DIY sunscreen recipes are being shared all over Pinterest these days, but as a majorly pale Mama with four pale kiddos, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t taking any chances with our skin or our long term health. Which is really a tough subject, because ALL of the sunscreen options in our local stores use a chemical screening agent. (With the exception of the zinc nose sticks.)
[bctt tweet=”One thing that bothered me about DIY sunscreen recipes was a lack of evidence to show SPF factor.”] SO I did a little digging around and discovered that there are a LOT of DIY sunscreen recipes out there that need myth busting.
So before you slather on a homemade solution, read through these common myths that I uncovered in my research:
DIY Sunscreen Myth 1: Essential Oil SPF
There are several DIY sunscreen recipes out there calling for carrot seed essential oil. They often point out things like, “according to a study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine in 2009, products containing carrot seed oil have a natural SPF of between 38 and 40.”
SO let me start off by just debunking this myth: Carrot Seed Oil *may* have a decent SPF value. I’ve still not been able to find a published study to confirm this, and you’ll see below why the 2009 study doesn’t even come near to making that claim. (If you DO have access to a carrot seed oil study, please link it in the comments!)
However, let’s just clarify that Carrot Seed Oil is not the same thing as Carrot Seed Essential Oil. According to Robert Tisserand, who literally wrote the book on essential oils:
The essential oil is useless as a sunscreen…The fatty oil has some effect, and both fatty oil and essential oil are called “carrot seed oil” – hence the confusion.
The essential oil is steam distilled- it’s a volatile oil, with completely different properties than the thick viscous fatty seed oil. This study done on the SPF of individual natural oils doesn’t specifically test carrot seed oil or essential oil, but it concludes that of the natural oils and essential (volatile) oils that it does test
It can be observed that the SPF values found for nonvolatile oils were in between 2 and 8; and for volatile oils, in between 1 and 7.
I know that many of the essential oil bloggers get VERY excited to share practical uses of their products, but it’s always a great idea to REALLY research and consult with experts when skin damage is on the line…especially my baby’s skin.
DIY Sunscreen Myth 2: Coconut Oil!
I’ve been reading about the miraculous power of coconut oil as a sunscreen a LOT lately. I even polled my awesome Herbal Chick Chat group over on Facebook. Many Mamas have tested out coconut oil as a way of preventing sunburn. Some had great results, others didn’t. Turns out there is no easily to point to factor here: some of the successes used the cheap refined coconut oil and tested in areas of intense sun. Others had used a high quality oil and burned in weaker northern exposure summers.
The thing is with coconut oil, it’s only got an SPF of around 7. That’s just NOT enough protection for this pale gal and my family. And the only real results that the Mamas in my informal survey can pinpoint is whether or not they burned.
While burning *does* indicate skin damage, the non-burning UVB rays that can also cause serious long term damage to skin. So burning vs. tanning isn’t even the most reliable factor in keeping your skin healthy. (If you’re a child of the 80’s, you probably know some nicely tanned folks with skin that clearly has damage and premature aging.)
This video has inspired me to pay more attention to my own skin exposure beyond just preventing burns. So relying on coconut oil is out for my family.
DIY Sunscreen Myth 3: SPF is Cumulative
[bctt tweet=”Turns out that, just like with baking, there’s a lot of chemistry involved with producing sunscreen.”] Sometimes ingredients can enhance SPF protection, and sometimes they can counteract it. This is why, according to Badger Balm, the FDA requires that each finished formulation of sunscreen undergoes SPF testing in order to claim a UV rating. It’s not as simple as adding up all of the SPF of the ingredients to a total SPF factor.
Sadly, unlike my brownie recipe, you can’t just add up all of the SPF values like calories for a grand total, like many of the DIY sunscreen recipes you find online. It just doesn’t work that way.
