"Before you read, please keep in mind that this post has been originally published in the summer of 2015; therefore, some of the information provided here may be outdated (such as studies on the UV capabilities of Raspberry Seed Oil, which some of you have kindly pointed out). This fact, however, does not change my point of view on the issue."
- Yours, AA
In the past couple years there has been an increasing interest around the use of natural oils as sunscreens. There are hundreds (if not more) blog posts and DIY sunscreen recipes all over the internet that promise all-natural UV protection. In this post I will try to get to the bottom of this subject by providing facts and busting the myths around the most popular oils with high SPF claims - Raspberry Seed and Carrot Seed Oils.
Let's start with the basics and talk about what sunscreen is and what SPF stands for.
Sunscreen (also commonly known as sun screen, sunblock, suntan lotion, sunburn cream, sun cream or block out) is a lotion, spray, gel or other topical product that absorbs or reflects some of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the skin exposed to sunlight and thus helps protect against sunburn.
SPF – or Sun Protection Factor – is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Here's how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – about five hours. SPF does not equal the amount of protection. It indicates how long will it take for the skin to redden when a particular product is applied, as compared to unprotected skin.
There are 2 types of UV radiation (Well, it's technically 3 but UVC - the 3rd type, doesn't reach the earth as it is absorbed by the ozone layer). So the first type is UVA light which has a longer wave and this is the type of radiation that causes the aging, wrinkling. UVA is also known as a "tanning" rays. The second type - UVB, has a shorter wave length and is considered to be the main cause of sunburns. Both types of UV radiation are attributed to skin cancer. In order to be protected from both types we should choose a sunscreen that is broad spectrum.
More people are looking for natural alternatives to chemical UV filters that are commonly used in conventional sunscreens. It is known that some natural oils and butters, such as Jojoba, Avocado, Shea and a few others possess a small amount of SPF (around 2-4). This amount is however rather too small to provide with any significant protection against of the UV rays. This SPF claims also can not be considered trustworthy since the SPF can vary depending on the methods of extraction and individual quality of raw material used. On top of this, here in the USA sunscreen is considered to be an over-the-counter drug, thus it is strictly regulated by the FDA. One can not just mix a few ingredients that hypothetically may contain an SPF and call it a sunscreen. The two oils that have been widely advertised for having a high SPF by the bloggers and diy'ers are the Raspberry and Carrot Seed oils.
So what is Raspberry Seed Oil?
This is how I have described Raspberry Seed in one of my previous posts:
Highly moisturizing and emollient Red Raspberry (aka Rubus idaeus) seed oil is bright gold to reddish in color with characteristic fruity aroma. It contains high amounts of alpha and gamma tocopherols (Vitamin E), polyphenols and Vitamin C. It is also rich in Vitamin A and contains up to 83% omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Red raspberry seed oil has more pronounced anti-inflammatory properties than avocado, grapeseed, hazelnut and wheatgerm oils and may prove to be the most effective oil to use in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions. Due to a high level of Vitamin A it can also be beneficial in on oily and acneic skin types. Its strong antioxidant, nourishing and healing properties along with a stable shelf life make it an attractive ingredient for many types of skincare products.So, Raspberry seed oil is a carrier oil with great anti-oxidant properties.
Now, lets talk about Carrot Seed Oil.
Carrot seed oil is the essential oil extract of the seed from the carrot plant Daucus carota. The oil has a woody, earthy sweet smell and is yellow or amber-coloured to pale orange-brown in appearance. The pharmocologically active constituents of carrot seed extract are three flavones: luteolin, luteolin 3'-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside, and luteolin 4'-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside.[Wikipedia]
Carrot Seed oil is not a carrier oil, on the other hand. It normally comes in a form of an essential oil. Essential oils have a different chemical composition to carrier oils and normally should not be used at a full strength (undiluted).
So what is the hype about the oils photo protective capabilities?
