My friend Sam is an unabashed and outspoken food snob.
We often take big trips together, and inevitably, we will find ourselves in an unfamiliar city, looking for a place to eat.
We’ll peek into one restaurant, and a second, and a third…
And if we ever come across a restaurant that looks nice, and particularly one that has a great view, Sam will immediatley say:
“I’m not eating here. They are selling the view instead of the food. Let’s go somewhere else.”
A nice view is a deal breaker for him when it comes to restaurants.
(And more often than not, I’ve found out that he’s right.)
I bring this up because it’s now springtime.
And I’ve been seeing the re-emergence of an essential oil topic that’s a deal breaker for me.
If I see that an EO blogger is writing about this topic, I know they are sloppy about their research and are just repeating misinformation they read on other sites.
What’s the topic?
“How you can use essential oils as natural sunscreens.”
The typical claim is that essential oils like carrot seed have SPF 30, 40, or even more.
I dug into this issue a couple of years ago to see what research I could find.
And it is true that a few essential and carrier oils were shown in a laboratory setting to have SPF between 1 and 8:
There are a few big issues here.
First off, these SPF numbers aren’t very high. Peppermint oil tops the SPF list for essential oils with 7, which is far less than any conventional sunscreen.
Second, these essential oils will have to be diluted in order to be used on the skin. Dilution will further drive down the SPF rating.
Third, this was done in a laboratory setting, rather than tested on real people. And there are several reasons why the real-life numbers could be still lower (such as evaporation or absorption into skin).
Now, it’s possible that the antioxidant effect of some essential oils might reduce a bit of the damage that too much sun can cause your skin.
But if you’re relying on essential oils to actually prevent a sunburn and the damage it causes, odds are you’ll wind up red and disappointed.
In fact, aromatherapy expert Robert Tisserand has written about exactly this issue, and he had this to say:
Essential oils are not sunscreens! In the annals of misinformation, this probably belongs in the top 5, as it will likely lead to some very burned skin.
The fact is, trying to make your own natural sunscreen is much more complicated and involved than many blogs will lead you to believe.
You will still need a chemical like zinc oxide to actually provide protection from UV rays. Making sure the zinc disperses evenly is not easy, and if you don’t do it right, you will again wind up with a sunburn and the risk of other negative health effects.
If you are interested in making your own sunscreen, Amy Kreydin lays out the basics in this post. But, as she says, “the upfront cost of a Do-It-Yourself sunscreen formulation will be in the thousands.”
So are there any easier, natural ways to protect yourself from too much sun exposure?
Sure there are, but they are nothing as sexy as essential oils.
They come down to old standards such as wearing protective clothing, staying in the shade, or even getting a gradual, light tan which will prevent burning if you are exposed to sudden sunlight.
By the way, if you have your own EO deal breakers, let me know — I’m curious to know what other things to look out for.
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