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Sun Protection Against Ultraviolet Rays and How to Make Your Own Natural Sunscreen

Updated on February 6, 2014
anglnwu profile image

How-tos come easily when you're an expert at doing it. I'm quite an expert at cooking, floral art, personal beauty and health.

Protect Your Skin Against the Damaging Effects of UV Rays.


© All Rights Reserved

The sun emits electromagnetic radiation in the form of heat and light. In fact, 99 percent of the electromagnetic radiation reaches the Earth in the form of ultraviolet (UV) rays, infrared rays (heat) and light. While heat and light are necessary for sustaining life, too much UV exposure can have undue effects on the skin and health. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, UV radiation, from the sun as well as tanning beds, is classified as a human carcinogen. It is not surprising, therefore, that UV radiation is the main culprit behind the ugly effects of photoaging—wrinkles, premature aging skin, age spots and the risk factor in skin cancer. The U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) also has grim statistics to show the dangerous effects of UV radiation—one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and it claims the life of one American every hour.

Sounds scary? If you’re a sun-worshipper or have been negligent about sun protection, there is good news: Skin cancer can be prevented by limiting unprotected exposure to UV rays.

But what are UV rays? Are there different types of UV rays and what do they do to your skin and health. Here’s the lowdown:

What are UV Rays?

UV rays are energy emitted by the sun and they travel in wavelengths. Shorter wavelengths have more energy and vice versa. By definition, UV rays are shorter than infrared rays and therefore have more energy than visible radiation. This attribution makes UV rays more harmful than infrared rays. Why? The higher energy found in UV rays is strong enough to cause the breakdown of molecules of any substance, changing the chemical structure of the molecule. Prolonged periods of UV radiation can cause cell damage and deformities by altering its genetic code. For the skin, it can mean premature wrinkles, photoaging and in the worst case scenario, skin cancer. Eyes can develop cataract, pigmentation or macular degeneration.

However, not all UV rays exert the same kind of effects. Within the UV rays spectrum, there are 3 main types and they’re classified according to their wave ranges: UVA, UVB and UVC

UVA Rays

UVA rays have the longest wavelength and therefore exert the least energy of all the UV rays. They range from 320 to 400 nanometers (nm, or billions of a meter). You can get technical and further divide UVA into UVA1 (340 to 400 nm) and UVA2 (320 to 400 nm). They also account for most of the radiation from the sun, a whopping 95 percent. Although they are less intense due to their longer wavelength, they are 30 to 50 percent more prevalent and their effects are more consistent throughout the day. Their longer wavelengths also enable them to penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays. Premature wrinkles, skin aging, age spots –in one word—photoaging develops with unprotected exposure to UVA rays.

UVB Rays

UVB rays fall mid-range in the UV spectrum, ranging from 290 to 320 nm. Although the ozone layer does much to absorb UVB rays, some still manage to find their way to Earth. With increasing depletion of ozone layer, more UVB rays will reach Earth. Unlike UVA consistency, the intensity of UVB rays varies by location, season and time of the day. Higher altitude will have more UVB rays and reflection off light-reflecting surfaces such as snow and sea will intensify their presence as well. UVB rays are strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM and in the hot summer months. Indiscriminate and prolonged exposure to UVB rays will cause skin reddening and sunburn, causing damage to the skin’s superficial epidermal layers. The ugly effects of photoaging will show and skin cancer may develop.

UVC Rays

UVC rays are the shortest of the UV rays and therefore the most intense and damaging. Thankfully, its high intensity causes it to react with the ozone layer, causing the breakdown of molecules. UVC rays rarely reach the Earth due to that. However, certain energy-producing procedures such welding (where high heat and light are created) can produce UVC rays. Prolonged exposure to UVC rays can cause cataracts and eye problems.

Dangers of UV Rays

While some sun exposure is necessary for the formation of vitamin D, too much sun exposure can results in health ramifications. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, UV radiation may cause the following:

  • Premature skin aging and other skin problems
  • Skin cancer (Melanoma and nonmelanoma)
  • Cataracts and other eye damage such as pigmentation
  • Immune System Suppression

How to Protect Against UV Radiation

Short of hiding indoor to avoid UV radiation, there are some ways to enjoy the sun without suffering the consequences. It is often better to err on the side of caution but if you’re in doubt as to how to go about protecting your skin and health, here’s the recommendation from the experts. The Center for Disease Control suggests the following ways:

  • Always use a sunscreen with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 or higher. Look for one with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Wear clothing to protect exposed skin. For example, wear a long-sleeved shirt while working in the sun.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect the face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that block as close to 100% of the UVA and UVB rays as possible. Preferably choose sunglasses that wrap around the eyes for maximum protection.
  • Whenever possible, choose shade during the midday hours when radiation is the strongest.

