Tan From Your Face?
According to recent research in dermatology and cosmetology, many natural plant sources contain photoprotective compounds  that show better results compared to synthetically produced sunscreens. Natural compounds such as neolignan, lignans, flavonoids, phenolic acids show significant UV ray protection properties. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E naturally found in plant and herbal extracts are not only great free radical removers but also contribute to new cell growth.
1. Natural Methods
A. Cleansing With Tender Coconut Water
Cleansing with tender coconut water to treat skin pigmentation and sun tan has been an age old practice. Infused with skin friendly nutrients and amino acids, it heals skin that is damaged by sun exposure. Its antioxidant properties prevent skin damage from oxidative stress, revealing clear, rejuvenated skin in no time. Apply coconut water on the affected areas every day as part of your regular skincare routine. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and wash off.
Gentle exfoliation is an effective method to remove tan from your face and hands. Besides tanning, during constant sun exposure, your skin barrier also thickens to provide maximum protection from sun damage. Exfoliating with natural exfoliators such as oatmeal can help in removing the pigmented upper layer of dead cells. This in turn will reveal fresh glowing skin that was buried underneath the damaged layers.
C. Ice Packs
Ice packs are a great way to calm sun burnt skin and remove tan. Tanning due to sun exposure can irritate your skin. Apply ice packs or simply rub ice cubes on your face and arms to soothe the damaged skin.
Sun damage can leave your tanned skin rough and dehydrated. The best way to heal tanned skin is to frequently moisturize it. Natural moisturizers such as aloe vera gel and coconut oil benefit tanned skin and help in the cell repair process.
E. Vitamin E Oil Massage
The use of Vitamin E Oil in treating skin problems is highly recommended by dermatologists. Mix a few drops of pure Vitamin E Oil to a carrier oil (almond, olive, coconut) of your choice and massage daily on the tanned areas. The antioxidant properties of Vitamin E helps in repairing the skin barrier and prevents further skin damage.
2. Ayurvedic Remedies For Removing Tan
A. Cleansing With Milk Or Coconut Milk
Both raw milk and coconut milk act as effective cleansers when it comes to tan removal. The lactic acid in milk removes dead cells and revitalizes skin that is damaged from sun exposure. Coconut milk hydrates rough sun tanned skin and restores your skin’s moisture balance. Infused with skin lightening properties, it successfully removes sun tan revealing naturally glowing healthy skin.
How To Use:
Dab a cotton in milk or coconut milk and apply on the affected areas. Leave it on for 15 mins and later wash off.
B. Udvartana Or Ayurvedic Exfoliation
Udvartana is the process of using herbal powder and oils to exfoliate your skin. Among its various benefits, Udvartana rejuvenates damaged skin by removing dead cells and improving the blood and nutrient supply to your skin. It stabilizes ‘Bhrajaka Pitta’ to enhance skin complexion and remove skin pigmentation and tan.
How To Use:
Mix powders of Yastimadhu, Triphala and Coconut Oil and exfoliate your skin using upward strokes that go against the direction of hair growth. Leave it on for another few minutes after the massage and later rinse off with lukewarm water.
C. Ayurvedic Lepa Or Face Packs For Tan Removal
i. Yashtimadhu, Cinnamon and Kumari
Both yashtimadhu and cinnamon have skin lightening properties that also prevent photoaging caused by sun damage. Natural antioxidants such as licochalcone in yashtimadhu, soothe your skin and prevent it from damage caused by oxidative stress. This powerful mixture revives damaged skin and removes tan from your face, hands and feet. Add kumari to this mixture to enhance its skin lightening effects. Aloin in kumari is a natural depigmenting compound that works as a great treatment for sun tan.
How To Use:
Mix yashtimadhu, a pinch of cinnamon powder and aloe vera gel to make a fine paste. Apply this lepa on areas that have tanned. Leave it on for 20 mins before washing off with lukewarm water.
