Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Coconut Oil: It's Not Just for Food!
I am a longtime fan of coconut oil.  I love to use it in cooking (just peruse my recipes to find some examples), as a lotion, and as a deep conditioner for my hair (think hot oil treatment).  A friend recently shared this post about using it as a sunscreen, and that got me thinking.  I've been reading so much lately about the dangers of most mass-produced sunscreens, and I've been wondering what to do:  risk cancer via sunscreen, or risk sunburn and cancer via the sun?  Coconut oil, in its familiarity, seemed like a good alternative for me.  

After doing more reading, I started to get excited about trying it out.  Coconut oil has apparently been used as a sunblock in the tropics for generations, and it has a ton of benefits.  It conditions your skin, has antimicrobial properties, and protects from damaging sun rays without blocking Vitamin D production.  The only downside is that it doesn't seem to have the highest SPF, so it needs to be re-applied often.

I tan easily and rarely burn, so I knew that I wouldn't be the best test subject.  I've been using the coconut oil every day for about a week in place of my regular sunscreen, and haven't seen a lick of difference.  Of course, I see little difference in my skin if I don't use any sunscreen at all, either.  

First backyard swim! (Pre-coconut oil trial.)
I knew that if I truly wanted to test the effectiveness of coconut oil as sunscreen, I'd have to bite the bullet and spread it on the soft skin of my sweet little boy, Baby C.  C has fair skin, blue eyes, and blonde/red hair.  He's a crispy sunburn just waiting to happen.

 I couldn't bring myself to test it on his entire body at once, so I chose one body part (his right arm), and I've been using the coconut oil there every day.   The original article said to re-apply every hour, so I slather on more coconut oil every time I re-apply Sunology (his usual sunscreen) to the rest of his body.   

After 6 days... the arm is no different from the rest of his little bod. I've found that I actually like the coconut oil better than the sunscreen because it's easier to rub into his skin, and it seems to absorb more quickly and evenly.  It also has a nice, very light scent.

I know that the picture above shows Baby C playing in the shade, but I want to assure you that he doesn't spend all of his time hiding from the sun.  We live in Wisconsin, so the summer months are sacred.  We soak up every little second of brightness while we can - before the endless winter hits us.  That said, the coconut oil has protected his skin while swimming at the pool, hiking for a few hours, walking 3+ miles, camping, playing at the playground...  this kid has pretty much been in and out of the sun for days now, and he hasn't even changed color a tiny bit.  Go, coconut oil!

  • Coconut oil isn't found in liquid form at room temperature like olive oil or vegetable oil.  Instead, it's more like the consistency of lard (yuck, I know...).  To use it as a lotion, you'll have to heat it slightly.  We don't really use the air conditioner in our house, so it's pretty liquidy from June-September just sitting in the pantry.
  • I don't know if this matters when using it as a sunscreen, but I only use non-processed coconut oil when cooking.  This means that it's expeller pressed, not expressed.  Also, I buy organic.  So, we've been blocking rays with the type of coconut oil shown in the first picture.  Feel free to experiment with other types and let me know how it goes!

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