How Natural Plant Oils can Help to Protect your Skin this Summer
As temperatures rise, so too can the number of environmental stressors our skin has to face – from dehydrating air-conditioned rooms, chlorine filled pools, heat and the sun’s UV rays, our skin faces numerous additional challenges each summer.
Nourished healthy skin
Dry, stressed and malnourished skin has little chance in defending itself against the most common of summer’s environmental stressors, let alone the sun’s harmful UV rays. This means that the first step we need to take to protect our skin this summer, is to ensure our skin has the food and nourishment it needs to build its own defences.
Most mainstream moisturisers are designed to sit on top of the skins surface (you can read more about why here). This means that as soon as you wash them off, your skin is left dry, itchy and most likely craving moisture. Effectively, these mainstream "moisturising" creams and lotions are doing little to nourish or feed your skin, instead, they are probably drying it out.
As natural plant oils can penetrate deep in to the skin’s epidermal layers, much deeper than mainstream creams and lotions do, they can efficiently nourish and feed the skin from within. When your skin is adequately nourished and healthy, it has the best chance to defend itself against summer's additional environmental stressors.
"When your skin is adequately nourished and healthy it has the best chance to defend itself against summer’s additional environmental stressors."
What… you can use oils to protect your skin from the Sun? I thought they just made skin burn easier?
No, not necessarily. In the past few years there has been increasing interest around the use of natural plant oils for sunscreens. Whilst not all oils offer protection from the Sun’s UV rays, and not all are strong enough for everyone, there have been studies that have suggested that some plant oils can offer some broad-spectrum UV protection.
For instance, this study showed the potential for Red Raspberry Seed Oil to be used as a broad-spectrum UV protectant, and others have suggested it has an SPF of 28+.
This study found Carrot Seed Oil to have an SPF of 19, and there are also a host of other natural plant oils which have been shown to have SPF values up to 10 including Macadamia oil, Hemp seed oil, Avocado oil, Almond oil and Jojoba oil.
Deliberately, to provide your skin with that extra level of defence against the sun’s UV rays, I use all the above natural plant oils in my Face & Body Elixir.
Do Plant Oils Work as a Sunscreen?
From my own experience, whilst I was living in Morocco, I found my Face & Body Elixir to be a great all-over daily sunscreen.
In addition to my regular daily skincare routine, when I was at the beach or out in the sun, I would apply my elixir throughout the day just like you would do with any other mainstream sunscreen. Surprisingly, despite spending a lot of time in the Moroccan sun without mainstream sunscreen on, I rarely got burnt.
Upon returning to Australia however, where the sun’s rays are stronger thanks to the thinning in the ozone layer, I found that I couldn’t rely on my Elixir alone as my sunscreen anymore.
Interestingly though, compared to a previous time when I used mainstream moisturisers, my skin takes much longer to burn now. Further, the areas that I apply my Elixir to twice daily (eg my face), will take much longer to burn than the other areas of my body where I don’t apply my Elixir to as regularly (eg my back/stomach).
So whilst long term and regular use of natural plant oils can help your skin to protect itself from the minimal everyday exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays, you shouldn’t expect plant oils to work in the same way as mainstream sunscreens do - i.e. don't expect them to work immediately, upon your first application, especially if you have dry or undernourished skin to begin with.
To give your skin the best chance it has to protect itself this summer, you need to incorporate the use of natural plant oils in to your daily routine long before you step out in to the sun.
And, for extended exposure to the sun, in addition to your daily plant oil base, I recommend using a natural physical or mineral sunscreen free from oxybenzone because it's killing our reefs and has links to cancer, endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity - watch more on this below.