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using natural oils as sunscreen

 
steward
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We have threads on

-----Do you wear sunscreen when you're working outside? where lots of folks reported using hats!

and

-----sunburn - lots of great tips for recovering from getting burned

though for the life of me I could not find what I was seeking - a permies thread on oils that are naturally great at being sunscreen.

So let's do this here.

From this article, Wellness Mama's Homemade Sunscreen, these oils were reported with the following SPF (Sun Protection Factor):

(image credit:  Wellness Mama)

  • Almond oil: SPF around 5
  • Coconut oil: SPF 4-6
  • Red raspberry seed oil: SPF 25-50
  • Carrot seed oil: SPF 35-40
  • Shea butter: SPF 4-6

  • See this additional recipe, Holistic Squid's Homemade Sunscreen for a version made with beeswax to be more water resistant.

    Some times I think a recipe isn't even needed - just use one of these oils or mix a higher SPF oil into your favorite natural lotion or olive oil (which I think is 6-8 SPF on its own as well).

    Have you researched or used oils as sunscreen? What has been your experience?

     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    One other source (which I have not verified), The Indian Spot's Natural sunscreen with the 10 best oils reports:
  • Red Raspberry Seed Oil - SPF 30 to 50
  • Carrot Seed Oil – SPF 38 and 40
  • Wheat germ Oil – SPF -20
  • Soya Bean Oil – SPF 10
  • Coconut Oil – SPF 2 -8
  • Avocado oil – SPF 4 – 15
  • Almond Oil – SPF 5
  • Jojoba Oil – SPF 4


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    pollinator
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    Raspberry oil has an SPF of around 30, which is admittedly not bad. Apparently aloe vera, if you extract it directly from the plant without filtering or clarifying it, has an even higher SPF of around 50. I don't know if the gel alone actually does anything.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    That guy looks like he does a lot of interesting stuff! Though I disagree with some of the statements about UV rays and cancer, though that is probably a topic for the cider press, not here.

    He doesn't just make his own sunscreen, but he extracts the oils he uses for his homemade sunscreen! That's a bit of a wowsa.


     
    gardener
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    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:Have you researched or used oils as sunscreen? What has been your experience?



    I looked for the carrot seed oil thread (using Google, since it can be better than our internal search) back when I first saw Paul's post this morning, hoping I could drop a fast helpful link.  Instead I found a mommy blogger (I don't use this term derisively) who tried to track down the carrot seed oil question in order to find out if it would protect her pale babies.  She makes  a very convincing case here -- although I think she overstates her research by calling it a busted myth -- that the widely circulated stories of carrot seed oil having significant SPF all come from a single study out of India, which she links, studies, and analyzes.  The study, she says, did not look at that oil as an isolated ingredient; rather it considered a complicated mixed Ayurvedic sunscreen preparation full of difficult-to-parse ingredients in addition to the carrot oil.  One of the other ingredients in the product turned out to be "yashad bhasm" which, she found out, is nothing other than our old friend zinc oxide.

    One of my side hustles involves doing this kind of web research, trying to track down the origins of widely-repeated "facts" that are hard to source.  I can't say this lady got it right, but her work has the ring of honest effort to it, and I find her analysis credible.  I have not, however, attempted to reproduce her work.  
     
    Marc Troyka
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    Dan Boone wrote:One of the other ingredients in the product turned out to be "yashad bhasm" which, she found out, is nothing other than our old friend zinc oxide.


    Go figure. Well at least raspberry oil and aloe are confirmed.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Dan Boone wrote:
    I looked for the carrot seed oil thread (using Google, since it can be better than our internal search) back when I first saw Paul's post this morning, hoping I could drop a fast helpful link.  Instead I found a mommy blogger (I don't use this term derisively) who tried to track down the carrot seed oil question in order to find out if it would protect her pale babies.  She makes  a very convincing case here -- although I think she overstates her research by calling it a busted myth -- that the widely circulated stories of carrot seed oil having significant SPF all come from a single study out of India, which she links, studies, and analyzes.  The study, she says, did not look at that oil as an isolated ingredient; rather it considered a complicated mixed Ayurvedic sunscreen preparation full of difficult-to-parse ingredients in addition to the carrot oil.  One of the other ingredients in the product turned out to be "yashad bhasm" which, she found out, is nothing other than our old friend zinc oxide.