Here’s a much more scientific way of stating it from another study of SPF values of natural oils:
To develop sunscreens with better safety and high SPF, the formulator must understand the physicochemical principle, not only the UV absorbance of the actives but also vehicle components, such as esters, emollients, emulsifiers and fragrances used in the formulation, since sunscreens can interact with other components of the vehicle, and these interactions can affect the efficacy of sunscreens.
THe big myth with the study that mentions carrot seed oil is that it is being used to erroneously attribute an SPF value to one individual ingredient.
DIY Sunscreen Myth 4: Studies Show…
So the whole phrase, “products containing carrot seed oil have an SPF of 38-40” sounded a little off to me. Maybe because it’s like saying, “recipes containing chocolate chips contain a calorie range of ….” Wouldn’t that depend a great deal on the other ingredients in the product? Turns out, YES. It does.
So I started doing some sleuthing.
Here is the actual study done on the natural sunscreens…one of which contains carrot seed oil. The study took place in India, and focused on a variety of natural sunscreen products that they don’t name. They disclose a few of the herbal/natural ingredients from each formulation. The formula that most of the bloggers are referencing is identified only as HS3 [table 1], and it contains Carrot Seed Oil (aka daucus carota), Symplocos, and Wheat Germ. Remember those three…I’ll reference them again in just a minute.
So here’s my problem: the stated purpose of the study is NOT to prove the spf values of individual herbal ingredients, but to discern if there is an accurate way to gauge SPF and effectiveness on natural products with a mix of ingredients. The conclusion to this study states,
The present study is a building step towards the development of quality control methods for herbal products.
Remember what we just covered in myth 3…that the individual components can’t always give you an accurate SPF value? It’s clearly NOT establishing SPF values for individual components, since it’s testing multiple ingredient formulas…and only disclosing a few of the ingredients for each formula. More on THAT little oversight below…
Turns out, the product they tested is more than likely this one: Bio Carrot SPF 40 Sunscreen
Here are the ingredients: Parijat (Nyctanthes arbortristis), Lodhra (Symplocos racemosa), Gajar (Daucus carota), Yashad bhasm Zind ash with herbs, Singjerahata (Talc), Cream Base Q.S. This review also pictures the back of the bottle, which lists additional ingredients including Ankurit (triticum vulgare) [wheat germ], sunflower oil, and other ingredients not listed on the website.
Remember the ingredients listed from HS3 above: Daucus Carot (Carrot seed oil), Wheat Germ, and Symplocos. Here’s a product with all 3 of the HS3 ingredients labeled for SPF 40. Pretty strong circumstantial evidence.
Because this is an Ayurvedic preparation, many of the ingredients are hard to pinpoint. But I did a little sleuthing. I wondered if other ingredients were contributing to the SPF rating as well. Turns out: YES!
Yashad bhasm is also a featured ingredient in diaper rash cream…are you suspicious yet?And what is zinc calc, I wondered?
Yashad bhasm is also a featured ingredient in diaper rash cream…it’s a zinc preparation: it’s what we call zinc oxide. B.I.N.G.O.
So there is no way that the study is definitively attributing an SPF to even cold pressed (non essential) carrot seed oil, because the formula contains an already known effective (and yay…natural!) physical sunblock, along with many other ingredients that may or may not factor into the total SPF rating.
I rest my case.
Pin to save or share! And read on to see what I am going to use this summer for my family…
What I Use: Natural Sunscreen
Now lest you think that I’m PRO chemical sunblock, I’m really not. I’m still trying to find my happy place with natural sunscreens. I rely heavily on swim shirts, shade, and my big floppy hat to prevent over exposing our skin to the sun. Although I am all for a little healthy play time before applying sunscreen to encourage vitamin D.
Last year, we used and really liked Babyganics Pure Mineral-Based Sunscreen, SPF 30 (affiliate link). The price is very fair: I paid right around $20 for 3 tubes on Amazon. it’s got a good rating on the Environmental Working Group website, and we found that it works well.
I’m planning to try the Badger line of natural sunscreens (affiliate link) this summer.
I’m currently testing out a DIY sunscreen recipe.
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