Melanin is a dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin and iris of the eye in
people and animals. It is also found in smaller quantities in our inner ear and brain. Melanin is responsible for the tanning of skin exposed to sunlight. Moreover, it protects the skin from UV rays and free radicals, helping to prevent loss of skin elasticity and premature ageing, as well as the appearance of wrinkles and expression lines. The more melanin you have, the longer your tan will last.
One way to increase melanin levels in the body is through foods that help sustain or produce it. By doing so, these foods contribute to healthier skin and a longer-lasting tan. Be sure to include as many of these foods in your diet as possible all year ‘round in order to feed your skin and help build melanin:
- Foods rich in vitamin A and, especially, in beta-carotene, such as carrots, pumpkin, spinach, papaya, tomato, red pepper, melon.
- Foods rich in vitamin E, such as vegetable oils (wheat oil, sunflower oil, soy, olive), green leaf vegetables, nuts (almonds, pine nuts, cashew nuts), egg yolk and fruits like kiwi, mango, avocado, plums and grapes.
- Foods rich in vitamins B and D, as found in dairy products, green vegetables, pulses, eggs, chicken and Brewer’s yeast. Blue fish are a good source of vitamin D.
THE Best Melanin Builder
One of the best ways to increase melanin in the skin, however, is not a food at all. Rather it is healthy sun exposure. There is a growing movement that states that we actually NEED a certain amount of unprotected sun exposure each day. The “Healthy Tan” concept suggests that a gradual increase of exposure to UV rays increases melanin levels in the skin, which then helps protect the skin from future sun damage. In addition, our primary source of Vitamin D is sun exposure. In fact, the skin is where the pre-cursor for the conversion of Vitamin D lives. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of Calcium and yet there are very few food sources for this vital nutrient, particularly for vegetarians. The good news is that a brief dose of daily sunshine will meet anyone’s needs adequately.
Dr. Gabriel Cousens, author of Spiritual Nutrition: Six Foundations for Spiritual Life and the Awakening of the Kundalini, counsels that we need a brief amount of time each day when our skin and eyes are exposed to UV rays without sunscreen or sunglasses. This exposure allows the ultraviolet wavelengths into the body for the proper functioning of various hormones.
Fifteen minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure is recommended to help slowly build melanin and balance the body. If you will be out in the sun any longer or in the heat of the mid-day sun, it’s important to protect yourself by wearing a hat, protective clothing (full-sleeved shirts and pants, for example), sunscreen and sunglasses. People with naturally more Pitta (the fire element) in their bodies should always take care to protect themselves during the hottest part of the day; Pittas have more of a tendency toward skin sensitivities.
See several herbal sun protections in this month’s HERBAL SPOTLIGHT.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concerns, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for an appointment. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.