Protecting your skin from the sun’s rays is important and natural sunscreens are a fantastic alternative to traditional chemical sun tan lotions. After all, your skin is your body’s largest organ, tasked with protecting your insides from the harsh elements of the outside world and eliminating toxins from your body. As brilliant as it is at performing these tasks, your skin is particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of the sun’s UV radiation.
A certain amount of sunlight is good for you because it helps your body create its own Vitamin D. However too much of it can result in melanoma as UV radiation encourages the formation of cancer-causing free radicals in your skin.
The best way to protect your skin from harmful radiation is by applying a healthy dose of sunscreen. However, recent studies have shown that the ingredients in store-bought sunscreens could be more harmful than the UV rays that they are designed to repel.
Health-conscious people are now opting to use to homemade sunscreens instead. These natural sunscreens cause no damage to your skin, but how do they compare with the industry-standard chemical and mineral sunscreens?
Chemical sunscreens, by definition, use lab-created synthetic compounds to protect your skin from the sun’s UV radiation. The compounds in chemical sunscreens absorb the rays, prevent them from reaching your skin and disperse the rays off your skin as heat.
Most chemical sunscreens have high SPF values however they do not count for much because they only block UVB radiation. They don’t do much for UVA radiation which is more deadly. Besides the fact that they do nothing for UVA radiation, chemical sunscreens are best avoided because they have high concentrations of toxic chemicals. Oxybenzone, for example, has an 8 out of 10 rating for toxicity from the Environmental Working Group.
Mineral sunscreen, on the other hand, uses simple mineral oxides such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide to reflect the sun’s harmful rays. The minerals in these sunscreens work on both UVA and UVB radiation, and they don’t break down in sunlight which enables them to keep you protected for longer. Another key benefit of using such sunscreen is that they do not seep into your skin.
The main problem with mineral sunscreen is they tend not rub into the skin very well, leaving a greasy white film on the surface. Manufacturers have responded by grinding the oxide particles ever finer, but the more they do this the more the particles are absorbed into the skin rather than sitting on top of the skin as a protective layer. While absorption of mineral sunscreens is better than chemical sunscreens, it is still not desirable.
That leaves the consumer with a hard choice to make. Will they take the risk that comes with spreading harmful and inorganic compounds on their skin or take the risk of going out in the sun without sunscreen? Luckily there is a third option; natural sunscreens.
People who use natural products are wise to the marketing gimmicks of large companies. They know that they are much better off not using those products however they still want the benefits that such products give without the cancer-causing side effects. Nature has everything that you need to take care of your skin; you just have to know which naturally occurring compounds are best to use and how they are applied.
With and SPF value of up to 60 for UVB wavelengths and 7.5 for UVA, raspberry seed oil is on the best sunscreens that nature can provide and you absolutely must use raspberry seed oil in any homemade recipes that you have for sunscreen.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of those miraculous oils that seems to be good for everything. It has antiviral properties, plenty of medium-chain fatty acids and it tastes amazing in your food. Now you can make use of its sun-blocking capabilities as well simply by including it in your regular diet or using it as a base for your homemade sunscreen. With an SPF it is not particularly good at blocking UV rays however it works well in conjunction with other sun blocking products.
3. Rice Bran Oil
The active compound in rice bran oil is gamma oryzanol which has an SPF of 1.7. This makes it very poor at reflecting UV rays however the compound is very effective at stopping the oxidation that results from excessive exposure to the sun. Rice bran itself has a whole host of other nutritional compounds that are good for your skin and overall health however they are lost when the oil is refined. The final mix of rice bran oil contains about 1% gamma oryzanol. (1)
4. Jojoba Oil
With an SPF of 6 for UVB, jojoba does an average job of stopping UV rays from entering your skin, however, it does keep your skin moist by retaining moisture and also has anti-inflammatory properties to minimize the damage done by UV rays. Jojoba oil works as a non-permeating sunscreen which means that while most sunscreens seep into your skin, jojoba oil-based sunscreens stay on the upper layer of your skin which keeps your skin safe from both UV rays and any harmful chemicals in the ingredients list. (2)
5. Wheat Germ Oil
Studies showed that wheat germ oil has a relatively strong SPF of 22 UVB. Wheat germ is also rich in tocopherols which play an active role in protecting your skin from long-term damage.
6. Carrot Seed Oil
High levels of Vitamin A in carrots makes it a great additive to any homemade skin care products. It is a powerful antiseptic, antifungal and antioxidant with an SPF of 22 which also has a pleasant smell. Carrot oil’s pleasant smell makes it one the few sweet-smelling oils that are not photosensitive. You can use on its own however studies have shown that it is best used in a cream to maximize on both its photoprotective nature and antioxidant properties. (3)
7. Avocado Oil
The high proportion of mono-unsaturated fats makes avocado oil form a powerful protective layer over your skin that keeps you from tanning. The only problem with avocado oil is that there have been cases of allergic reactions. It has an SPF of 15.
