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Warning: Coconut Oil is Not a Safe Alternative to Sunscreen

"Coconut oil probably has some sun protection factor ability but not nearly enough to protect a fair redhead from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays."

We’ve heard it time and time again: redheads are more susceptible to melanoma. A mutation in a gene called MC1R gives redheads their hair color and fair skin. A US study suggests this same mutation triggers a cancer-causing signalling pathway when redheads are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

It is absolutely appropriate for redheads to be concerned about sun exposure and its potential damaging side effects of the ultraviolet light. But, there are also concerns about sunscreens containing harmful chemicals. Many women, especially redheads, are turning to coconut oil as as a sunscreen.

We turned to Board Certified Dermatologist, Fayne L. Frey, MD, to ask: Is coconut oil a safe alternative to sunscreen?

“Most redheads are predisposed to sun damage due to their genetic makeup and fair skin,” says Dr. Frey. “Here’s the scoop on coconut oil. There is a study in the medical literature about coconut oil and its effectiveness as a sunscreen. The purpose of this study, however, was to measure the sun protection factor (SPF) of herbal oils that are commonly found in sunscreen formulations.”

In the 2004 study, the oils that blocked the most UV radiation (40 percent or more) were neem seed, sunflower, sesame, and cod liver oils. Cod liver oil was the most effective, blocking up to 90 percent. In contrast, the other four oils blocked less than 40 percent. Next to castor oil, coconut oil allowed the greatest penetration, blocking only about 20 percent of the UV light.

Judging from this study, the SPF of coconut oil would probably be rated very low.

Coconut oil has been used by millions of people in the tropics as their sole source of protection from sunburns and skin cancer.

READ: 5 Reasons Every Redhead Should Use Coconut Oil 

But, how does it compare to commercial lotions?

Dr. Frey says the study was not meant to show evidence of these oils as a sunscreen themselves and that the study did not use human skin to measure its SPF quality. “The result did indicate that a 0.1% coconut oil solution (prepared from a 1% v/v of oil in ethanol and water solution, 40:60), at least by in vitro analysis did show coconut oil to have an SPF protection of 8, well below the SPF 30 recommendation by the American Academy of Dermatology.”

To date, Dr. Frey has never seen a DIY option in the medical literature for sunscreen that meets the recommendations of skin experts or that has shown to provide SPF of 30 or higher, and protects 97% of UVB rays. “Coconut oil probably has some sun protection factor ability but not nearly enough to protect a fair redhead from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays,” she concludes.

There we have it, redheads. If you love coconut oil (like most of us do), apply it after your wash your skin to moisturize your skin. Then, apply your sunscreen before makeup.

READ: 10 Best Sunscreen Picks for Redheads in 2016

Rock it like a Redhead! 

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