Natural Oils as Sun Protection – Is It Snake Oil or The Next New Thing?

The Answer is Yes & No



The Answer Is Not So Simple




In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics Chanchal Deep Kaur and Swarnlata Saraf

Protective effect of topically applied olive oil against photocarcinogenesis following UVB exposure of mice Arief Budiyanto, Nazim U. Ahmed, An Wu, Toshinori Bito, Osamu Nikaido, Toshihiko Osawa, Masato Ueda, & Masamitsu Ichihashi

Characteristics of raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) seed oil  B. Dave Oomaha, Stephanie Ladetb, David V. Godfreya, Jun Liangc, Benoit Girarda
aFood Research Program, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Paci®c Agri-Food Research Centre, Summerland, British Columbia V0H 1Z0, Canada
bE.N.S.A.M., EÂ cole Nationale Superieure Agronomique de Montpellier, 2, Place Pierre Viala, 34060 Montpellier Cedex 1, France
cShaanxi Fruit Crops Research Centre, Xi’an, Shaanxi 710065, China



The purpose of the study above was to measure sun protection factor (SPF) of herbal oils that are commonly used in sunscreen formulations using a proposed technique. So the study really can’t be used as evidence of its effectiveness as a sunscreen. If the measured values are accurate then it is plausible that coconut oil could be used as an extremely light sun screen with appropriate usage. However, it should be noted that the measured SPF of 7.119 of coconut oil is significantly below the dermatologist recommended SPF 15 or greater. I prefer at least a SPF of 30 that is listed as full or Broad spectrum.


Red raspberry seed oil is said to have an SPF of 28 to 50 and a long shelf life, but it doesn’t appear to have gone through extensive testing to determine whether it’s okay to use it alone as your sunscreen yet. In one study on herbal oils used in cosmetics, scientists found that the SPF range varied from one to eight for the oils tested, with olive oil and coconut oil being the highest of the fixed oils (around eight) and peppermint oil and tulsi oil the highest of the essential oils tested (around seven). Sunscreens are classified as drugs meaning that the active ingredients are on the approved list and have been thoroughly researched and gone through trials to test effectiveness. True because red raspberry seed oil is an expensive ingredient and there are much cheaper options out there companies aren’t going to shell out the big bucks to have the oil properly researched to become an “active” ingredients, so we never know. The internet sites that state the spf of red raspberry seed oil are all based on one study done in 2000. This is only one study and many more studies need to be done before a consensus can be reached.



Even with these types of findings, scientists seem hesitant to recommend using natural oils alone as sunscreen and I agree the proof is in the pudding! Though some oils provide protection it is not nearly enough to protect you from UVA or UVB rays nor do we know how the long after applied they are effective.  Do they breakdown with sun exposure and if yes how and at what rate? How easily do we wash or sweat them off?  How much do we need to apply due to absorption into the skin?

Only using the oils isn’t in my opinion the best idea there’s conflicting information about exactly how much sun protection you’ll actually get, and most reports don’t list a high enough SPF to do much good. The AAD-recommendation for protecting our skin is with a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB), SPF 30 (blocking 97% of UV rays) product. Antioxidants, like those found in many of the oils, will help protect you against the free radicals that come with UV radiation. The free radical theory of aging (FRTA) states that organisms age because cells accumulate free radical damage over time. For most biological structures, free radical damage is closely associated with oxidative damage. Antioxidants are reducing agents, and limit oxidative damage to biological structures. They could give those natural sunscreens a boost when used in conjunction with them if you check labels many already include them in the formulations.


A study in Carcinogenesis compared a control group of hairless mice to mice that were pretreated with olive oil prior to UVB exposure and mice that had olive oil applied after sun exposure. At first, there was a notable difference in tumor growth between the control group and the mice that were pretreated, but over time, that difference decreased. Where the difference was sustained, however, was in the mice that were treated with olive oil after the UVB exposure.


In a separate study, researchers tested the effects of using a combination of antioxidants C and E to pigs’ skin. They also tested vitamins E and C separately and found the combination to be superior in offering sun protection, though E and C did offer some sun protection hen used separately. It makes sense to believe that antioxidants found in oils could offer a similar effect for us.


There are many organic and vegan sunblocks out there! 

If chemical sunblocks make you uneasy look for physical sunblocks that contain: Titanium dioxide (TiO2) or Zinc oxide (ZnO)!



I hope that this sheds some light on to this subject!



While I’ve attempted to use credible sources for information, this is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. If there is a disparity between the information presented within this blog and the advice given by your medical professional, please follow the medical professional’s advice as he/she will know you and your medical circumstances.

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