8. Olive Oil
Olive oil is best known for being heart healthy however an SPF of 8 makes it worth considering as sunscreen, however, it is the work it does to prevent oxidation which makes it great for your skin. The studies to identify its protective effects were run on hairless mice. In this study, two sets of mice were exposed to high levels of UVB radiation. The mice that had virgin olive oil applied to their skin had a much smaller growth of tumors however the differences between the number of tumors in each group was the same when exposed to higher levels of radiation. The study also showed that olive applied after the radiation has a significant effect on slowing down the growth of tumors. (4)
9. Almond Oil
Almond oil is very weak at reflecting UV rays thanks to its SPF of 5. However, it is rich in Vitamin E which makes your skin soft and moist. Almond oil is believed to have a host of other benefits for the human body such as boosting the immune system and helping with irritable bowels however there is little scientific evidence to support these claims. Preliminary results from long-term studies look promising though. (5)
10. Macadamia Nut Oil
Most oils are better at keeping your skin healthy by feeding it nutrients rather than reflecting ultra-violent rays and macadamia nut oil is no different. It contains a rich store of minerals such as phosphorus and a compound called cinnamic acid which gives it an SPF of 6. Cosmetic companies are taking advantage of these properties by adding macadamia nut oil to their sunscreen mixes. You can add it to your sunscreen mix and enjoy all of its benefits minus the harmful chemicals in most over-the-counter sunscreens. (6)
11. Soybean Oil
A favorite among Chinese cooks, it can also be applied directly to your skin as an effective moisturizer and sunblock. Diferuloyl glycerol is the active compound in soybean oil that makes it so effective. This compound is found in many sources throughout the plant kingdom however soybean stands out as one of the best sources. Lab-extracted di feruloyl is more effective at blocking UV rays within the 270-370 nanometer range than most commercial products.
12. Lavender Oil
Best known for the calm and relaxing state that the smell of lavender invokes, lavender oil‘s SPF of 5.6 makes it a great ingredient for sunscreens however it cannot be applied directly to your skin. It makes a great additive to your homemade mix. However, its UV blocking properties do not last long because UV light causes it to degrade.
13. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is one of the most commonly used plants in skin care. It has plenty of ingredients that your skin loves and SPF of 20 which makes it one of the most powerful naturally occurring sunscreens. Aloe Vera is great as a preventative measure however it does little to repair DNA damaged by radiation. Use it before stepping out into the sun in order to enjoy its benefits. (9)
This fruit has a low SPF. However, it is worth including in your diet for that little bit of added protection. Tomatoes more than makeup for their weak UV-blocking properties by providing beta-carotene and lycopene which work well to heal skin lesions and prevent skin cancer. Juicing tomatoes and spreading on the affected area won’t help so you’ll need to include a portion of tomatoes in your diet to maximize the benefits. The beneficial compounds in tomatoes are so potent that you don’t need to eat large quantities to enjoy their effects. Just remember that lycopene won’t prevent sunburns so take your tomatoes for internal healing and apply topical sunscreen as well. (10)
15. Green Tea
Taking two cups of green tea every day helps your body prevent sun damage from the inside out by absorbing UV light. Studies have shown that topical applications as well as ingesting green tea are both effective at blocking UVB-induced infiltration from leukocytes which are highly oxidative free radicals.
The major compound in green tea responsible for this effect is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). In a study conducted on humans, the subjects were irradiated with UVB radiation, and the resulting keratomes were analyzed 48 hours later. The study found that applying EGCG to skin before the radiation significantly reduced the infiltration of leukocytes. (11)
With an SPF of 10, watermelon can protect you from both UVB and UVA radiation. It is a carotenoid which is a powerful antioxidant that gives carrots and bell peppers their orange-yellow color. Beta-carotene sometimes goes as the ‘sunscreen’ nutrient and watermelon has plenty of it. (12)
Turmeric is one those plants that seem to be good for just about anything. It is a fantastic anti-carcinogenic therefore its constituent compounds are brilliant at preventing melanoma caused by sun-damaged skin. Curcumin in the turmeric is the compound that gives turmeric these benefits. Other plants have curcumin as well however turmeric has it in very high doses. You can enjoy the benefits of turmeric either by consuming it or mixing its ground powder in with your own special mix. Keep in mind that turmeric will not block UV rays from damaging your skin. What it does is prevent the free radicals from causing DNA damage.
18. Shea Butter
You’ve probably already heard about how great Shea butter is for your skin but did you know that it is also a mild sunblock with an SPF of about 5.
Honey is not particularly good at reflecting UV rays however its skin-rejuvenating properties will heal any sun damage and protect your cells from further damage.
A favorite among cosmetic manufacturers, the vitamin C and E in lemongrass make it effective at blocking both UVA and UVB radiation. The vitamin E does most of the work however the added protection given by vitamin C is also welcome.
Phototoxic and Photosensitive Compounds in Natural Sunscreens
You can use a variety of oils in your homemade sunscreen recipe however you must be wary of how they might react with your skin. Some of them smell nice which makes you want to add them however you should keep in mind that they may be best left out.
Phototoxic compounds are oils that make your skin even more sensitive to UV light. These are the oils that are perfectly safe to apply while you are out of the sun however as soon as you step into sunlight with them lathered on they cause blisters and sun-burns. If your homemade mix contains these compounds then you would be wiser to wait for at least 12 hours before stepping out into the sun.
These compounds include:
– Lemon juice,
– Bergamot and others.
As you can see, these are compounds that have high levels of Vitamin C which do not like to be left in the sun. Use them indoors to heal and sunburns and rejuvenate your skin but clean them off before going outside.
Dos and Don’ts of Natural Sunscreen
Natural sunscreens do not have as much information on real-world applications, however, using them is still based on the same principles that govern chemical and mineral sunscreens. Aside from knowing when to use photosensitive and phototoxic sunscreens, here are few other tips to keeping yourself safe under the sun.
1. Don’t waste your time any product with an SPF higher than thirty. An SPF of thirty blocks 97% of UV rays while SPF of fifty blocks 99%. This is a small difference that is not worth the extra cost.
2. Do apply sunscreen half an hour before going outside. This gives it time to settle on your skin
3. Do not trust your sunscreen to be waterproof. Most sunscreens that claim to be waterproof are only partially waterproof at best. Even sweat can be detrimental to your sunscreen staying on.
4. Do apply sunscreen every 3 hours because it wears off and needs to be reapplied.
5. When using a natural sunscreen, be aware the natural ingredients vary in their SPF value. Always be conservative when estimating how much protection is offered