What are Natural Sunscreens, and Do They Work?

What are Natural Sunscreens, and Do They Work?

A lot of people think about sunscreens and imagine them as products that you have to apply to your skin before going to the beach. Truth be told, the protective factor in these lotions is required every time you leave the house, even when you’re going for a walk or when the sun isn’t peaking.

Don’t underestimate the sun hidden behind the clouds, as UV rays can be harmful nevertheless. But today is not about talking you into using sunscreen; it’s about discovering the answer you’re looking for; do natural sunscreens work?

What Are Natural Sunscreens?

Woman applied sunscreen lotion on her back in sun form.

There’s a lot of debate on the ingredients list of truly natural sunscreen. That’s mainly because “natural” doesn’t have a very clear definition when it comes to skincare products, so there’s plenty of room open for interpretation.

Generally speaking, natural sunscreen contains ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, both of them being earth minerals, which would classify products that use these ingredients as being “natural”. The role of these minerals is to deflect the sun’s UV rays.

Some people have asked, “is aloe vera a natural sunscreen?” and while aloe does help protect your skin, it’s more of an “after sun” product to sooth. Is coconut oil a natural sunscreen? Not by itself, but it’s often used in the products. And what about olive oil? Is olive oil a natural sunscreen? Again, not by itself. But it’s often on the ingredients list.

A Few Words on Chemical Sunscreens

Close up of female sunburnt skin neck with allergic reaction.

These products have been around for a very long time, which also means that their contents have been analyzed for a long time as well. The way that chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays. Such products are based on ingredients like octyl salicylate, octocrylene, homosalate, ecamsule, or avobenzone.

In the past decade, people are more and more preoccupied with the ingredients of the products they apply to their skin, and sunscreens don’t seem to be an exception. Furthermore, some news suggested that the ingredients in conventional sunscreen can disrupt hormone production or lead to cancer.  But how dangerous are they?

However, as every expert or dermatologist will tell you: it’s better to wear any type of sunscreen rather than no sunscreen at all. While research so far has debunked many of the myths circulating about the dangers of chemical sunscreen ingredients, plenty of research is still required to be able to state that these products are 100 percent safe.

Lab chemist checking beauty and sunscreen products

So, if chemical sunscreens are not that likely to cause cancer, what are some of their drawbacks? First off, chemical sunscreen washes off easily if you’re a heavy sweater, which means that you’ll have to reapply it constantly throughout a hot summer day.

If you have sensitive skin, it really doesn’t matter if the ingredients are safe or not: you may get irritation if your skin has an abnormal reaction to one of the ingredients. You are less likely to develop a reaction to the ingredients in natural sunscreen, but that’s not a universal rule and you should never exclude that possibility completely. Another important note is that the ingredients in natural sunscreens aren’t absorbed into the skin, which is why they are better for sensitive skin (and are often used to make sunscreen that is safe for babies). But there’s still tons of reasons to use some kind of sunblock, so be sure to find something that works for you.

Are They Efficient?

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

Normally, people are wondering if natural sunscreens are as efficient as conventional ones. A lot of experts believe that natural sunscreens are more efficient compared to ones that have chemicals inside them because they contain plenty of active ingredients that work efficiently towards deflecting the sun’s harmful rays.

Interestingly enough, it seems that except for avobenzone, none of the ingredients that are used to make convention sunscreens are actually efficient against cancer. What these ingredients do is protect the skin against sunburns, which is a completely different story. In other words, if you’re using a conventional sunscreen that doesn’t contain avobenzone, natural sunscreens are a more effective option.

While natural sunscreen provides protection (this really depends on the brand and the substance list), dermatologists advise against making your own natural sunscreen with oil and butters.  That’s because the products that you make at home can’t be tested for their SPF, so there’s no really telling if they will work for sure (unless you try to replicate the recipe of a natural sunscreen that already exists on the market).

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

Of course, aside from using sunscreen, there are also other rules to follow if you want to avoid one of the world’s most terrifying cancers: skin cancer. Since it’s better to be safe than sorry, consider the following:

  • Stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • If you have to walk during these hours, make sure that you stay under the shade as much as possible. Use an umbrella if you have to.
  • Wear sunscreen all the time. Even when it’s cloudy. Even if it’s no longer summer. The sun’s UV rays are omnipresent and very dangerous whether you can see them or not.
  • Sunscreen is for every part of your body that’s exposed to the sun. That includes your ears and your scalp. So be sure to use it for face, neck, ears, and more.
  • Report to the dermatologist for regular check-ups, but also if you notice any suspicious moles or new spots on your skin.

Bottom Line

Sunscreen on the skin of a child. Selective focus. nature.

Natural sunscreens are efficient, just as long as you don’t make your own recipe at home. When people think of a natural skin care product, they imagine it’s made only from plant extracts and essential oils. In fact, when you hear about natural sunscreen, it’s because that product contains minerals sources from the earth, which gives manufacturers a good basis to call their products “natural”.

For further info, read more information about this product on our site. Natural or conventional, there’s one thing that you absolutely have to remember about sunscreen: the risk of getting skin cancer because you’re not using sunscreen is way higher compared to the risk of getting skin cancer caused by the ingredients used in the manufacturing of whatever sunscreen brand you’re applying. Rule of thumb? Always wear sunscreen, no exceptions.

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