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Carrier Oils and SPF: What You Need to Know

Health Products
Last Updated Sep 14, 2020

Increasing interest in natural skin care products has made sun protection a hot topic. Whilst larger skin care companies might have the wherewithal to get their products tested and get an actual SPF figure attributed to their skin care ranges, what does it mean for the smaller producers – or those individuals who are developing their own products?

How SPF is measured

Sun Protection Factors are measured in the laboratory. They are an indication of how long you can stay in the sun without burning your skin. When it comes to sunburn, the researchers recognise four distinct types of skin:

  • Type I – very pale, light skin, usually with blonde or red hair. Type I skin can only stay unprotected in the sun for 5-10 minutes before burning.
  • Type II – slightly darker skin, usually with blonde to brown hair. Type II skin can stay unprotected in the sun for 20 minutes before burning.
  • Type III  - darker still, often with an olive complexion. Type III skin can stay in the sun for 30 minutes before burning.
  • Type IV – darkest skin types. Type IV skin can stay in the sun for 40 minutes before burning.

An SPF rating gives an indication of how much longer you can extend your stay in the sun. For example, a product with an SPF rating of 15 will allow someone with Type II skin to stay in the sun 15 times longer before they start to burn – or a total of 300 minutes (5 hours).

However, measuring the SPF in the lab is no guarantee that you will be able to get the same effect outside by the pool. Nor does it take into account the other properties that you can get from using a carrier oil as a source of skin protection. Raspberry Seed oil, for example, has a great SPF rating. It is also high in anti-oxidants and has an anti-inflammatory effect; it can reduce the pain and inflammation associated with sunburn. It has been found to make abnormal skin cells self-terminate – essentially stopping potential tumours and cancers from getting established.

Carrot Seed Oil, by comparison, is an essential oil. As such it should not be applied neat to the skin. However, even when diluted down to 2% in a carrier oil, it still has a high SPF rating. This is in part due to the way in which it supports melanin production in the skin.

There is some discrepancy between the figures different researchers are attributing to the various carrier oils. This is particularly noticeable when you consider carrier oils like Avocado oil – with SPF ratings varying between 4 and 15 depending on whose reports you read. Although some of these discrepancies can be attributed to laboratory methods, unfortunately the vast majority of them are more likely to be a reflection of the quality of the crop that the sample came from.

Tips for Using Carrier Oils for Sun Protection

If you are looking to create and/or use natural carrier oils as a means of sun protection, then it is worth considering the following:

  • Whatever product you use, reapply it frequently. Laboratory conditions are very different to time out in the sun.
  • Get the best possible carrier oil you can from a supplier you trust. If the carrier oil is adulterated or diluted in any way, it may not have the SPF rating that you are looking for.
  • Choose a carrier oil that has a SPF rating that is appropriate to your skin type
  • Test it properly on your skin before using it on its own – try it in short bursts before withdrawing from the sun in order to make sure it works for you.
  • Test it over several days – one successful application doesn't constitute a reasonable test.
  • Seek professional advice before considering using home-created products on children's skin or where the skin is compromised in some way.

In Summary

Carrier Oil SPF
Red Raspberry Seed 28 - 50
Carrot Seed Oil 38 - 40
Wheatgerm 20
Soybean 10
Macadamia Nut 6
Jojoba 4
Sesame Seed Oil 2 - 4
Shea Butter 3 - 6
Coconut 2 - 8
Olive 2 - 8
Avocado (unrefined) 4 - 15
Castor Oil 6
Almond Oil 5


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Originally published on Oct 14, 2011

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