Too much cinnamon can irritate your skin. Add a very small amount to the above mentioned face pack to reap its skin lightening benefits.
ii. Turmeric, Rakta Chandanam And Kesar
Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries owing to its various skin benefits. According to research applying turmeric regularly on tanned skin for 2 weeks can visibly lighten skin and improve your skin complexion. Rakta Chandanam’s (red sandalwood) cooling nature calms the agitated Pitta Dosha and soothes tanned skin. It is highly effective in removing sun tan and skin blemishes. Kesar or Saffron is well known for its ability to lighten skin and enhance skin complexion giving you bright, healthy skin.
How To Use:
Mix turmeric powder with rakta chandanam. Add water to make a paste and mix kesar to it. Soak for half an hour for the kesar to release its goodness and apply to the tanned areas. You can replace water with rose water or milk for added tan removal benefits.
iii. Hibiscus, Amla And Honey
Current research in skincare claims that hibiscus has botox equivalent properties that delays skin ageing. Vitamin C and antioxidants present in hibiscus promote cellular growth and prevent various kinds of skin damage. It is a quick remedy to sun tan and skin pigmentation. The Alpha Hydroxy Acids in hibiscus exfoliate and improve skin tone. With hibiscus being high on mucilage, it is an excellent moisturizer for dry tanned skin. Amla also being rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants further aids in tan removal from your face and other areas. Adding honey to this combination improves your skin's ability to withhold moisture and initiate a quick recovery.
How To Use:
Take about 10 hibiscus flowers and grind its petals to form a paste. Add amla powder and honey to it and apply on the affected areas. Leave it on for 20 minutes to half an hour and wash off with lukewarm water.
iv. Shatavari, Gotu Kola And Coconut Oil
Both Shatavari and Gotu Kola are excellent pacifiers of the Bhrajaka Pitta Dosha that regulates melanin production in your skin. Enriched with antioxidants, these powerful herbs aid the formation of collagen that prevents photoaging and keeps your skin firm and healthy. Combined together, Shatavari and Gotu Kola act against skin pigmentation and remove sun tan quickly. Being rich in Vitamin E, Coconut oil, when added to this mixture improves your skin texture and helps the recovery process. Coconut oil is also known as a natural sunscreen that prevents skin tanning and skin damage caused by UV ray exposure.
How To Use:
Shatavari and Gotu Kola in powdered form are easily available in any Ayurvedic store. Mix the ingredients with coconut oil to form a paste and apply on the affected areas. Leave it on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
3. Homemade Remedies For Removing Tan
A. Green Tea Exfoliation
Polyphenols found in green tea are great sun blockers and tan removals. This is why many skincare brands now include green tea extracts in their products.
How To Use:
Add water to 2 tablespoons of green tea and use the paste to gently exfoliate your face and other areas that have been tanned. Green tea not only helps in detanning but also rejuvenates your damaged skin.
B. Homemade Face Packs For Tan Removal
i. Tomato Pulp
Lycopene found in tomato pulp reduces chances of sunburn and UV ray induced skin cancer. It prevents direct DNA cell damage caused by UVR and improves the epidermal barrier. Lycopene is also a great depigmenting compound and helps your sun tanned skin regain its former glow.
How To Use:
Use the pulp of a tomato and apply it over the tanned areas. Leave it on for 20 mins and wash off. Apply aloe vera gel after rinsing.
ii. Curd, Besan And Mustard Oil
Enriched with lactic acid, curd has been a popular tan remover ingredient. Adding besan to it makes this concoction a powerful tan remover and exfoliator. In addition to tan removal, the antioxidants in besan hunt down free radicals and reduce chances of UVR induced oxidative stress and skin damage. Mix a few drops of mustard oil for added sun blocking, cell renewal, hydrating and tan removal benefits.
How To Use:
Apply this pack to your face,hands and feet which have tanned and wash off after 30 minutes. Repeat as required.
iii. Lemon juice, Papaya And Cucumber
The mild bleaching effect of citric acid present in lemon gently exfoliates and removes dead skin cells. This gradually removes your tan and reveals glowing skin. Papain, an enzyme present in papaya, has natural skin brightening properties that works well on sun tanned skin. It quickly works to visibly reduce blemishes and skin pigmentations. Further, Vitamin C in cucumber has antioxidant properties which helps repair sun damaged skin. Cucumber also has a cooling effect on tanned irritated skin that overall benefits the tan removal process.
