Natural Alternatives to Sunscreen…..

Pin It

it seems i/u need a break!!

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As the sun comes out and we are spending more and more time outdoors there is a need for some sort of protection from the sun. I have tried to stop using sunscreen for a while now due to its supposed negative effects. Sunscreen has been linked with the following:

  • Not being as effective as advertised (not living up to its SPF rating)
  • Accelerated development of skin tumors and lesions
  • Blocking Vitamin D
  • Vitamin A which is a common ingredient in sunscreen is shown to cause cancer
  • Disruption of the bodies hormonal system

Now this also goes back to the post I wrote about the dangers of conventional body products, as sunscreen is full of PABA, Oxybenzone as well as a host of other chemicals. The main reason I stopped using sunscreen is that we need Vitamin D and most of us are deficient so the very fact that sunscreen totally blocks off our absorption of Vitamin D is a pretty killer deal. This is not to mention its cancer causing potential and false claims most sunscreens carry.

Do not forget the sunscreen industry is huge and they will go to huge measures to pump fear into the public about skin cancer and the dangers of spending time in the sun. Funnily enough Vitamin D deficiency is a leading cause for skin cancer…..

To me it is a case of being sensible with the sun, as they say The Difference Between Medicine And Poison Is The Dose” which couldn’t be more true when it comes to the sun. So what are our alternatives when it comes to maximising the benefits, while negating the risks?

Get your dose - Don’t forget that getting 10,000-20,000IU of Vitamin D only requires about 20 minutes of midday sun on an exposed body, And even less time than that for the very lightly skinned. I think this is something we can all manage a few times in the summer without getting burnt.

Natural Mechanisms - Our body has a natural mechanism to get us out of the sun when we have had too much. Ever notice how the sun feels great at first but after 20 or 30 minutes it becomes uncomfortable and too hot. This is our body telling us enough is enough and that it is time to go seek some shade. Listen to your body when in the sun, this by itself will help you avoid the overdoing it.

Coconut Oil - I have been experimenting with this myself, now that the sun is out regularly I try to spend some time in the sun daily and have been testing out Coconut Oil as sunscreen. I would suggest reading this article about using coconut oil as sunscreen.

I spent many days hiking and FULL days at the beach swimming and NO BURNS. Now, yes, I got pink, but no  painful burns and the best part is that they all mellowed the next day into the slightest brown. For a white girl, that was just unbelievable!!!!!

Pretty impressive stuff and it is similar to what I have found. A few weeks back I was out in the park with friends wearing nothing but shorts and spent a few hours in the sun, now my skin burnt slightly and I was a bit sore and red the next day. This was totally my own fault though as I didn’t seek shade or wear any protection.

Since reading the article above I have been trying out coconut oil as sunscreen, I will basically coat my body in a thin layer and go get some sun. I can confirm that after spending prolonged periods of time in midday sun with coconut oil on I experienced no burns of redness what so ever and I seem to develop a much nicer light brown tan, so I am a believer….

Diet - Our skin seems to have a direct correlation with the types of fat we eat. As anyone who has eaten a low fat diet will know skin becomes pretty dry…. The opposite seems to happen when we eat heat resistant fats and reduce our consumption of less heat resistant Polyunsaturated fats our skin becomes softer and tougher.

Most people find that when they reduce their consumption of PUFA’s (Peanut butter, Veggie oils, Cooking with olive oil) and replace these fats with more saturated and heat resistant fats like Coconut and Dairy fat their skin becomes much more resistant to the sun and burns far less easily. It is interesting that mother nature provides these fats as the main source of energy to tribes who live in the hotter parts of the world like the Masai (who drink plenty of milk and have a diet with virtually no PUFA’s) and the Kitavans who love their coconut and sweet potato (and again eat practically no PUFA’s) this seems to give them a natural sun coping mechanism.

This seems to be especially important in summer. We can all learn from these guys by replacing the majority of Polyunsaturated fats and using things like coconut, and macadamia nuts while cooking with heat resistant fats like butter, ghee, coconut and palm oil.

Go Natural - There seems to be a growing range of natural sunscreens on the market today which claim to protect from the sun without any of the negative effects of conventional sunscreen. They work by acting like a mirror and reflecting off the sun instead of absorbing the UV rays like normal sunscreens. The link below reviews some of the most common brands…

Should You Switch To Natural Sunscreen?

Most contain Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide (both ‘natural‘ sunscreens) as well as things like Shea Butter and Sesame/Macadamia oil (which is known for its sun blocking effects). These seem pretty effective to me and when I go on holiday this summer I plan to pickup a few bottles and give them a try……

So as you can see there seem to be some pretty easy changes you make if you want to try going SPF free this summer, please comment if you have any experience making the most of the sun without having to resort to sunscreen……

This Post was written by Chris of Zen to Fitness. Please checkout my new e-book by clicking the image below:


  1. Luke M-Davies says

    Great suggestions here Chris – I’m going to give coconut oil a try as I already have a fairly good base tan.

