Coconut Oil and Sun Protection

by Carrie Raab on May 23, 2012

I am happy to announce that I will be having Jennifer as a regular guest on my blog! Jennifer is known as the “coconut guru!” You will learn so much from her and I am honored to have her share all of her information with us. Today she will be discussing the benefits of coconut oil and sun protection.

coconut oil

Coconut Oil and Sun Protection

 It is that time of year again. Great weather, lots of sun, long days spent outdoors. This is also the time of year where everyone worries about damage to their skin from exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Sunscreen flies off the shelves at every store. Moms slather it on their children in thick layers. And this summer, like every summer, harmful chemicals will be absorbed into millions of bodies.

But don’t we need sunscreen and don’t the risks of using it outweigh the damage from unprotected skin exposed to the sun?

There is a lot of debate about sunscreen, its effectiveness, and more recently, it’s potential to actually increase our chances of developing skin cancer. Yes, that’s right. Studies are showing that sunscreens are not all they are cracked up to be. I could get into this topic here, but instead, I would like to direct your attention to a wonderful article which succinctly outlines why sunscreen may indeed cause cancer. You can find it here. You can also read a little further to learn why sunlight actually prevents cancer by clicking here. And to further enlighten you, here is one more article which outlines the pros and cons of sunscreen and sun exposure.

 An important factor in preventing skin damage of any kind from too much sun exposure is understanding your skin type and your resulting SPF needs. Here is a quick breakdown:

  • Type 1 skin burns and freckles but never tans. If you’re red haired with blue or gray eyes, you may fit into this category and should use a sunscreen with the highest SPF rating.
  • Type 2 skin eventually develops a tan but always burns after 20 to 30 minutes in the sun. Type 2s are light blondes with blue or green eyes and should stick to a high SPF (45) sunscreen.
  • Skin cancer occurrence drops drastically at Type 3 skin. People with this skin usually have dark blond or light brown hair and blue, green or brown eyes. They can develop a dark tan but will burn moderately, so should begin with a high SPF (30) sunscreen and gradually work down.
  • Type 4 skin is naturally dark complected, has brown hair and eyes and always tans dark brown. Still, they can burn minimally and should start tanning with an SPF of 15 and work down.
  • With Middle Eastern or Latin American ancestry, Type 5 hardly ever burns but should use a slight sunscreen of SPF 4.
  • Type 6, with black hair and dark skin, usually never burns but should play it safe with a sunscreen of SPF 4.

 One of the most effective ways to protect yourself from sun damage is to slowly expose your skin to the sun and develop what is commonly referred to as the “base tan.” Type 1s would do this more slowly, over a longer period of time and Type 6s would need a very short amount of time to build up natural sun protection.

 A good rule of thumb is to expose your skin to the sun without any sort of “protection” for 15 minute increments every day, between the hours of 8:00am and 10:00am. Over time, your skin will build up natural defenses. Proper clothing choices are also essential and a healthier way to protect your skin from the sun. Cotton clothing has a natural SPF of 15. There are lots of clothing options which allow for layering and increased sun protection while not being too warm or constricting. Hats are a must have year round.

 

 So after reading the information above you are pretty convinced that sunscreen and sunblocks are not the way to go, right? Other than gradual sun exposure and protective clothing, what can you do to protect delicate skin on those days where you will be out in the sun a lot?

 Slather on the COCONUT OIL!  Yes, that’s right. Get your body greased up and ready for the sun by simply using coconut oil!

 According to Dr. Bruce Fife of the Coconut Research Center, “one of the oldest uses for coconut oil is as a sun screen / suntan lotion. Islanders have been using coconut oil for this purpose for thousands of years. In the tropics where the climate is hot, islanders traditionally wore little clothing so that they could keep themselves cool. To protect themselves from the burning rays of the hot tropical sun they applied a thin layer of coconut oil over their entire body. This would protect them from sunburn, improve skin tone and help keep annoying insects away. Coconut oil was applied on the skin daily. When a mother gave birth one of the first things she would do is to rub coconut oil all over her newborn. Every day coconut oil would be used on the skin. As the children got older they applied the oil themselves. They would continue this practice throughout their lifetime up until the day they died. Many islanders, even today, carry on this practice.”

 The first commercial suntan and sun screen lotions contained coconut oil as their primary ingredient. Even today many sun screen lotions include coconut oil in their formulas. Coconut oil has an amazing ability to heal the skin and block the damaging effects of UV radiation from the sun. One of the reasons why it is so effective in protecting the skin is its antioxidant properties, which helps prevent burning and oxidative damage that promotes skin cancer.

 The general consensus in the natural health community is to apply coconut oil liberally being mindful that it will not prevent sunburn 100%.  Follow the guidelines above to build your base suntan and wear protective clothing when possible. Reapply the coconut oil after swimming or sweating. And do not sit out in full sun for 8 hours and expect to walk away with a perfect bronzed body.  It won’t happen. You will get burned.

 I have used coconut oil as sun protection for the past two summers.  This summer will be my third.  I apply it before going outside to any part of me that will be exposed.  I often find myself outside during “peak” hours. I hate protective clothing. So lots of me is exposed with nothing but coconut oil on.  I do take care to only say out for an hour or two. I have not burned once in the past two years. I use to always burn despite how high of an SPF protection I used. Hmmmm….

 Still not convinced that it will work?  Check out this great pictorial from someone who accidentally discovered how effective coconut oil is as a sunscreen: http://pullupsandpaleo.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/coconut-oil-as-sunscreen/

 If you prefer to use something more akin to a sunscreen, I have a great recipe in my Ebook: Coconut Oil For Your Skin – Nourishing Your Body From The Outside In. And be sure to check out 160 Uses for Coconut Oil to learn more about this amazing product!

 Yours in coconut health,

Jennifer- Hybrid Rasta Mama

About Hybrid Rasta Mama

Jennifer, author of Hybrid Rasta Mama, is a former government recruiter turned stay-at-home mama to a precious daughter (“Tiny”) brought earthside in early 2009. She is passionate about conscious parenting, natural living, holistic health/wellness, real foods, and a Waldorf inspired approach to education. Jennifer is committed to breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding), bed-sharing, cloth diapering, green living, babywearing, peaceful parenting, playful parenting, and getting children outside. She is a hybrid parent, taking a little of this, throwing in a little of that, and blending it all together to create a parenting style that is centered on what her daughter needs in order to flourish as a human being. Jennifer also lives and breathes reggae music, the Rastafarian culture and way of life. Reggae music and its message touches her soul.

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