    One of my side hustles involves doing this kind of web research, trying to track down the origins of widely-repeated "facts" that are hard to source.  I can't say this lady got it right, but her work has the ring of honest effort to it, and I find her analysis credible.  I have not, however, attempted to reproduce her work.  


    I thought it was a little odd that she was debunking a myth based on folks confusing the carrot seed oil with a carrot seed essential oil. That doesn't mean actual carrot seed oil (which is not the distilled essential oil) isn't effective. (That's akin to a straw man fallacy or some such, I think.)

    I didn't fully watch the HTME video Marc posted above, and while I did find the UV camera they were using interesting (and funny!) I don't know that a UV camera alone proves very much about SPF. Did they determine a better test at the end of that video? Is that where they confirmed raspberry seed oil and aloe vera (whole unfiltered juice)? At least in the HTME video you see the raspberry seed oil actually being pressed and not distilled, so you see that is an oil and not an essential oil.



     
    Marc Troyka
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    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:I didn't fully watch the HTME video Marc posted above, and while I did find the UV camera they were using interesting (and funny!) I don't know that a UV camera alone proves very much about SPF. Did they determine a better test at the end of that video? Is that where they confirmed raspberry seed oil and aloe vera (whole unfiltered juice)? At least in the HTME video you see the raspberry seed oil actually being pressed and not distilled, so you see that is an oil and not an essential oil.


    At the end he does a UV-pass test with a UV meter to measure the effective SPF of all the ingredients, and he uses commercial sunscreens as a control to verify that it's working properly.
     
    Dan Boone
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    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
    I thought it was a little odd that she was debunking a myth based on folks confusing the carrot seed oil with a carrot seed essential oil. That doesn't mean actual carrot seed oil (which is not the distilled essential oil) isn't effective.



    That's why I said I thought she was overstating to use the words "debunk" and "myth".  The confusion between carrot seed oil and carrot seed essential oil is just that, it's confusion, not a myth.  And it's not really relevant to anything until we know whether one or the other actually has an unusually high solar protective factor.

    In my view of what words mean, you don't "debunk" a claim when you go to track it down by internet research and you can't find  support for the claim.  All you've done is realized that you haven't answered the question yet.

    What she did that was interesting to me was that she answered the other question: "Why is everybody on the internet saying carrot seed oil has such a high SPF?"  It looks to me like she found the study that they were citing, and pretty comprehensively determined that the study was looking at a compound that included zinc oxide.  That's open to dispute, it's not a hill I'm going to die on, and like any good researcher she identifies the weaknesses in her own argument so that people can draw their own conclusions.  But if she's right, we don't learn anything from that Indian study -- the one everybody cites for greasy carroty goodness -- about the SPF of greasy carroty goodness. Because it was mixed with the standard zinc stuff.

    So carrot seed oil isn't "debunked" by that link.  But what the link may be telling us is that it was never "bunked" in the first place.  The idea -- and there are bars of uncertainty on this, the mommy blogger could be wrong -- is that everybody on the internet who has written about carrot seed oil has maybe been relying on this one same report that was actually looking at a zinc oxide compound.  And we don't have any other authorities for carrot seed oil that anybody has found yet.  Everybody is sitting in a circle citing each other, and when you run around the circle you never find anybody who isn't citing somebody who isn't citing somebody who doesn't eventually cite the Indian study with the zinc oxide stuff.  Or at least, I haven't yet.  (There are, to be sure, lots of shallow internet articles that don't cite anybody; but the only fair thing to do is assume they are part of the circle too, just not showing their "work".)

     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    It sounds like a UV meter test on just the carrot seed oil, as I think it was done for the raspberry seed oil, is what might be needed!
     
    Marc Troyka
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    Jocelyn Campbell wrote:It sounds like a UV meter test on just the carrot seed oil, as I think it was done for the raspberry seed oil, is what might be needed!


    One thing nobody has mentioned here is that both carrot seed oil and raspberry seed oil are extremely, ridiculously expensive.

    It is also possible to use antioxidants (grape, tea, milkweed, cocoa liquor, vit C, vit E, ferulic acid) to prevent damage from UV. The antioxidants don't actually reflect or absorb the UV, but they soak up oxidants created by them and suppress sunburn all the same.

    They can also be combined, although honestly it depends on how much UV absorbent oil it takes to make an effective sunscreen. If you only need a small amount then it might be cost effective.

