Fun in the Sun: Carrier Oils for Sun Protection

We all want to enjoy the beauty and warmth of the sun during the brightest days of summer. In recent years, it has come to "light" that that we need Vitamin D from the sun, but also that the sunrays can be very damaging to our skin. The good news is that natural carrier oils make highly effective sunscreen that is not only high in sun protection factor (SPF), but great for the skin in other ways as well. Learn all the ways that natural carrier oils and essential oils can become part of your summer fun and skin safety.

The skin is protected from sunburn in a variety of ways; remember these points to prevent sunburn:

  • KEEP HYDRATED: Suggestion: Drink 3 to 5 quarts of water a day.

  • MOISTURIZE THE SKIN: All body butters and carrier oils will help the skin to retain water and will also help the body to create vitamin D from the sun's damaging UVB rays.

  • ANTIOXIDANTS: add tocopherols like vitamin E that repair free-radical damage in the skin, thus preventing skin cancers in the long term. All unrefined oils contain vitamin E, and those particularly high in vitamin E are traditionally considered to be sun protecting.

  • BLOCK UVA AND UVB RAYS: Clothing, sun hats, and shade are best to limit your sun exposure from 10am to 3pm when the UV rays are the strongest; this will vary by the season, location and time of day. Sunburned skin doesn’t just feel awful; it can cause permanent damage over time.

The sunlight that reaches us is made up of two types of harmful rays: long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB). Basically, UVA rays can age us and UVB rays can burn us. Overexposure to either can damage the skin.

  • USE A NATURAL SUNSCREEN: Nature has provided us with a whole host of natural ingredients that give sun protection factor (SPF). Plants are exposed to the sun every day of every year, and so have evolved to produce pigments, phytochemicals and nutrients that protect them from sun damage. Many liquid carrier or base oils used in aromatherapy oils are extracted from fruit and vegetable seeds. Their penetrating properties and nutrients, as well as their natural content of tocopherols, carotenoids and essential fatty acids, make them highly valuable. There are several natural-base sunscreen lotions that include the carrier oils of almond, avocado, coconut, olive, and sesame, which have been reported to have UV filters. See below for our natural sunscreen recipe.

Why use carrier oils as a natural sunscreen? Because typical commercial sunscreens may contain one or more of these potentially dangerous chemicals:

  • Para amino benzoic acid

  • Octyl salicyclate

  • Avobenzone

  • Oxybenzone

  • Cinoxate

  • Padimate O

  • Dioxybenzone

  • Phenylbenzimidazole

  • Homosalate

  • Sulisobenzone

  • Trolamine salicyclate

  • Menthyl anthranilate

  • Octocrylene

Dioxybenzone and oxybenzone are some of the most powerful free radical generators known to man. Other chemicals on this list have been connected to conditions like cancer and hormonal imbalance.

Zinc oxide is another popular natural ingredient in sunscreens, but researchers at Missouri State University recently found that when exposed to sunlight, zinc oxide may create free radicals, destroy cells, and increase the risk of skin cancer. And, your skin cannot make vitamin D when you use zinc oxide sunscreen.

The good news is that there are wonderful natural alternatives for sun protection!

Carrier Oils

Carrier or base oils are the fats extracted from seeds; nuts, grains, vegetables and fruits, and they can serve as an effective base for a homemade sunscreen. Many vegetable oils, such as olive oil and jojoba, are already popular for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes. For best results always choose carrier oils that are unrefined, cold pressed, unfractionated, and organic.

Several carrier oils have shown extremely positive results in studies to provide SPF protection when applied to the skin:

Red Raspberry Seed Oil - Rubus idaeus This one is one of the most popular carrier oils for sun protection.Red raspberry oil is actually a close equivalent of the protection you would receive from Titanium Dioxide, which is found in most mineral sunscreens. The essential fatty acids and host of antioxidants in this oil are also great for other skin healing purposes including eczema and psoriasis. Red Raspberry Seed Oil protects against UVA & UVB rays and contain significant anti-inflammatory properties.

Carrot Seed Oil - Daucus carota According to a study published in “Pharmacognosy Magazine” in 2009, products containing carrot seed oil have a natural SPF of between 38 and 40. It is highly valued for skin care. It is used in skin care products to nourish, tighten, revitalize, and rejuvenate skin. Carrot Seed Oil is calming and appropriate for irritated skin. Note: This is a carrier oil, not the essential oil.

Wheat Germ Oil - Triticum vulgare Wheatgerm is packed with vitamins and minerals, mostly Vitamin E, K & B and acts as free radical preventer while it protects you from the sun. Wheat germ oil is used to regenerate skin tissues; promotes skin elasticity, formation of skin cells, improves blood circulation, and helps to relieve symptoms of dermatitis. Note: Those with wheat or gluten allergies should not use wheat germ oil, either externally or internally.

Other valuable carrier oils with lesser SPF factors:

  • Almond, Sweet Oil - Prunus dulcis This oil has a high presence of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is demonstrated in its protecting, nourishing, softening, and lubricating effects on the skin. It is ideal for chapped, dry, and irritated skin, soothing and relieving soreness, itching, and inflammation.

