For many generations, coconut oil has been the main ingredient in suntan and sunscreen lotions. As time has passed, coconut oil has been replaced with many harmful chemicals that are meant to block the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UV rays).
Let’s talk protection
As consumers we have been taught that overexposure of sun will lead to cancer. Due to this obsession with sunscreen, many people are lathering on SPF 45 or higher to protect their skin. An SPF is a measure of how much UV radiation is blocked. Coconut Oil has an SPF of 4, which blocks 75% off UV radiation. 75% protection is about 45 minutes of sun exposure. An SPF 15 blocks 94%, an SPF 30 blocks 97%, and SPF of 40 blocks 98%. Anything above this only offers minimal additional protection.
Now, if we are talking about SPF and how much UV radiation is blocked using coconut oil, then SPF 4 is low. However, the benefit of using coconut oil is beyond how much UV radiation is blocked. When you are blocking the penetration of these natural wavelengths from the sun, you can be doing more harm than good. Essentially you are creating a vitamin D deficiency. Coconut oil allows the beneficial rays to get through, which prevent free radical formation. Let’s discuss this further.
Vitamin D is an essential fat soluble vitamin that is produced by the sunlight which activates cholesterol in our skin. Because of this, sunlight is a key player in building a healthy immune system, fighting free radicals, blocking the formation of cancer, and easing chronic inflammation. All of these factors promote health and longevity.
People who reside North of Alabama in North America do not receive adequate sunlight. It is very difficult to get enough Vitamin D through our diet because there are few foods that contain good sources. If you are not someone that regularly consumes organ meats, such as liver and fish liver oils, then your best source of Vitamin D is the sunlight.
Chemicals in our conventional sunscreen
Many of these chemicals are not tested for safety since we do not actually consume sun block. Not only can some of the chemicals that are in sunscreen be harmful, in some studies they are actually shown to promote cancer. The problem that arises is that our skin is our largest organ and it will absorb anything that is topically applied. Once it is absorbed through the skin, it has the potential to enter into our bloodstream. Do you want chemicals such as isopentenyl-4-methoxycinnamate, butyl-methdiebenzoylmethane, and octyle salicylate in your blood stream?
Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are the most common ingredients in sunblock that are used to block the UV radiation. When these ingredients are applied to the skin and are exposed to the sunlight, they can actually create free radicals. Production of free radicals is what contributes to cell damage, chronic inflammation and an increased risk for cancer.
Using coconut oil as natural sunscreen
Coconut oil can protect the body from sunburn as long as it is used correctly. Keep in mind that if you have a very fair complexion, it’s still not a good idea to cover yourself in coconut oil and stay out in the sun for hours. It is important to ease into it. The goal is to avoid burning. Cancer is in fact linked to those individuals that continually get sunburned, not those that are simply exposed to the sun. You will want to use an extra virgin, organic coconut oil, we suggest one from Tropical Traditions.
Coconut Oil Natural Suncreen
Baby steps to getting started:
- Day one: apply a thin layer of coconut oil to your skin, go into the sun for about 20 minutes. (You want your skin to become a slightly pink, but not red.)
- Day two through 14: apply a thin layer of coconut oil to your skin, increase your sun exposure about 10 minutes from the previous day. (Day 2: 30 minutes, Day 3: 40 minutes, etc.)
- After about two weeks of this strategy, you should be able to safely expose yourself (after applying coconut oil) for several hours at a time without getting a sunburn.
Eat the right fats
Another contributing factor is your diet. Make sure to start including additional healthy fats into your diet as well as coconut oil. Consuming them will continue to help protect your body against free radicals, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. By eating coconut oil your skin will have an added layer of protection against the sun.
Fife, B. Healthy Ways Newsletter 2001