May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so I wanted to take this opportunity to bust some dangerous natural sunblock myths around carrot seed oil SPF and essential oils for sun blocks generally. I'll skip here; no essential oils offer broad-spectrum sunscreen protection. Some oils do offer protection, but they are shallow indeed.
What Does SPF Mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Its value indicates its level of protection against preventing sunburn.
SPF measures a sunscreen's ability to prevent the skin from UVB that burns us. Most of us could have worked that out, but what's the science behind it? Hold your hats… we're going mathematical…
If your unprotected skin starts turning red in 20 minutes, then using an SPF 15 sunscreen should prevent reddening for 15 times longer, about five hours.
The Skin Cancer Foundation explains in terms of percentages:
SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent, and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent. They may seem like negligible differences, but those extra percentages will make a difference if you are light-sensitive or have a history of skin cancer. And as you can see, no sunscreen can block all UV rays...
Sunburn is painful and inflamed, which legally renders it a dis-ease. Thus if sun blocks are used as blocks against this, while they are cosmetic, because who wants to be red and blotchy… they are also regulated as medical products…that is, drugs.
Drugs are rightly regulated by the FDA, which demands that products must be widely tested and then licensed to be able to carry the term "broad spectrum." This also applied to Broad Spectrum sun protection
Anyone who has not rigorously tested their product and cannot show you a license to prove the medical claims they are making is breaking the law by trying to sell you an unlicensed drug.
Natural Oils Do Not Absorb UV
In 2016 Gause & Chauhan proved natural oils to be wholly inadequate as UV-blocking ingredients. In their study, they focused mainly on fixed oils, what we would call carrier oils: aloe vera, canola oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and soya bean oil but also citronella essential oils too. None of them successfully blocked UV. In those that did anything, the effects were negligible; their SPF was concluded to be around about a score of SPF 1, which would be entirely inept for preventing reddening.
Raspberry Seed Oil SPF
Similarly, raspberry seed carrier oil - a fixed oil - is often cited as having incredible SPF scores. I'd be the first person to sing its praises…there is nothing better for soothing and nourishing the skin than not protecting it from the sun. Sorry, it just doesn't. No need for me to extrapolate that data for you. The Tisserand Institute did an excellent post for you here. (Tisserand, 2022)
Updating the Carrot Seed Oil SPF Information
In 2014, aromatherapist Gabriel Mojay studied the article that began this misinformation that Young Living distributors had mainly perpetuated. In an attempt to balance the argument, it was an altruistic attempt to follow the science, but the study's data is inept from many angles.
Originally appearing in Pharmacognosy magazine in 2009, it cited a product containing carrot seed essential oil with an SPF of 38-40.
People concluded that this must be the carrot seed essential oil factor.
However, one reason the study is problematic as a source of this information is that carrot seed was not its only ingredient. We also need to ask what protection other products within it may offer. Notably, wheatgerm oil was included, but more importantly, so was zinc oxide, which, as we know, is a potent blocking mineral agent.
So while the study showed the product had sun protective benefits, the research failed to isolate each ingredient's SPF precisely.
So, as an industry, we should be grateful for the work done in 2019 by Singh et al., who reassessed the SPF of carrot seed essential oil in isolation and were able to clarify that while it does have a sun protection factor, it was much lower than cited.
Carrot seed essential oil has an SPF of just over 6. (Singh, 2019)
Importantly, considering that children would usually be smothered in factor 50 creams…this shows us how inadequate a homemade cream relying on carrot seed oil would be.
You may be interested to know that the original article that people cite can no longer be found. Hundreds of articles are linking to a 404 page…now the actual claims have been disproven, and the article has been removed. We are now inhabiting the realm of urban myths… It's been disproven. Let's move on...
Carrot Seed Essential Oil Vitamins
But before we leave the carrot seed oil myths, I'd like to correct it's cannot be chock full of vitamins either.
Vitamins are, for the most part, water-soluble and do not pass through to distillation with oily constituents. Any that find their way in are traces, smaller than minute traces, which is a shame because Vitamin E would be excellent here to nourish the skin. You'd need vitamin E or wheatgerm oils for that…which sadly offer no SPF protection either.
One of the only formulating schools in the world expresses it most. "We don't teach people to make sunscreens" because they can't. There is no proven natural sunscreen yet, sadly. So much as we would love to be able to sell you carrot seed essential oil for you to make your skincare, as a business, we'd beg you to reconsider.
Skin cancer is a painful and torturous disease. Please protect your and your family's skins with proven methods and products. (Do use carrot seed essential oil in your facial cleansers because it is fabulous for cleaning the skin, as a digestive tonic, and all those beautiful things….but not as a sunscreen, please.)
So, sorry to be such a Debbie downer, but carrot seed asks you to get your feed down on the ground and get grounded. Please do not be misled by stories of Carrot Seed SPF. Treat your body as a temple, not as an experimentation lab.