    I think aloe deserves some extra attention as well. If the aloe only works if it's in a thick opaque layer then it might not actually be effective when rubbed on your skin.

    There are just too many unknowns here to make a meaningful judgment. It's certainly promising though.
     
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    There seems to be an absence of 'rigorous scientific study and evidence' to support the use of any of those oils. One would think that if they're that good, someone would be using them on a commercial basis.

    Too often, many people use sunscreen as an easy cure all, but that is misinformation. It's only one of the tools used to protect skin. For example, every summer here our TV and radio airs government adverts using the 'Slip, Slop, Slap' philosophy = Slip on a shirt, Slop on some sunscreen (regularly), and Slap on a hat. I believe they've added another too: Seek shelter between 10am and 3pm.

    The most commonly used sunscreens these days vary between 30 and 50 SPF.

    However, some interesting research by our government scientific research organisation (CSIRO) has isolated molecules from coral that apparently provide a 240 SPF. It can be added to a base cream for skin, but also to paint, plastics and glass to enhance durability!

    https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/MF/Areas/Biomedical/Health-and-wellbeing/coral-sunscreen


     
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    Thank you Joselyn for organizing that post.  I want to shout out to something I call rotisserie style human.  I grew up with sunscreen being thre holy gateway one must pass before being out "in the sun." Me and my kids don't use it or need it. We can't keep hats on our heads either. We just move around a lot. The sun only burns if it hits the same spot for a long time. We go in and out of shady areas.  Again, that nice, even, slow cooking.  We do also wear clothes that cover our shoulders,  but that's it. I work a small farm with barely any shade now and just avoid the times of day the sun is too directly over head to rotisserie.  Siesta. My personal garden is part shade and I find I get more plants that way and I can harvest unwilted salads at dinner time.

    Aloe is cheap once you get it growing. It practically requires no water or fertility and a leaf stays fresh for days or weeks and so it can be taken with you.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Loads of things to reply here.

    Yes, I have also imagined the cost of the higher SPF oils (if they are all that) could be prohibitive.

    There are a bunch of other theories on how to have more sun/UV resilient skin, including nutrition, and I really do not know enough about it. Though in Northern climates, we are typically vitamin D deficient and I've heard from doctors that there is a quality of Vitamin D from the sun that just can't be replicated with foods or supplements (even when food derived).

    Also in Northern climates, we grow aloe indoors, though I think that often limits how much we are able to grow, and we could run out rather quickly if using consistently as sunscreen. Outdoors up here we can grow hens-and-chicks or houseleeks which I've heard have similar healing properties to aloe, so I wonder if their juices might offer sun protection, too.

    I posted about this on Facebook and received this reply from a friend:

    I use astaxanthin, which is an oral supplement whose side effect is you are MUCH less likely to burn. I usually burn VERY easily/quickly. But with astaxanthin I only burn after a long time and only if I'm in a tropical place. Never in WA.


    The WA she refers to is Washington state, and I had to look up astaxanthin. It's a carotenoid supplement. How fascinating is that!?

     
    Dan Boone
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    Someone made the point that if the oils thought to have high SPF factors were in fact protective, we'd see them in commercial use.  This reminds me of a joke that economists tell each other:

    The young economist looks down and sees a $20 bill on the street and says, “Hey, look a twenty-dollar bill!”

    Without even looking, his older and wiser colleague replies, “Nonsense. If there had been a twenty-dollar lying on the street, someone would have already picked it up by now.”



    The point -- to economists -- is to remember that markets aren't always efficient.  Somebody has to be first to pick up the twenty dollar bill, and it genuinely does just lay there until that happens.
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    The other part about producing something natural versus artificial is that yes, the artificial items are often cheaper, though in addition, the herbal, vegetable, natural things are usually not patented or made more precious by marketing or proprietary ingredients.

    Put another way, I think that as with prescription drugs versus herbal or natural remedies, the studies on the natural remedies (in this case natural sunscreens) are just not being funded because the profit margins are not enough to make it worth it.

     
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    Even 'natural' sunscreen can cause symptoms in people around you.  Soy, nuts, coconut, and anything that offs gas can affect people who are sensitive to those substances and in extreme cases send a person into anaphylaxis shock.

    Also, having to reapply this stuff over and over again, every day... that sounds annoying and expensive.

    An alternative would be to be like our ancestors; choose sun-safe clothing, create shady spots with trees or popup tents, and build up a resistance to the sun slowly over time.
     
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