List of Plants Used As Natural Sunscreen

By Wilmarie Groenewald

Skin damage caused by the sun has become a serious concern. Although new commercial sunscreens are released frequently, users have also become concerned about the adverse effects that these products can cause. Plants have long been the focus of studies concerning sun protection, as they are exposed to the sun daily with minimal damage. Oils extracted from plants can be used in almost all aspects of daily care, and it is only fitting that sun protection be one of these aspects.

Many plants offer natural sun protection.

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil offers many benefits to skin.

Although hemp seed oil provides a low SPF, the nutrients found in hemp seed oil closely resembles the naturally occurring molecules in the human body. These molecules are known as lipids and include elements such as bodily waxes, fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Because of this close resemblance, the nutrients are easily absorbed into human skin, providing added sunscreen. Hemp seed oil is also a natural source of essential amino and fatty acids, as well as nutrients, which stimulate keratin formation in the human body, adding many benefits to the skin.

Coconut Oil

Coconut extracts can be used in many aspects of personal care.

Coconut oil provides a very low SPF level as well, but has been found to absorb a large majority of the sun's rays. Coconut milk can also be extracted directly from a fresh coconut to produce the same results. Coconut oil and milk are also natural skin moisturizers and can be applied to the skin daily instead of commercial moisturizers, providing a natural daily sunscreen.

Alfalfa Oil

Alfalfa oils help reduce damage caused by sunburns.

Alfalfa, also known as lucerne, can be used as a pretreatment along with other sunscreens. It is known to reduce the damage caused by sunburn and is also a rich source of antioxidants. Traditional Indian medicines used alfalfa leaves for treating skin conditions, such as sores or boils. Alfalfa extracts were also used in Indian medicines for the treatment of water retention.

Almond Oil

Almond oil naturally moisturizes and protects skin.

Although almond oil does not provide a high SPF level, it does reduce the aging effect that UV light causes on the skin, preventing skin damage and aging. As with coconut oil, almond oil can be used as a daily moisturizer instead of commercial moisturizers, hydrating the skin and providing a natural skin protection. Unfortunately, a high rate of allergic reactions can be attributed to almonds and almond extracts, so the oil should be tested on a small section of skin before used as a moisturizer.

Tropical Ferns

Tropical ferns reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Golden polypody (golden serpent fern or cabbage palm fern) is a tropical fern native to America. This fern has been found to contain beneficial antioxidants, as well as properties that lower the risk of skin damage caused by the sun. The fern can help to maintain the skin's elasticity and most importantly, can reduce the risk of skin cancer. In medicine, extracts from this fern have been used to treat serious skin conditions, such as psoriasis.

Alexandrian Laurel

Alexandrian Laurel provides protection for both the skin and eyes.

Alexandrian Laurel, more commonly known as the Ballnut tree, contain elements that are believed to regenerate skin tissue. The oil has no toxicity, which means that it can be used on the skin with no irritations or adverse effects. The oil can also be added to eye drops to provide natural sun protection for the eyes. A 2007 study published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences showed that Ballnut tree oil provides a high UV protection level, equal to SPF 18 to 22.