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Ditch the Toxic Sunscreen; Use Coconut Oil Instead

Paul Fassa
June 29th, 2013
Updated 06/29/2013 at 6:44 am
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sunscreen on beach 263x164 Ditch the Toxic Sunscreen; Use Coconut Oil Instead Summer time is beach time, or at least poolside time. But if you want some protection form the sun’s UV rays, don’t always reach for toxic sunscreens. Instead, pack some extra virgin coconut oil along with your beach towel and umbrella.

That’s right, the same extra virgin coconut oil found in your kitchen pantry will do the trick to protect your skin – minus the toxicity from health-compromising ingredients. Coconut oil has been used as an effective sunscreen for thousands of years by indigenous, pacific islanders. Why slather toxic chemicals on your body when you can use non toxic coconut oil instead?

There are two types of UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are primarily responsible for skin damage from excessive sun exposure that can lead to cancer and skin aging. However, although UVB rays can also cause damage and sunburn, they are necessary for your body to produce its own cancer protective vitamin D via the skin.

Sunlight is by far the optimal way to produce your vitamin D. Blocking UVB rays may inadvertently be increasing your cancer risk by blocking vitamin D absorption. Plus, sunscreen causes cancer through carcinogenic ingredients.

Avoid Toxic Sunscreens

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) approximately 75% of commercial sunscreens contain toxic chemicals that are linked to cancer and disrupt hormones.

Store bought sunscreens typically contain:

  • Retinyl palmitate, a known skin cancer hazard.
  • Oxybenzone, which disrupts hormones leading to cell damage and cancer.
  • Zinc and titanium nanoparticles are in colorless sun screen lotions.

Those and other chemicals rubbed on your skin are readily absorbed into your bloodstream and can be just as unhealthy and toxic as an oral dose.

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) Hoax

An excerpt from a 2012 CNN article about sunscreens:

“The EWG said consumers should not purchase sunscreens with SPF greater than 50. SPF (sun protection factor) works by absorbing, reflecting or scattering the sun’s rays on the skin. It is very misleading to put high SPF numbers on labels because it gives consumers a false sense of security and doesn’t offer a lot more protection.”

While SPF 85 may sound like a lot more protection than SPF 30, the higher the number doesn’t always offer a higher return. Studies show that sunscreen with SPF 15 can block about 93% of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97%. SPF 50 blocks 98%. The protective factors plateau from there.

“A product with SPF 100+ blocks about 99.1 percent of the UVB rays. You don’t really need a high number. They end up being expensive and don’t offer more protection than SPF 50. Keep in mind, SPF protects only against UVB rays.”

Coconut oil has an SPF of 10 which means 90% of beneficial vitamin D creating UBV rays are blocked. How many people know that SPF ratings do not indicate any protection from the highly damaging UVA rays?

Yet, the American Cancer Society advises to apply a generous amount of of toxic commercial sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure and minimally every two hours thereafter, reapplying after being in the water, sweating, and towel drying.

Choose Coconut Oil for Sunscreen Instead

Daily exposure to the sun is essential to your overall health; it’s the overexposure that could cause some issues. Sunshine exposure is the best way for your body to create health protecting vitamin D. To protect against sunburn, use a non-toxic sunscreen like coconut oil or opt for a low-risk, safe sunscreen that doesn’t contain health-compromising ingredients.

Bruce Fife, ND, author of Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut Oil, explains that coconut oil applied on the skin protects against sunburn and cancer. Unlike sunscreen, unprocessed coconut oil doesn’t completely block the UVB rays that are necessary for vitamin D synthesis. It protects the skin and underlying tissues from damage excessive exposure can cause. Instead of burning or turning red, it produces a light tan, depending on the length of time you spend in the sun.

Fife asserts that “Consuming coconut oil also strengthens the skin and makes it more resilient and less prone to sunburn.” He warns against using hydrolyzed or processed oil. Just make sure the coconut oil is pure and not processed.

Additional Sources:


NY Times

From around the web:

  • John Dough

    If you want to age your skin with UV rays, then take the advice in this article. Yes coconut oil does provide some protection. Other oils offer even better protection such as Buriti and Red Raspberry. These oils will NEVER substitute for a quality sunscreen used in the right amount. Non nano zinc oxide is best. And you most certainly don’t need the sun to get vitamin D. Supplements work just fine. This has been proven for many years now.

