Exposure to the sun is a double-edged sword. The two primary components of sunlight that we are concerned with are UltraViolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays. On the one hand, exposure to UVB rays is essential for good health. UVB rays are responsible for stimulating the skins’ natural ability to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of health problems, including an increased risk of cancer. On the other hand, too much exposure to UVA and UVB rays causes aging of the skin and can lead to skin cancers, and causes sunburn, too.
It is ironic that many of the concoctions that we slather over our skin to protect us from the harmful effects of UVA are laden with chemicals which have been shown to have adverse health effects, including themselves causing cancer. These include Retinyl palmitate, a known skin cancer hazard, and Oxybenzone, which disrupts hormones leading to cell damage and cancer. Add this to the fact that many commercial sunscreens block more of the beneficial UVB rays than the harmful UVA rays and it makes for a pretty bad situation.
As a homesteader, or in a long-term survival setting, you tend to spend a lot more time out in the sun. It is very important to protect yourself from the long-term effects of UVA rays, while at the same time avoiding the toxic chemical bath of commercial sunscreens. Fortunately, many of the carrier oils used in conjunction with essential oils have natural Sun Protection Factor, or SPF. For example, raspberry seed oil has a natural SPF of 28-50 and carrot seed oil has a natural SPF of 38-40. Other oils, such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, and sesame oil, have SPF levels ranging from 4-10.
Coconut oil is our favorite cooking oil, so there is usually at least one five-gallon bucket in the house, and more in our deep larder of storage foods. Coconut oil is a very healthy oil to cook with; it can reduce cholesterol, improve immune system function, improve thyroid function, and improve blood sugar balance. It is also great for the skin, nourishing and revitalizing, and has a natural SPF of 10.
Coconut oil can therefore be used by itself as a sunscreen, but it blocks mostly the UVB rays. To broaden the spectrum of protection, and increase the SPF, zinc oxide and other ingredients can be added.
Here is one recipe that we use:
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup Shea butter
- 1/8 cup sesame or jojoba oil
- 2 tbsp. beeswax granules
- 1-2 tbsp. zinc oxide powder
- 1 tsp. red raspberry seed oil
- 20-30 drops carrot seed essential oil
- Essential oils of your choice
1. In a double boiler or a pan over very low heat, melt and combine the coconut oil, sesame or jojoba oil, beeswax and Shea butter. Beeswax will be last to melt.
2. Remove the mixture from the heat when the beeswax is melted. Allow it to cool to room temperature. Add the zinc oxide and whisk it into your cooling mixture. Some lumps are OK at this stage; they will be broken up in step 4.
3. Place your mixture in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. The goal is for it to start to set up, but remain soft enough to whip.
4. When your mixture has reached the desired consistency, remove it from the fridge. Use a stand or hand mixer and start to whip it. Slowly add the red raspberry seed oil, the carrot seed oil, and any other essential oils you have chosen to use. Continue whipping until the mixture is light and fluffy.
6. Store in a glass container in the refrigerator. You can use this mixture just like any other sunscreen. How much you use and how often you reapply will depend on your activity level and your exposure to water.
Using a natural, oil-based sunscreen has many benefits. It protects you from harmful UVA, and spares you exposure to the toxic and carcinogenic ingredients found in commercial sunscreen. Coconut oil is good for the skin. By carefully choosing the accessory essential oils you add to your sunscreen you can ease the symptoms of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and actually fight the aging process.
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If you should happen to overdose on sunshine and end up with sunburn, you should treat it like any other burn; the first step is to cool all affected areas. A cool shower or bath works well to remove heat from the skin, and you may want to add ice for an extreme burn. Submerge all affected areas for at least 10 minutes. Go to your essential oils first aid kit and get out the lavender or eucalyptus oil, dilute in aloe vera gel and apply directly to all burned areas. With proper cooling and a timely application of oils, the sunburn should be healed by the next day. For children, especially little boys, eucalyptus is the recommended oil.
Even if you don’t overdo it to the point of a burn, proper oil-based skin care after exposure to the sun is a good idea. It will prevent drying out of the skin and will help to further turn back the sun’s aging effects. A good after-sun oil can be made as follows:
- Ten drops lavender oil
- Five drops chamomile oil
- One drop bergamot oil
- Two drops geranium oil
- Two oz. almond oil
- Two tbsp. sesame oil
Dilute the essential oils in the almond and sesame oils, mix well. Apply this oil to the entire body after showering or bathing. Not that you necessarily worry about a tan, but this mixture will not only nourish and protect the skin but will extend your tan. The sesame oil has an SPF, so it will help protect you from the evening sun if your day isn’t over yet.
For an after-sun bath dilute four drops of chamomile oil, three drops of geranium oil, and one drop of peppermint oil in a tablespoon of jojoba oil. Add the whole mix to your bath and massage the oils into the most affected areas of the body for soothing relief.
As with many of the products sold today under the guise of promoting our health, commercial sunscreens are largely a toxic, carcinogenic sludge. You are much better off making your own from natural oil-based products that not only protect you from the sun’s harmful rays, but also promote improved health.
Do you have any tips for making all-natural sunscreen? Let us know in the comments section below.