    We must be very careful in the sun of course but I love the warmth of the rays as they hit my body – feels like its recharging my batteries! Go Vitamin D!

  2. Elizabeth says

    Great summary, Chris! I think as long as you’re not going to be out long enough to burn, sunscreen is unnecessary, but it’s good to know there are some natural options out there in case you have to out for prolonged periods. I do have my reservations about the toxicity of the metals in natural sunscreens, but if they’re only used occasionally it’s probably not a big deal. Definitely better than the commecial alternatives, of course.

  3. -Blue aka The Thrifty Mom says

    i think that all of us – even us northern european decendants – have the built in natural ability to protect our skin. Those of us with very light skin simply HAVE to be more patient.

    Let me use my children as examples: I have five kids under age 9. They have a range of skin tones from a very fair-skinned youngest girl to a medium light skinned middle boy.

    All of my kids began playing out on our farm wearing nothing but shorts (yes, girls too) just as soon as the weather permitted. We’re in SC so that was back in March.

    The middle boy, my darkest skin tone, got a tan within days and now is brown as a berry. The fair girl was pink off and on for two weeks but now has a nice light base tan. The others are all in between. None ever wore any sort of sunscreen.

    The point is that each of my kids started out in the weak spring sun and built up base tans over the months till NOW, in the late June sun in SC, they can play for HOURS outside without burning! It took some longer than others to get that melanin production up to speed, but it all worked out.

    I feel that if we do as you said: pay attention to how much exposure we’re getting and build up a base, protective, tan, we can enjoy the summer with NO protection or with just coconut oil.:D

  4. Hugh says

    Interesting. I spend a lot of time outdoors during the summer and, as I’ve gotten older and wiser, this means more and more sunscreen.

    Do you have any brand recommendations on coco oils and natural sunscreens?

    @ Hugh: Checkout this article it has a few ideas I have not tried one myself though, I plan on picking some up soon as I am heading to the South of France in a few weeks so will definitely be needing it. I will let you guys know how it works……

  5. Deb says

    Just a couple of notes: First of all, PABA was removed from most sunscreen products years ago, at least in the U.S.
    Second, any change to your skin’s natural color, including tanning, indicates damage to your skin.

    @ Deb: Thanks for chiming in with the comments about PABA I did not know it had been removed years ago, and just did some research it seems to be out of most sunscreens worldwide. I still think that most conventional sunscreens these days are filled with pesky chemicals, probably the new breed of PABA….

    As for the tanning damaging the skin, Blue replied pretty much in the same way I was going to below. I feel that having a light tan looks very healthy and means we are getting an adequate amount of Vitamin D. Tanning is our natural defence mechanism and while yes the sun may age our skin slightly it maybe the price we need to pay for radiant health throughout our lives…. Anyhow only time will tell, but one thing is for sure in that we shouldn’t abuse the sun…..

  6. musajen says

    I gave coconut oil a try last week, spending about 3 hours out in the sun. I won’t be doing that again, at least without a few modifications. Hello painful burn and blistered skin.

    In CO’s defense, I didn’t have a base tan built up in 90% of the area that burnred, I’ve got the skin tone of a natural redhead, and my diet has been a little lax in the healthy sat fats.

    I probably will try Coconut oil again but will get a base tan established first. And after an hour in the sun, I’ll be sure to carefully assess if I need to move to a stronger sunblock.

    And of course, dietary improvements. :)

    @ Musajen: Interesting stuff, Coconut oil is certainly not something to rival an SPF in terms of protection for the sun but I certainly feel it gives a modest amount of protection whilst nourishing the skin. Why don’t you try some of the natural sunblocks this summer and see how they work out….
    Also diet will definitely help make the skin more durable and heat resistant.

  7. -Blue aka The Thrifty Mom says

    Yes, @Deb and lifting weights causes ‘damage’ to your muscles – tiny tears that cause, over time, increased muscle mass.

    Both are perfectly natural processes that we evolved over a few million years.

    Tanning evolved as a way to protect our skin against the harmful UV rays in sunlight. It’s the perfect method for us to avoid skin damage.

    We have no physical need for any commercial sun screens beyond buying bigger and better crap for the executives of the skincare companies.

    @ Deb: Thanks for the reply and reply to Deb’s post, It is pretty much exactly what I was planning to use as a comparison (weight lifting) and breaking down the body in return for building up stronger. I think it is easy to forget our bodies are constantly breaking down to recover and replace cells all the time, everywhere in our bodies. Plus if a tan was bad for us it wouldn’t look so attractive and make us feel so good….

  8. Rodney says

    I am pretty sure that conventional sunscreens don’t block the UVA rays, only UVB. Since this means people don’t burn as quickly I think they get a false sense of security and end up getting more sun than they would without sunscreen. Result…much more wrinkling than they would otherwise have had. Granted it is a cosmetic issue, but many tanners are tanning for just the same reasons.

