Is Coconut Oil a Natural Sunscreen? Let's Find Out

Is Coconut Oil a Natural Sunscreen?

Sun protection is not a joke and with the increasing rate of awareness against sun protection, many people are now concerned about sun protection products and methods. It is not enough to think that you do not burn and therefore do not require sunscreen.

In light of ongoing research it is consistently proven that sunscreen and other forms of protection against the sun are crucial in the prevention of skin diseases and skin cancer. Due to pollution, increased industrialization and damage to the ozone layer the risks associated with UV ray damage are now higher than ever.

In addition to this people are now also concerned with the effectiveness and side effects of sunscreens. This is due to the fact that most sunscreens are “chemical based’ and are made with chemical ingredients that are man made. This has been a cause of concern for many people as some claims have been made stating that chemical based sunscreens can cause cancer.

Natural sunscreens

White sunscreen lotion on green palm leaf

Recently, there has been a drastic increase in the amount of people searching for “natural” alternatives to many products and one such product is sunscreen. This is due to the fact that there is a perception that chemical based products can be toxic, have negative side effects or overall be less healthy in comparison to products that are considered “natural”.

Natural sunscreens have come about due to the rising concerns that people have regarding the current sunscreens that are present in the markets which are generally chemical based. These chemical based sunscreens work by breaking down the UV rays from the sun into a form of less harmful radiation. But recently they are being criticised for being harmful to the skin and potentially increasing the risk of skin cancer.

“Natural sunscreens” have come about from people wanting chemical free alternatives that they can use. They usually are based on DIY (do it yourself) formulas and rely on the use of everyday ingredients which are known to have some SPF.

How natural sunscreens work

Vector Illustration of sunscreen lotion on skin protecting and delecting ultraviolet rays.

There are many “natural sunscreen” tips and DIYs (do it yourself), that you will find online but how reliable are they and do they actually work?

Most recipes “natural” or “homemade” sunscreens include an oil base such as coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil is used as it naturally offers some sun protection and has an SPF of about 6 or 7. But this is nowhere near the amount of required SPF. For a decent amount of sun protection it is recommended to have at least 30 SPF. If you have fairly light skin or skin that is prone to sunburns, it is recommended by dermatologists to use at SPF 60 sunscreen or more. In light of that coconut oil which only has an SPF of 7, is not going to be effective in protecting your skin from UV rays.

Many people have counter arguments to this in which they add other ingredients, which also have some SPF. These can include essential oils, raspberry seed oil, zinc oxide and many other ingredients. However, even after combining most ingredients the SPF requirement is still not met.

In fact, most dermatologists claim that using these DIY recipes can be quite dangerous for sensitive skin and can lead to severe sunburn or even result in skin cancer. It is definitely not enough to use coconut oil on its own as sunscreen.

Do natural sunscreens work?

Lab chemist checking beauty and sunscreen products

Overall, different types of natural sunscreens cannot be considered as effective as normal sunscreens that can be purchased in store. Primarily, they do not meet the requirements for SPF and thus do not provide enough coverage against UV rays especially for those with sensitive skin.

In addition to this the coverage provided by these homemade sunscreens is also limited in that they are not water proof and also are very easily wiped away. This means that even the light coverage they provide is not consistent and they would require frequent reapplication.

From a dermatologist and scientific point of view it is plausible to claim that natural sunscreens do not work well enough to provide you with the protection that you need, especially in light of the recent growing concerns of skin cancer and other skin problems arising from UV rays.

Alternatives to “chemical based sunscreens”

Handmade DIY natural body butter with coconut oil, almond oil and shea, cocoa and vanilla butter and sunblock, sunscreen with coconut oil, cocoa, vanilla and shea butter

Sunscreens and other sun protection products are generally on the more expensive side, this is due to a very important reason, and that is because they are very difficult to formulate and go through extensive testing.

They are tested to ensure coverage and ensure that they are safe to use. They are developed after a lot of testing, chemical development, and mixing of active and inactive ingredients. This is something that cannot be achieved by very easily by mixing a few ingredients together.

This means that it is very difficult for these “chemical based” sunscreens to be causing you damage in comparison to the coverage that they provide. They are tested to be safe and meet regulations.

However, if you are allergic or still feel the need to use more “natural” ingredient based sunscreens, there are other options present for you in stores that are tested and proven to work. These include salt based sunscreens and others which provide the required SPF and are safe to use.

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