  • celiayounger

    DOES COCONUT oil protects from sun rays? or increases the color of the skin? I don’t think coconut i has any protection to radiation or rays. Am I wrong?

  • celiayounger

    are you sure of that? I know my mother uses oil (coconut) and helped her to get suntan quicker. but i don’t think it protected her. It will be nice that scientist really investigate this and what you say is true. Thank you.

  • celiayounger

    I don’t think so. that’s only my opinion. any oil cooks your skin. It has to be a natural product that will cover and protect from sun rays. One thing you can do is cover your arms with a very thing -silk or… cotton, almost transparent- blouse.

  • Hennie

    I am a redhead..freckles and very prone to sunburn. I never sunbath, avoid sun at midday, but it is unavoidable in the Mediterranean to get sun. Face and arms are always exposed. Would you still recommend coconut oil?

  • Josh

    Whatever else the article may have gotten right or wrong, the claim that SPF is a hoax is based on a mathematical misunderstanding. By definition, SPF X means that X hours in the sun with protection is the same as 1 hour in the sun without. The numbers he gives simply prove this to be correct.

    So, according to the math, an SPF 10 would block 90% of the sun's rays. An SPF 30 should give us three times the protection. Does that mean it blocks 270% of the sun's rays? Of course not. By blocking 97% of the sun's rays, only 3% gets through, vs the 10% on the SPF 10. You're only getting a third of the sun's rays and therefore three times the sun's protection.

    In other words, after saying the SPF is a hoax, he immediately gives numbers to prove it right.

    • Anonymous

      The article doesn’t say that SPF is a hoax, the section is titled, “the SPF hoax.” The hoax is that consumers are led to believe a much greater protection factor is available in higher SPF products, not that the calculations are bogus.

  • ratp

    Other info I have read contradict the 90% stat listed above. Like this, which is worth further research for anyone interested: "Coconut oil protects the body from sunburn and skin cancer without blocking the beneficial UV radiation. Coconut oil doesn’t rely on blocking out the sun’s rays, it works by preventing free-radical reactions which lead to all the consequences caused by overexposure to the sun. So the SPF number of coconut oil is meaningless."

  • Sean Carter

    Great advice. really learned a lot about the different numbers associated with sunscreens. We have been on the look out for the best natural sunscreen we could find. It really seems like the best option. Protecting ourselves this summer is the key !

  • Nicole Hood-Dolderer

    Love everthing natural

  • Elaine

    Amy, if you are a chemist, you should know that it only takes 28 seconds for anything you put on your skin to absorb into your bloodstream and that is a scientific fact. Go ahead and lather up!

    • Liz

      28 seconds? So I put this steak on my arm for an hour, but I'm still hungry….

  • Mary-Ann Young

    Hmmm, I'm a bit confused by the term "extra" virgin. Everything I have ever read about coconut oil states the same, it is a made up marketing term. This is one example

  • tuco22

    An easier thing to do would be to just not "lay out" for hours on end and wear sun-protective clothing if you have a tendency to burn.

  • Moe

    Sorry. I said Google "no such thing as virgin olive oil." Of course, I meant "No such thing as extra virgin coconut oil"

  • Moe

    This is great information. Just one problem with the wording. Unlike Olive oil, the industry has never set a standard for Virgin coconut oil. It is basically Organic oil (no chemicals, etc,) Extra Virgin is just a gimmick by manufacturers to make it sound extra special. I don't trust distributors who use the Extra virgin term. Google "no such thing as virgin olive oil" and see what comes up.

    • Elaine

      Extra Virgin just means that it is not heavily processed and is in a more pure form. I reserve my extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings or drizzling over pastas. The coconut oil I purchase is 100% organic, pure, unrefined and cold pressed. Carrington Farms is the brand and I purchase it at Costco. A 54oz jar is only $15.99 If you have not yet discovered the joy of cooking with coconut oil, I highly suggest you try it! Oddly enough, it does not cause your food to taste like coconut.

