In a previous blog post, I’ve written about the TOP 7 ingredients to avoid in conventional sunscreens and I also recommended some natural alternatives. Today I’ll explain how to use natural ingredients to protect your skin from sun damage.
Natural ingredients with SPF properties
There are two types of natural ingredients you can use that provide light sun protection: they can be plant-derived, or mineral.
Plant-derived SPF ingredients
Vegetable oils are the fats extracted from seeds, nuts, grains, vegetables and fruits. Some oils have light SPF properties, for instance: tomato seed, sesame and mustard oils (SPF 2-3). Olive oil and coconut oil have a good SPF 8 rating, while almond oil’s SPF value is around 5. 1 A less-known oil with good SPF value is Karanja (Pongamia) oil, with an SPF of 8 to 10. 2
The best vegetable oil for sun protection is red raspberry seed (SPF 28–50) 3. Carrot seed oil is also said to provide good sun protection but I could not find any study showing evidence of it. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments.
Shea butter also provides small protection against UVs (SPF 4-6).
Mineral ingredients with SPF
Most natural sunscreens use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in their formulations. These minerals protect the skin by forming a barrier that reflects UVA and UVB like a mirror. They usually provide broad-spectrum protection, don’t penetrate the skin, are stable and don’t require you to wait 20 minutes before sun exposure.
SPF values vary depending on the size of particles and if they are coated or not. Titanium dioxide is usually more effective than zinc oxide. In a study, “no commercial form of zinc oxide tested [gave] a sun protection factor (SPF) higher than 10 at its maximum dose of use, unlike titanium dioxide which in its coated form (coated with alumina and with stearic acid, amongst others) [gave] a SPF of 38” 4
There is a strong controversy over using nano-particles of these minerals in sunscreen products (click here to read more about it). In DIY, I advise to use non-nano particles if possible.
How to use natural SPF ingredients
Is it possible to make your own sunscreen with the ingredients I mentioned above?
Yes it is, but if you do, make sure you follow a DIY recipe that has been tested for SPF protection in a lab.
Unfortunately, there are many recipes on the internet, especially on Pinterest, that have no proven SPF value. These recipes may not be safe, and I don’t recommend following them. The SPF value of a sunscreen depends on many factors, and it is impossible to accurately predict it simply based on the concentration of the SPF ingredients used in a formula. It can only be determined by in-vitro and/or in-vivo testing. Furthermore, many online recipes are not water-resistant, so how will they protect you from the sun in real-life situations, for instance when you are sweating or swimming?
For all these reasons, if you spend time in the sun and need to wear sunscreen, you should either buy one – preferably mineral-based, as recommended in this blog post – or make one from a recipe with a proven SPF value.
If you’re used to making your own DIY products, I recommend adding natural SPF ingredients to your day moisturizer (the one you use to go to work, to university, to the cinema… basically, your day cream). This is more for anti-aging benefits than to prevent sunburn. As you know, the sun can dramatically speed skin aging and that’s why adding these ingredients to your day moisturizer will help to prevent that from happening.
To give you an example, I add shea butter to my day moisturizer in winter, because it provides very light SPF protection while nourishing my skin, and I add non-nano minerals to my summer moisturizer because I need a higher SPF.
When I go to the beach or if I stay in the sun for a long time, I use mineral sunscreen – or I make my own using DIY recipes with proven SPF rating.
Making your own moisturizer with light SPF protection – or a sunscreen from scratch – is quite advanced in terms of DIY skills. If you do not know enough about the ingredients I mentioned, don’t come up with your own recipes. Follow DIY recipes from trusted sources, or start with learning the basics of DIY with my online courses or workshops.
Before and after sun exposure – hydrate, nourish and repair
While using natural SPF ingredients in homemade products requires some DIY knowledge, there are 2 ingredients that you can use on their own to prepare your skin before sun exposure and to repair it after.
As the sun will dry your skin, it’s recommended to hydrate it before and after sun exposure. The best ingredient to use for this purpose is aloe vera gel!
Aloe vera gel is extracted from a succulent called Aloe Barbadensis. Among other great properties, Aloe Vera works beautifully to stimulate skin repair after sunburn and it also hydrates and moisturizes the skin. It also soothes rashes and skin irritations (e.g. eczema).
Shea butter is extracted from the shea karite tree that grows in the wild in the savannahs of West Africa. This butter has been used for centuries in parts of Africa for its many virtues.
Among all its beautiful properties, shea butter facilitates healing, nourishes the skin and provides immediate softness and smoothness to the skin.
If you get sunburned, simply apply an aloe vera gel followed by shea butter on your skin twice a day. It will boost skin repair and also hydrate your skin. To see the results you’ll get, check out the below photos: they show my most recent sunburn and how the skin did not peel even though my skin was badly burned.
You can also use lavender essential oil, which works beautifully on sunburn, but be careful to respect the usual essential oil safety guidelines. One of the recipes in my online DIY skincare course for Beginners actually combines lavender essential oil with aloe gel and other natural ingredients to make a beautiful After-Sun Serum. If you’re interested in trying this online course, you can check out more information about it by clicking here. In the course, I also get into a lot more details about the benefits of aloe gel, shea butter and lavender essential oil.
Wishing you a beautiful summer!
Make your own skincare – Click the below image to learn online at your own pace
Disclaimer: Any recommendations are based on personal, not professional, opinion only. All information on the Mademoiselle Organic blog is meant for educational and informational purposes only. Please use extra care when using essential oils and making DIY recipes, and always test ingredients and products before applying large quantities. For information on how to use this site, please read my Blog Policy page.
- In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics, Chanchal Deep Kaur, Swarnlata Saraf, Pharmacognosy Res. 2010 Jan-Feb; 2(1): 22–25. doi: 10.4103/0974-8490.60586, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140123/ ↩
- Aromazone (in French), accessed on 22/01/2017, “Huile de Karanja”, http://www.aroma-zone.com/info/fiche-technique/huile-vegetale-de-karanja-bio-aroma-zone ↩
- B. Dave Oomah, Stephanie Ladet, David V. Godfrey, Jun Liang, Benoit Girard, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/215523935_Characteristics_of_raspberry_Rubus_idaeus_L_seed_oil ↩ Characteristics of raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) seed oil,
- C. Couteau, S. Alami, M. Guitton, E. Paparis, L. J. M. Coiffard, ↩ Mineral filters in sunscreen products – Comparison of the efficacy of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide by in vitro method, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5581430_Mineral_filters_in_sunscreen_products_-_Comparison_of_the_efficacy_of_zinc_oxide_and_titanium_dioxide_by_in_vitro_method