Many sources claim that Raspberry Seed Oil contains an SPF of 28-40 and Carrot Seed Oil - 30-40. This seems high, isn't it? But what is the source of these claims? Where is the proof, a study or anything related? Here is what Robert Tisserand (one of the world's leading expert in aromatherapy) have said on his official Facebook page:
"I have been asked a few times recently to provide evidence that carrot seed essential oil is not an effective sunscreen. I think the onus is on those who claim that it is a sunscreen to provide some substantiating evidence. The purported 38-40 SPF for carrot seed oil is based on some Indian research where they tested a natural sunscreen product that contained "Daucus carota" AND OTHER INGREDIENTS, and the product had an SPF of 38 in one test, and 40 in another. This does not mean that carrot seed oil of any type has a meaningful SPF. It's more likely that they used carrot seed fatty oil than any other type of carrot extract, but the article does not give us that information. So, carrot seed FATTY oil may be very slightly sun-protective, but it has no known SPF. And, there are no essential oils that meaningfully filter UV rays.And here is what another well-known expert in aromatherapy - Gabriel Mojay says about Carrot Seed Oil Spf claim:
The bogus claim that carrot seed oil and/or essential oil provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of 38-40 is made largely on websites belonging to 'Independent Distributors' of Young Living products. The claim rests solely on an article that appeared in Pharmacognosy Magazine in 2009...http://www.phcog.com/article.asp…Having studied the article in question - and in particular the chart listing the un-named and therefore coded 14 'natural' sunscreen products tested - I am convinced that it provides no basis whatsoever for claiming that carrot seed oil and/or essential oil provides a SPF of 38-40.The reason? Because the only product tested ('HS3') containing Daucus carota, together with 'Symplocos' and 'wheat germ', listed here...http://www.phcog.com/viewimage.asp…...is quite obviously this product...http://www.ayurvikalp.com/…/Biotique-CARROT-Face-Body-Sun-L…...which contains zinc. It is primarily the zinc which makes the cream SPF 38-40, not the carrot seed oil and/or essential oil (the 'Independent Distributors' tend to refer to them interchangeably). People should be warned against making their own carrot oil-based sun protective cream, erroneously believing it will protect them against UV rays – especially where 3-year-old children are concerned... http://www.newsreview.com/chico/sunscreen-naturally/content…
As for Raspberry Seed Oil, I was not able to find any studies or proof showing that it has any sun-protective capabilities, so I have decided to conduct a little experiment of my own. One a cloudy day a few weeks ago, I have applied an Organic Raspberry Seed Oil on my face and neck and went for a walk in a local botanical garden. Our botanical garden had plenty of shade and I was not in the sun most of the time. My walk lasted for about 1,5-2 hours. A few hours after getting back to the house I have assessed the 'damage'. As a result of this experiment I did develop sun-induced erythema (redness). My skin was also flaking during the days #2 and #3 following this experiment. The conclusion? Raspberry Seed oil does not provide with adequate protection from the sun!
As much as I advocate for natural skin care solutions as a holistic esthetician, I can not recommend using any oils in place of your sunscreen. Whether they are used alone or mixed together in a balm, these oils DO NOT provide with sun protection. They however can be a great addition to a properly formulated sunscreen and can also help with skin soothing and regeneration after the sun exposure. If you still need more proof, check out this article posted by Formula Botanica on their website.
Raspberry Seed oil has a pretty impressive antioxidant profile. It is rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids and contains a high level of Vitamin E. It's anti-inflammatory properties are phenomenal and are said to be even greater than those of Avocado, Grapeseed and Wheatgerm oils. Even though I don't recommend using it in place of a sunscreen, I love using Raspberry Seed oil in my oil-serum formulations like this "Youthful Glow" antioxidant face oil. This light and silky face oil formula is loaded with antioxidants. It helps rejuvenate dull and environmentally damaged skin and restores youthful glow in any skin type.
As always I hope you found this post useful. Please choose your sunscreen wisely and always practice safe sun!