  • Bob Cotton

    Another method I have used for over forty years of running is to take PABA pills. Adele Davis recommended this, and it has always worked for me, though I avoid extended exposure at midday. PABA is naturally present in the body, though it is not itself an essential nutrient.

  • Marji

    This is a perfect example of the problems with our educational system. There is very little 'critical thinking' going on here. To summarize the claims about sunscreen oils: (1) SPF 15 blocks 93% of all incoming UVB rays. (2) SPF 30 blocks 98% of same. (3) SPF 50 blocks 98%. HOW COULD COCONUT OIL WITH SPF 10% BLOCK 90% OF UVB RAYS? Come on you guys… do the math!

    • Guest

      SPF 10 blocks 90%, SPF 15 blocks 93% of all incoming UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 98% of same, SPF 50 blocks 98%…
      Why are you confused by this progression?

  • Ned

    Um, I meant, If chemicals aren't absorbed through the skin, why is most testosterone replacement therapy applied through the skin?

    • Rich

      To be clear, you must have misunderstood. Chemicals emphatically ARE absorbed through the skin, here's a quote from the article above: "Those [ ie. Retinyl palmitate, Oxybenzone, Zinc and titanium nanoparticles] and other chemicals rubbed on your skin are readily absorbed into your bloodstream and can be just as unhealthy and toxic as an oral dose."

      The hormone replacement therapy creams are rubbed on to the skin precisely because the skin will absorb them quickly and efficiently.

  • Ned

    If chemicals aren't absorbed through the skin, why is testosterone most replacement therapy applied through the skin?

    • Elaine

      It only takes 28 seconds for anything you put on your skin to be absorbed into your bloodstream so it is best to only use natural and organic products. Sunflower oil is also good to use as a sunblock.

  • Paul

    'As I've mentioned on numerous other occasions, it's important to understand that chemicals are readily absorbed into your bloodstream and body through your skin. And sometimes this can be even more hazardous to your health than swallowing it.'–Dr. Mercola

  • Amy the chemist

    This is so bad! Sunscreen cannot be absorbed into your blood screen! The chemicals used in sunscreens are not harmful unless you start eating the stuff in cup fulls everyday. This is just fear mongering BS to make people read their articles. It was obviously not written by a scientist or Dr and is just a bunch of misinformation found on Google. This whole article is bullshit! Coconut oil does have some skin protecting qualities but it is not a replacement for your sunscreen. The SPF is used as a UVB rating but if the package says Broad Spectrum it has UVA protection too.

    The links are to sources on this website. I was to see the actual data. Sunscreen does not cause cancer. SUN DOES! I love my grandma and my grandpa-in-law to Melanoma.

    • Michael Ross Pomroy

      Amy Maybe you should go back to school. If chemicals applied to the skin cannot enter the bloodstream let me give you a test. Take a clove of garlic. Slice a place in your shoe. In about 15 minutes you will have garlic breathe.Explain haow this happens.

      Paul I have used Diatamatious Clay with the coconut oil to create a sunblock. Thanks for the article.

    • Matt

      Okay Amy, since cupfulls won't kill you please start eating spoon fulls of the stuff every day and report back. Sunscreen makes me feel bad, period. I don't need to be scientist to figure that out.

    • suss

      amy your a typical "brainwashed so called educated moron" love the garlic analogy btw!!!! ha ha ha sorry to be so mean but seriously i'm so sick of your "type" your "type" are the very reason mankind are killing us and the planet!!!!

  • Paul

    Paula – Yes, that sentence is correct: 'Coconut oil has an SPF of 10 which means 90% of the beneficial vitamin D creating UVB rays are blocked.'

    • suss

      i use coconut oil as my regular body moisturizer, then am i blocking vitamin d? i don't want to? or does the protection wear off fairly soon- i hope!!!

  • Shirley

    Should you re-apply after being the water?

  • Paula

    Coconut oil has an SPF of 10 which means 90% of beneficial vitamin D creating UBV rays are blocked.

    Is this sentence, in your post, correct?

    • Anonymous

      Cant even do a spell check let alone actual facts on the matter!

      • Anonymous

        You forgot the apostrophy in can’t. Ironically you can’t spell check either apparently.