I've just returned from 3 weeks travelling in Burma/Myanmar, one of the worlds undiscovered wonders! Beautiful country and lovely people, and some new /ancient herbal remedies.
Skin care in the Australian summer
In Australian summer weather it’s a challenge to keep our protective skin in good condition, with heat, dryness, and a big hole in the ozone layer letting in damaging UV light all causing damage. We can wear protective clothing (hats, glasses, shirts) and sun screen, or just stay inside. Then we’re risking vitamin D deficiency! General advice for skin care is to clean and protect the skin daily, eat fresh, wholesome food, especially dark leafy green vegetables, drink plenty of water and avoid heavy, oily, fatty, processed and fried foods.
Different types of skin require different therapy to stay healthy in summer. In Ayurveda, the Vata type skin tends to be dry and very sensitive to allergies and environmental toxins. These folk need a diet that provides easily digested, cooked food. They should have limited exposure to really cold food or drink, as these foods can trigger digestive problems, allergies and headaches.
A moisturising, nourishing regime of skin maintenance should be followed. This type of skin is often sensitive to sunscreens, as these can cause itching and rashes, so the best strategy is to cover up (hats, shirts, trousers) during the heat of the day and to get the (indirect) UV rays early or late in the day to boost vitamin D levels. Vata folk are often lean, active people, so early morning laps of the pool or an evening swim in the sea will also maintain skin circulation and condition.
Pitta-dominant body types are inclined to overheat during summer and can easily develop sunburn, heat rash and rough, red skin. They often, however, enjoy being out in the sun, tan easily and love being at the beach, alternating between cool water and hot sand. They are less likely to have allergies and can wear sunscreen to protect against harmful rays.
Their skin thrives on the summer diet that includes many fresh fruits and vegetables and they enjoy cooling drinks and foods. Rich, fatty food and too much sugar (Christmas hazards) can however cause major skin problems for Pitta types as these foods add heat to the body and can cause skin inflammation, leading to acne and rosacea. For these conditions, applying cooling remedies, such as cold, wet, green tea bags or aloe vera gel and going to the beach (with sunscreen) for a long soak in cool salty water can do wonders for an overheated skin.
Kapha folk suffer most from the summer heat, as they tend to have larger bodies and hence get hot and sweaty very easily. These folk love the winter and thrive on the ski slopes but wilt in the summer. They tend to suffer from heat rash and dehydration in the hot weather and many do not enjoy the beach (too much hot sun and gritty sand) but are happy floating in a shady swimming pool on a hot day. They need to stay as cool as possible, wear loose clothing and chill out on hot days.
Their skin tends to be moist and oily and can clog up in summer, with blackheads and pimples developing if not cared for correctly. Oily or greasy sunscreen often makes this worse, so they should use a non-oily spay-on brand. They need a good regime of cleansing the skin twice a day with a neutral face wash and applying astringent lotion, avoiding thick makeup and oily sunscreens. A diet similar to the one for Pitta is recommended for Kapha folk during summer, but with added protein (lean meat and non-fat dairy) as their larger body type needs this to maintain strength. They also need added salt (about 2gm/day) in hot weather as they tend to sweat more than others and may get muscle cramps if salt intake is too low.
Skin care and sandalwood in Myanmar (Burma)
(information adapted from Wikipedia)
In modern day Myanmar, people still use the traditional cosmetic known as Thanaka, as a daily cosmetic and skin conditioner. A well-dressed lady would not go out without it! Children everywhere have the yellow powder on their faces.
Thanaka is made from the branches of the aromatic sandalwood tree, (Linoria acidissimia). When ground, the bark acts as an astringent, sunscreen and antiseptic. It is very cooling and soothing on the skin. I tried it on my sunburnt nose and brought a jar of the cream to take home.
People all over Myanmar use Thanaka, and wear the powdery yellow paint on their cheeks, noses or arms. It is usually prepared fresh, and bought in the market as small 10- 18cm long branches and logs. These are ground on a special flat circular whetstone with a few drops of water, producing a milky yellow liquid that is then immediately applied to the skin. While wet it is virtually translucent, but in an hour, it dries to a rich yellow crust. It is sometimes mixed with cream and applied just to the cheeks, then they take a coarse toothbrush and stroke lines through it. The people in Myanmar do have beautiful skin.