  • Avocado Oil - Persea americana - This carrier oil is high in vitamins A, B, D, lecithin, potassium, proteins, and fatty acids. Although the oil is mono-unsaturated, it is not stable when used for cooking at high temperatures. It is excellent in skin care applications for dry, dehydrated, climate-parched, damaged, undernourished, mature skin, eczema, and diaper rash because of its nourishing, softening, and restorative qualities.

  • Coconut Oil - Cocos nucifera - An ideal choice for general moisturizing as it serves as a protective layer, helping to retain the moisture in your skin. This mild oil is light and non-greasy is suitable for sensitive, dry, itchy, inflamed, and irritated skin.

  • Hemp Seed Oil -Cannabis sativa -This oil may be added to body care or cosmetic product, including creams, lotions, facial or body oils, massage oils, shampoo, conditioner, shaving products, lip balm, soap, and any other product. In hair care products, hemp seed oil increases elasticity, manageability, and shine. Hemp oil has valuable Super Omega-3 (SDA) and Super Omega-6 (GLA), and is loaded with all 20 amino acids.

  • Jojoba Oil - Simmondsia chinensis - Actually a natural yellow liquid wax from the bean of an evergreen desert plant. Jojoba oil is very close in nature to the human sebum, an excretion from around the hair follicles. Jojoba has replaced sperm whale oil in cosmetics, creams, mascara, and lipstick for more than a century now. It is useful in cases of inflamed skin, psoriasis, eczema, acne, and is beneficial for hair care.

  • Macadamia Oil - Macadamia integrifolia - This oil is high in palmitoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that acts upon the body as an antioxidant, preventing deterioration of cell membranes. Palmitoleic acid is not commonly found in other oils, yet it is found in human sebum that acts as a protective agent and slows the aging process down.

  • Olive Oil - Olea europaea ­- This oil may be too heavy in viscosity to be suitable for massage oil; it may be used in small amounts added to blends. Several applications include; hair care, cosmetics, salves, rheumatic conditions, and skin care products.

  • Sesame Seed Oil - Sesamum indicum - It is rich in vitamins and minerals, containing vitamins A, B complex, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. A high content of vitamin E gives this oil excellent stability; some of its other components give it an antioxidant effect. Sesame oil is beneficial as a natural moisturizer for dry skin, psoriasis, eczema, as well as protecting the skin from harmful UV rays, adding warmth, and suppleness to the body.

  • Shea Butter - Butyrospermum parkii - Especially known for its cosmetic properties as a moisturizer and emollient. It is also a known anti-inflammatory agent that enhances cell regeneration. Shea butter is effective at treating the following conditions; aging skin, fading scars, eczema, burns, rashes, acne, severely dry skin, blemishes, dark spots, skin discolorations, chapped lips, stretch marks, wrinkles, and psoriasis.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated and powerful oils extracted from flowers and plants which have three distinct modes of action: Physiological (e.g., anti-inflammatory effects), psychological (e.g., aromatherapy) and cosmetic (e.g., preservative effects because of antibacterial or antioxidant properties), with corresponding benefits. Essential oils are a perfect combination to mix with carrier oils to mitigate the damaging effects of sunburn. However, please note that essential oils are not sunscreens!

All-Natural Sun Protection Body Butter:

Makes 8 oz.


1 cup raw Shea Butter (Butyrospermum parkii) OR Coconut Oil (Cocos nucifera)

4 TBSP grated Beeswax 4 TBSP Carrot Seed Oil (Daucus carota) 4 TBSP Red Raspberry Seed Oil (Rubus idaeus) 4 TBSP Wheat Germ Oil (Triticum vulgare) 2 TBSP Macadamia Oil (Macadamia integrifolia) 2 TBSP Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia chinensis) ½ TBSP Vitamin E, 5,000 IU (a-tocopherol)

This final product is thick like body butter. Use less beeswax to formulate a more liquid product.

Essential oil blend:

15 drops Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) essential oil

10 drops Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil

15 drops of Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) essential oil

Precautions: Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) essential oil is not advised while pregnant. Use a lower dilution (1%) of the essential oils for children: no more than 6 drops per oz.

NOTE: Angelica root (Angelica archangelica), basil (Ocimum basilicum), melissa (Melissa officinalis), and lemon verbena ((Lippia citriodora) and all citrus essential oils are photosensitive, and are not advised in in a sunscreen product.


1. In a double boiler, over low heat, melt the shea butter OR coconut oil, and beeswax. When melted add the other carrier oils and get them to the same temperature.

2. Remove from heat and allow cooling slightly prior to adding the essential oils.

3. Pour into a glass jar or BPA free plastic bottle with a flip top.

4. Allow cooling and hardening on the counter. Seal the containers and label.

Shelf life stored in a cool cupboard 30 days; refrigerate to extend shelf life.

References Used:

Missouri State University News and Events:

Coola’s Sun Science Lesson:

Dechen, Shanti, Clinical Aromatherapy Level 1: Lesson 8: Carrier Oils, Crestone, CO, 2018.

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