Skin protection is vitally important at any age. Prolonged exposure to the sun's radiation without adequate protection can dramatically increase the risk of contracting serious skin conditions, including cancer. Sunscreen is an essential part of skin protection, but it can be costly and contain chemicals that irritate sensitive skin. Luckily, there are many natural ingredients that have considerable protective properties that you can use to create sunscreen at home. Keep reading to learn which herbal ingredients have the highest sun protection factor (SPF) to save you from spending on expensive and artificial sun-protection products.
1. Raspberry Seed Oil
There are two types of sun radiation: UVA and UVB. UVB effects the skin on a surface level, and UVA infiltrates the skin more deeply. Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) seed oil is the only herb that can protect the skin from UVA and UVB radiation, making it the most effective natural sunscreen ingredient. Its numerous minerals and high antioxidant levels mean that as well as protecting skin from the sun, it is also an effective treatment for skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema.
2. Carrot Oil
Also doubling as an antiseptic, carrot (Daucus carota) oil has a considerable SPF that protects the skin from UVB radiation, as it's packed full of antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize the free radical activity that occurs as a result of sun exposure, making them an invaluable part of any skin-protection product. In fact, the same antioxidants that give some plants a reddish hue is what the plants use to protect themselves from the sun's radiation.
3. Sunflower Oil
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) oil contains beta-carotene, a compound that can be converted into vitamin A, which has antioxidant properties. Like carrot oil, it is replete with vitamin E, which is renowned for its function as an antioxidant as well as being a natural preservative, ideal for skin healing.
4. Shea Butter
Shea butter, which is derived from the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa), has a protective SPF, and can benefit the skin thanks to its healing and moisturizing ingredients. This natural ingredient is often used in commercial cosmetics and sunscreens for its SPF and smooth aroma.
5. Wheat Germ Oil
Wheat (Triticum spp.) germ oil is packed with vitamins E, K, and B. It neutralizes free radicals and protects the skin from UVB rays, with a moisturizing effect.
6. Zinc Oxide (ZnO)
The mineral compound zinc oxide (available in powdered form) rests on the outside of the skin and protects from UVA and UVB rays. The herbs listed above - with the exception of raspberry oil - do not protect the skin from deeply infiltrating UVA rays, so it would be advisable to combine carrot oil, sunflower oil, shea butter, or wheat germ oil with zinc oxide if you use them as ingredients for your homemade sunscreen, to ensure thorough radiation protection.
It is important to be aware that these herbs are likely to lose their medicinal properties over time, so once you have made your sunscreen, use it within a few weeks. What's more, when purchasing herbal oils, it can be difficult to identify the exact SPF as this is dependent on the concentration of the herb and what carrier oil is used. Remember that sunscreens should be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure to allow the skin time to absorb them, and reapplied at least every two hours.