I am going to admit. This area is not one I am very familiar with. I have never used a sunscreen in my life, never bought one and at the beginning of writing this post, I was not even sure how they even work.
I simply know that people use them because they don’t want to get dark in the sun and something about ultra violent rays (UV) causing skin damage, accelerating ageing etc. Let us stop assuming and lets dive into the true picture.
What is a sunscreen?
A sunscreen is a lotion, spray, or cream that is developed to protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun such as the Ultraviolet (UV) rays. The main reason that people use sunscreen is for health (to prevent skin cancer) and vanity (to prevent accelerated ageing, maintain their skin tone etc.).
There are many components that determine the quality and effectiveness of a sunscreen product. Some of these determining components are SPF level, spectrum of the sunscreen (a broad spectrum is preferred as it protects from a wider range of ultraviolent rays), mechanism of protecting the skin, type of ingredients (natural or not) etc.
You can learn more about sunscreens and what to look for when buying one from here.
When should I use sunscreen?
Many of us including me, think we should use sunscreen when it is obviously sunny outside. Turns out as advised by professionals, you need to apply it every day even on a cloudy day as the sun is till shinning and the UV rays are still reaching the earth surface.
Do tanned/dark skinned people need sunscreen?
It is time to get it out of your head that just because you are not snow white that means you are somehow immune to sun damage. That is very untrue and a potentially dangerous assumption.
Yes a lighter person will need a stronger dose of sunscreen than a darker person but they both need to use sun screen to prevent skin damage.
Studies have shown that darker people are becoming more susceptible to sun damage and skin cancer than lighter skinned people because they don’t take using a sunscreen seriously
How much SPF is needed by an adult?
The acronym SPF stands for the sun protection factor. It is a common measure in determining the brand of sunscreen to buy. SPF is used to indicate the ability of the sunscreen agent to protect against ultraviolent radiations from the sun that are said to be the cause of ageing, skin burns, skin cancer etc.
An average adult needs a product that has a 25-30 SPF count which will provide about 96-98% protection from the sun. Remember 100% protection from the sun rays is not possible.
There are some products on the market that claim to have a count of 100 or more SPF count. This does not mean the margin between them and the 30 SPF count is significant. At most, it can give you a 99% protection. So it might not even be worth its cost if it is an expensive high end product.
In my opinion an SPF of about 15 is still not bad as it gives about 93% protection. That is not a bad number at all.
Even though some of the recommended natural sunscreens are on the lower end of the spectrum, they still do work by giving at-least 85% protection from the sun.
An SPF chart
Source: Appalachian mountain club
Why use natural sunscreen?
As we approach the hot and sunny weather in Nigeria, people are beginning to search for sunscreen options and are trying to determine which will be best for them.
The difference between a natural sunscreen and a sunscreen made form chemicals in a lab is very significant and due to the harmful impact such sunscreen, natural sunscreens are slowly becoming very popular.
Did you know that some of the chemicals in a typical sunscreen product which contains oxybenzone affects your hormonal balance and activity, allergies, etc.
Natural sunscreens are mainly made for minerals such as zinc oxide and plant compounds to reflect the ultraviolet rays away from the skin. Using natural sunscreens is not just better for your body and health, but also it protects the environment.
We all have the responsibility of maintaining and protecting the environment (in this case, the coral reefs) through the decisions and actions we take every day.
Those that have a sensitive skin or a skin condition such as eczema are best advised to use a natural sunscreen to avoid aggrevating their symptoms.
Natural sun screens
Carrot seed oil – SPF: 38-40
To my knowledge, this oil has tone of the highest SPF in natural oils. This is partly because natural oils mostly have low SPF levels. Carrot seed oil is not the same as carrot oil. the seed oil is derived from the seed while carrot oil can be derived from different parts of the plant.
This difference in the raw material of extraction is the reason why theses two oils have different properties. You need to be aware of these differences when purchasing this oil as a sunscreen.
Shea butter – SPF: 6-10
Shea butter is a known butter of Africa for centuries we use it for mostly skin and hair care. In the past and maybe even today, it used to be used as an oil for frying food.
Now you can use she butter to protect your skin while moisturizing it and protecting it from dryness. Isn’t that wonderful? This butter can even be up to an SPF of 10 depending on the quality you were able to get in the market.
Olive oil – SPF: 8
Olive oil is one of the three most common oils in Nigeria. You can get them almost anywhere that they sell oil around the country. An SPF of 8 will protect you from about 88% of the UV rays. Its not a bad score in my opinion, its natural and it is not expensive.
Coconut oil – SPF: 8
Coconut oil like olive oil should be easy to get. Just remember to keep some in your bag, office and at home for re-application after you feel that the oil has worn off. I hope you don’t forget that.
Soya bean oil – SPF:10
I know many of us in this country are using this oil for cooking but I think this post will make you change your mind. Soya bean oil even has a higher SPF than coconut and olive oil. When buying this oil, remember to get a very good quality as it is common for our oils locally produced to be adultrated.
Avocado oil –SPF: 15
We use avocado for various beauty and body care purposes beyond just food. When you use this natural oil, you are not just getting sun protection but also many other benefits to your skin and body such as anti–ageing, moisturizing, prevents dryness, skin repair, skin elasticity etc.
Where to get these oils in Nigeria:
You can get them from the natural products shops, oil shops and wellness shops in Nigeria. Of these oils, shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil, are the most commonly available. You can get them easily.
Soya bean oil, carrot seed oil and avocado oil will need some more effort before you can find where to buy them. You might just get lucky by finding them easily.
Some truths on sunscreen
- No sunscreen is water-resistant or waterproof as they write on the product packs. You will need to reapply once you are in contact with water.
- UVA and UVB sun rays all damage the skin but unfortunately, most sunscreens mostly measure UVB. This means you can still suffer from skin damage even when you have used sunscreen consistently. It is advised to select a sunscreen with a broad spectrum label for better protection
- Good news: You don’t need to apply much sunscreen if you wear clothes that cover your body well such as long sleeve tops and long skirts and trousers. In this case, only apply it to the exposed skin on your body like your face
- Wearing sunscreen will not prevent a person from tanning or getting darker in the sun. It mostly prevents sun burn and sun damage
Tips on applying a sun screen
Most of the time, we apply our sun screen mostly on the face, arms and legs before going about our day. Here are some tips on how to get the maximum benefit from your sunscreen:
- Apply a full and thick coverage of the product you are using else, if the layer is too thin, it might only work at half its capacity.
- You might need to reapply your sunscreen if it has worn off e.g by touching water during the day
- When applying your makeup, apply the sunscreen first before the moisturizer especially if using chemical sunscreen. Wait for 15 minutes while the skin absorbs the chemicals (scary) then you can begin your makeup routine. If you are using a natural sun screen, then just apply it and move on with your makeup.
I did come across some recipes for making your own natural sunscreen from but I personally will not use a sunscreen recipe but a simple singular raw oil or butter that I know is a good sunscreen. I believe it will be best to avoid mixing things unnecessarily. If you are interested in these remedies, check them out on pinterest.
I hope these oils do the job for you as they are not just used as a sunscreen but also for maintaining a healthy and clear skin. Remember the SPF levels of these oils depend on the purity of the oil and the extraction process.
I will advise you to get the best quality of oil and it should be cold pressed that means, excessive heat was not used in its extraction thereby maintaining its most of its properties.
Kindly let me know your thoughts on this article by voting down below and in the comment section. Thank you for stopping by. Enjoy your day 🙂