    I agree with just getting a little sun frequently without sunscreen, then covering up or going inside. Clothing helps some, and is preferable to me over sunscreen whenever possible. As an easy burner, I am surprised that I can get 30-40 minutes of midday sun now without any hint of burning. I attribute this to a much cleaner diet as outlined above.

    Nice post, Chris!

  9. Katherine says

    I have always been a burn baby. I am ghost white to lobster red, sun screen or no sun screen. I do not tan. The closest thing I can get to tan is freckled. LOL

    I have never ever tanned or come even remotely close to it. My mom didn’t start giving me sunscreen until I was 8 or 9 and burning severely just from an hour outside.

    I don’t care about ever getting tan; I’d just like to not be scorched from setting foot outside!

    I put on some non-healthy (really, I saw it on a list of sunscreens and it has a C- grade!) sunscreen yesterday and took my daughter for 3 hours at the pool. She tans like her dad, so I only applied her once and let her roll. I sat in the shade with a book and reapplied twice, only going to the sun for brief 15-20 min exposures. I am pink today. Not ouch-sore-peel pink, but tinted, don’t go out today or you’ll peel by Saturday pink. If I stay in today, I should be able to go to the County Fair tomorrow without too much pain.

    Hubby calls me a vampire. LOL I wonder if coconut oil would help me keep me from schorching?

  10. Greg says

    I’m partial to pigment base sunscreens, but need to remember that they aren’t “waterproof.” I’ve also started making better use of hats. Protects many sensitive areas that are of more concern as I approach 40… :-)

  11. Jennie says

    When I’m in town I only wear sunscreen on my face and the one I use is Sun 15 Anti-Ageing (yup, they spelt it wrong) Sun Milk by Lavera Naturkosmetik and I really like it. It doesn’t make my oily skin feel any oiler. I also bought a sunscreen for my body for when I go to the beach called Soleil Family SPF 20 by Sante Naturkosmetik. I haven’t used it yet but last year I bought my boyfriend the same one but SPF 30 and he liked it. Both are German companies so I don’t know how easy it’ll be to find these brands in North America.

  12. Matt says

    This is great! I was just having an argument with my wife and some friends about this topic, trying to tell them that sunscreen might do more harm than good.

    I especially like the “Natural Mechanisms” part. My argument was that, just like with running, we’ve evolved over millions of years to handle the sunlight on our skin. So when our body says “time to stop,” it’s time to stop, and attempting to prolong the exposure with sunscreens is a pretty weird, modern thing to do.

    @ Matt: Thanks for stopping by. I really like your blog BTW…. To me the “Natural Mechanism” is the thing that makes most sense as well. The sun feels so good at first but after 30 minutes I am going crazy trying to find shade……

  13. Connie says

    I have to say that I agree with building up tolerance because at the beginning of the summer, I can only stay outside for 30 minutes without feeling a burn, but once I get that base tan I can stay out for several hours. I do not like using sunscreen and will only do so when I’m in super hot weather in the boat. I do not use Coconut oil, but may start to do so. I eat a healthy diet, low carbs and moderate fat. Drink lots of water as well.

    I have a 14 year old son…when he was younger, I would put sunscreen on him, guess what….he would burn. Since he has turned 9 yrs old, he has not used sunscreen and has not had a burn ever since, and yes, he’s outside ALL day. So this shows me sunscreen is not all that its cracked up to be.

    I do feel through diet and knowing your body, you can protect yourself while in the sun without the use of sunscreen. My son is proof enough for me….

  14. Ruth says

    I’ve recently begun using coconut oil in cooking after reading the health benefits. I then started using it as a facial moisturizer and love it. I use only the tiniest bit or it can get really heavy. From there I started putting it on before going out into the sun, and discovered that I did not burn only turned slightly pink. Wow! I thought I was the only one who knew this! Also, I use coconut oil to make my own toothpaste and deodorant. It’s great stuff!

    @ Ruth: Never heard of it as deodorant, but as a moisturizer it is amazing – Needs to be used sparingly because as you say it does get very heavy. It definitely is better to under apply….

  15. Lila says

    I’ve been using spf 50 sunscreen heavily for about 4 years. I am fair skinned and due to my profession must spend a lot of time outdoors. What I have noticed is that while the sunscreen prevents burning, it does not prevent skin damage. I have numerous small pre cancerous lesions on my face, and feel that some of this skin damage may have been exacerbated by the wearing of sunscreen.
    Our ancestors, even those from northern Europe, must have spent time out in the sun!

  16. Nicole says

    I am a redhead and have been trying to get some color, not a tan, just a little color so thank you for this info. If you have any more please email me!!!


  1. [...] you start to slather on the sunscreen, but Chris at Zen to Fitness has been having some ideas about natural alternatives to sunscreen.  In itself, this is a great idea since I find myself applying sunscreen straight out of the [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>