I don’t need to tell you how important it is to wear sunscreen, especially now that’s summer and the sun rays are scorching hot, right? Yet, finding a good broad spectrum sunscreen isn’t easy. If you’re allergic to one or more sunscreen ingredients, it can often be a mission impossible. To make matters worse, the internet is full of rumours about the dangers of sunscreens. They are often accused of being toxic, carcinogenic and generally bad for our health.
As a result, a lot of people are looking for natural alternatives. One of the most popular is coconut oil. Its fans claim they regularly use it without burning, but is that enough to claim it is a good substitute for sunscreen? Remember, sun damage is sneaky. Sunburns may show up straight away, but wrinkles, sun spots and cancer take a lot longer to develop. And they are very difficult, if not impossible, to treat.
Why is coconut oil considered a good alternative to sunscreen?
People who live in tropical climates, such as in the pacific islands and India, have used coconut oil as protection from sunburn for centuries. As impressive as this may sound, it is only anecdotal evidence. Even supposing that coconut oil really prevents sunburns, it’s impossible to exclude that other factors, such as their diets, may also play an important part in protecting their skin. Besides, as mentioned above, sunburns aren’t the only type of damage the sun rays can cause.
What’s the SPF of coconut oil?
To be considered as a good substitute for sunscreen, coconut oil should, on its own, be able to block out at least 94% of UVB rays, which is the amount blocked by SPF 15, the minimum level of protection recommended by dermatologists (although these days many recommend you use at least SPF 30). And that’s without taking into consideration UVA rays. Can coconut oil do this? Nope. A 2010 study showed that coconut oil has a SPF of 7! That’s really low! A more recent study, published in the Journal Of Spectroscopy, has confirmed how poorly coconut oil protects from the sun: it blocks out only 20% of its rays. Therefore, coconut oil is NOT a good substitute for sunscreen.
Use a physical sunscreen instead
If your skin is prone to irritations or allergies or you simply prefer to use natural products, opt for an organic physical sunscreen with Zinc Oxide. My favourites are Sunumbra Sunkids SPF 40 and Badger Balm Organic Sunscreen Base with Zinc Oxide. Both sunscreens contain only a handful of plant extracts and antioxidants (plus Zinc Oxide, of course) and are free of parabens, dyes and fragrance. The Sunumbra sunscreen is also tinted, so it won’t leave a white cast on the skin.
Is coconut oil a substitute for sunscreen?
Absolutely not! Coconut oil has a very low SPF that simply doesn’t provide adequate protection against the sun rays. Even if it should prevent you from getting a sunburn, it won’t protect your skin from cancer and premature aging.
Have you ever used coconut oil as sunscreen?