How To Use:
Blend all ingredients and apply on your tanned areas. Leave it on for 20 mins and wash off.
iv. Baking Soda And Apple Cider Vinegar
With both ingredients equipped with skin lightening properties baking soda and apple cider vinegar make an amazing detan pack. Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to baking soda and mix well. Dilute the pack with water as it might be slightly harsh for sensitive skin. Since both ingredients are acidic in nature, make sure to do a patch test.
How To Use:
Apply on the tanned areas of your body and leave it to dry. Wash off and apply some rose water or aloe vera gel to hydrate your skin.
v. Multani Mitti, Milk And Rose Water
Rich in minerals and magnesium chloride, multani mitti has been an age old face pack known for its several skin beneficial effects. It is known to actively reduce sun tan and soothe sunburned skin. Its skin lightening properties help to remove dead damaged cells and bring back your skin’s natural glow.
How To Use:
Make a multani mitti detan pack by adding rose water to it. Rose water's hydrating nature will moisturize and calm damaged skin and help it to heal faster.
Vedix Tip: According to new research natural compounds found in tea (green/ black) such as flavonoids, phenolic acids have excellent photoprotective functions. To make a tan removal pack, simply brew tea or just mix tea leaves in water to make a paste and apply to tanned areas. Wash off after 30 mins.
How To Prevent Tanning?
Constant tanning over a period of time can lead to serious skin damage and even increase chances of premature skin ageing and skin cancer. Follow the below mentioned tips to prevent tanning.
1. Wear sunscreen every time you step out. Remember even on a cloudy day your skin is not safe from UV rays that can penetrate a cloud cover. Use a sunscreen that is marked SPF 30 and above for long sun exposures.
2. Wear protective clothing while you are out in the sun. Sunglasses, long sleeved clothes and shoes that offer complete protection are your best choices. Use umbrellas for better sun protection. Remember a lot of the UVB rays are blocked by your clothes and not your sunscreen.
3. Look for shades and avoid direct sun. Try staying indoors during the peak hours like 11 am to 3pm.
4. Stay hydrated. Dry skin is more prone to tanning. Drink lots of water to keep your skin hydrated.
5. Appy oil, sunscreen or aloe vera gel before stepping into the pool. This will form a protective barrier over your skin and prevent tanning from the sun and chlorine water. If you choose sunscreen, then apply it at least 20 to 30 mins prior to swimming to allow the sunscreen to sink in.
How Long Does It Take For A Tan To Go?
A mild tan may fade within a week. However, severe tanning can take longer to clear off. If you are constantly exposed to the sun, it may take around 15 days or more for the melanin saturated upper layers of your skin to regenerate and give way to new cell growth.
Tips To Remove Tan From Face
1. After a long day under the sun, cleanse your face with natural cleansers such as coconut water, milk or freshly brewed and cooled green tea.
2. Exfoliate with herbal ingredients like yastimadhu, besan, triphala, oatmeal to remove the tan along with the damaged cells.
3. Use natural and Ayurvedic detan face packs mentioned above in this article at least 2 to 3 times a week depending on your sun exposure. Apply to all areas that have tanned including your feet to achieve even complexion.
4. Moisturize with natural moisturizers such as aloe vera gel, honey, almond oil and rose water. This will improve the texture of your tanned skin and help it to regain its original tone and glow.
5. Lastly, include foods that are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, flavonoids and antioxidants. Drinking green tea can also help your skin to combat oxidative stress and sun damage better. Eat lots of seasonal fruits that have a high water content to keep your skin hydrated at all times.
The Last Word
Tanning is unavoidable owing to our harsh environmental changes. Exposure to UVA and UVB rays not only tan your skin but can also cause direct DNA damage to the epidermal cells. However, simple protective measures, natural sunscreens, Ayurvedic exfoliation and detan face packs can work wonders when it comes to quick tan removal. These herbal concoctions not only remove your tan but also improve the overall health of your skin. So keep yourself hydrated and include Ayurvedic herbs in your regular skincare routine to balance your Doshas and maintain healthy skin despite your time under the sun.
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