Sunscreen is something that most of us would not go without during the summer season. As we know, the sun’s rays can be very damaging to the skin and can potentially with extensive periods of time under the sun’s rays, lead to skin cancer. Consequently, we use it liberally for our children and ourselves when taking time out in the sun, whether on holiday, hiking, gardening or simply sitting outside to catch some rays. For a parent, making sure your young children are protected when outside is often a challenge as they are not interested in hats, most clothes as well as being covered from head to foot in sun cream.
Relating herbs, oils, gels and spices to natural sunscreen seems to be a difficult one. Thinking of rubbing yourself with dandelion, hawthorn or even nettle just doesn’t seem right? However, nature has the answer for most things. Why not a sunscreen to protect your skin as well as that of your children from damaging UV rays and potentially getting burnt when enjoying the great outdoors?
What are we looking for in any sunscreen, natural or otherwise? The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that regular daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by about 40 percent and lower your risk of melanoma by 50 percent. What other benefits are there to using sun protection on your skin?
- Reduces the risk of sunburn. Most dermatological professionals will emphasize the importance of skin protection and preventing sunburn.
- Reduces your risk of skin cancer.
- Prevents the signs of aging, such as wrinkles.
- Prevents skin discoloration, sagging and age spots.
- Reduces inflammation.
Is it possible to get all these benefits from a natural product that doesn’t come with damaging chemicals, such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), petroleum derivatives, phthalates and artificial colours, as well as having not been tested on animals to check the product’s safety before being used on humans. Sadly, most of these chemicals are found in traditional brands of sunscreen that might protect the skin but cause a toxic load that gets heavier every time you apply it. A lotion sunscreen is quickly absorbed by the skin and that absorption is increased when in the sun.
The skin is the first line of defence from microbial invaders. Lotions, potions and oils when applied are generally easily absorbed by the skin. When in the sun, as the temperature rises it dries the skin and any harsh products will upset the skin’s natural balance of water by removing lipids. Lipids are what gives the skin a slightly soft or even oily feel. This drying out is referred to as trans-epidermal water loss or TEWL. Specifically, this is the loss of water from inside the body to the surroundings through the process of diffusion or evaporation. In other words – perspiration or sweating. Which is the reason why replacing fluid loss when in the sun, is very important.
Dry, dehydrated skin loses its ability to stretch and consequently cracks and peels, further accelerating the process of dehydration of the skin, promoting aging in the process. The main idea, therefore, of any moisturiser, including sunscreen is to ensure the epidermis of the skin does not dry out. Products will often contain water as well as some form of oil, wax or grease to be effective. Keeping a product stable and effective in its prescribed actions often means that the manufacturer will include additives and preservatives, such as those mentioned earlier. The hypodermis consists of a layer of fat and contains nerves and blood vessels. Above this layer, the dermis consists of nerves, blood vessels, hair shafts, sweat and sebaceous glands. Any harsh, unknown products, as well as the “good stuff” will be absorbed directly into the blood vessels and begin circulation around the body to be processed by the lymphatic system and the liver to remove them.
A natural sunscreen should be free from chemical additives and therefore not have any reaction or cause your body an additional toxic load. One might think that is a tough call.
What does nature provide that is naturally an effective sunscreen?
Let’s take a look at some natural products that can be used to make a home-made and effective sunscreen:
- Coconut Oil. Vitamin E in coconut helps give your skin a certain suppleness and maintains its overall health, thus keeping the skin well-nourished and supple.
- Shea Butter. Shea butter has a natural SPF factor of 3-4 and does offer some protection against UV rays.
- Aloe Vera. Often used for burns of any kind, Aloe vera is easily absorbed, is anti-inflammatory, takes the heat out of any burn while also soothing and relieving any pain.
There are also several essential oils for skin protection which can be added to the base oil, wax or grease:
Helichrysum. Helichrysum is a natural antibacterial and has a long history of being used to treat skin disorders. It has the ability to heal the skin quickly, reduce inflammation & relieve pain. The French use Helichrysum for many medicinal uses including reducing scarring and regenerating tissue, as well as for treatment of eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis and as a sunscreen. The terpenes and flavonoids found in Helichrysum encourage skin healing and soothe irritation.
Sandalwood. Sandalwood is antiseptic, calming and protects from the sun's rays. It can cool hot, irritated skin making it a good choice to add to a recipe for sunscreen.
Arborvitae. Due to its high concentration of tropolones, a group of chemical compounds, Arborvitae protects against environmental and seasonal threats, such as prolonged or extreme sun exposure. When applied topically, it promotes clear, healthy-looking skin and can reduce the appearance of blemishes.
Lavender. Lavender as well as smelling pleasant has the ability to provide sun protection with a natural SPF and act on the central nervous system to calm mind and body if suffering from over exposure to the sun.
Try making your own Sunscreen using Natural Ingredients
Using essential oils, you can simply use fractionated coconut oil and or shea butter to which you add the essential oil/s of your choice. (1 tablespoon of coconut oil with 5-10 drops of essential oil), shake the container and apply directly to the skin.
Following is an Ayurvedic recipe from Pavaani Ayurveda:
1/4 cup fractionated coconut oil (has an SPF of 7)
2 (or more) Tbsp powdered zinc oxide
1/4 cup pure Aloe vera gel (must be 50 percent or higher pure Aloe)
25 drops walnut extract oil for scent and added SPF boost, soothing for the skin
1 cup (or less) shea butter for a spreadable consistency
Other essential oils - optional
Protection from damaging UV rays and maintenance of the skin’s water content is very important for all, irrelevant of age. The use of natural products are not only effective, kind the skin, body and face, but cheaper as well as being quick to make. You will never run out of sunscreen if you keep a small stock of the base ingredients. What’s not to like?
Modern Essentials. The complete guide to the therapeutic use of Essential Oils – Aroma Tools
The Skin Cancer Foundation - https://www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/