Make Your Own Natural Sunscreen

Of course, it’s easier to go to the store to buy sunscreen and some brands even carry SPF up to 90. But what if you’re allergic to some of the chemicals used or you’re quite a natural health nut and would much prefer using natural ingredients, after all, the solution is going on your skin? You can actually make your own sunscreen! Here’s a very basic recipe by Sophie Uliano of the “Gorgeously Green” series fame:

Sesame Sunscreen

  • 2 tbs virgin coconut oil (SPF 2)
  • 1 tbs shea butter (SPF 6)
  • ½ tsp sesame oil (SPF 2)
  • ½ tsp aloe vera gel
  • 2 tsp zinc oxide

Put the first 4 ingredients in a ceramic bowl and put the bowl inside a saucepan filled with an inch or two of gently boiling water. Melt all the ingredients and add zinc oxide (the sun protection ingredient). Pour into a dark glass jar and keep it in a cool dark place. Will last for 6 months.

Note: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two of the natural minerals approved by FDA for use in sunscreen. Both are gentle and non-irritating and the least likely to cause photosensitivity disorders. Titanium dioxide offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and zinc oxide offers an even wider spectrum of protection in the UVA range.


Oils with Natural Sun Protection

You can also substitute the oils used in the above recipe with any of these oils, all with natural sun protection, some higher than others.

  • Avocado oil (SPF 6 to 8): My personal favorite and I use it under foundation.
  • Red Raspberry Seed Oil (SPF 28 to 50)
  • Cannabis Oil (SPF 6)
  • Macadamia Oil (SPF 6)
  • Jojoba oil (SPF 6)
  • Hemp Seed oil (SPF 6)

Herbal Sun Protection

Some herbs pull their own weight when it comes to sun protection. Here are some heavy weights:

  • Vitamin C and E offers protection free radical damage caused by UV rays. According to the Duke University research, vitamin C and E help to counter the effects of sun exposure.
  • Green tea (Camellia sinensis) protects against skin cancer. How? Topical application of green tea blocks UV rays by nullifying damaging effects of free radicals and reducing inflammation.
  • Horse Chestnut extract, esculin, is high in antioxidants and offers protection against UV rays.
  • Extract of Helichrysum (part of the Sunflower family) has anti-inflammatory and regenerative qualities. Acts as an effective sunscreen.


Submit a Comment

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Thanks, thefinalword, for dropping by to comment. Horse chestnut necklace, that must be very charming.

  • thefinalword profile image

    thefinalword 6 years ago

    I collected a couple bags of horse chestnuts down from my house to make into funky sailing necklace. I wrote an article about it on my blog. Thanks for your information here.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Thanks, Binaya, we can all use sunscreen advice given the fact that the sun damage can be very subtle.

  • profile image

    Binaya.Ghimire 6 years ago

    This is very valuable hub, I have bookmarked for future use.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    iZeko, thanks for dropping by. It's really neat that we can actually make our own sunscreen.

  • iZeko profile image

    iZeko 6 years ago

    Great info and definitely useful. Nice to know that sunscreen can also be made at home. Voted Up!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Thanks, drpastorcarlotta, glad you came by.

  • drpastorcarlotta profile image

    Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 7 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

    Very very useful, thank you so much! Voted-useful!!! If you have time, come visit, God Bless.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    You're welcome, Bobri!

    Homeremedies, sure, and thanks for the link.

  • profile image

    HomeRemediesMom 7 years ago

    This is awesome. Can't wait to try the natural sun screen recipe - can I borrow your recipe for my Home Remedies website if I link back to you?

  • Bobri Dobri profile image

    Bobri Dobri 7 years ago from Oklahoma

    good link, thanks!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Lady E, thanks for dropping by to comment.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    FeathersofArtemis, good idea. Try some on your bf--he may not even know it. Thanks for dropping by.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Bobri, thanks for your comments. You can always find red raspberry oil online. There are some guidelines for applying sunscreen and I've attached a link for you:

    I hope that helps.

  • Lady_E profile image

    Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

    An extremely useful Hub - The Sun is so far away, but can hurt people if they don't take precautions.

    Have a nice week.

  • FeathersOfArtemis profile image

    FeathersOfArtemis 7 years ago

    Love it! I also love all the natural sun block recipes. Maybe I can fool my sun worshipping boyfriend into wearing some sun screen! :-)

  • Bobri Dobri profile image

    Bobri Dobri 7 years ago from Oklahoma

    Extremely useful! Special thanks for sunscreen recipe! I had awful sunburn last week (was so happy to walk during first sunny days!) and now I apply 85 SPF sunscreen every day before I go out.. and I am quite anxious if it is fine to apply so much sunscreen. Now I know healthier option! I definitely need to buy Red Raspberry Seed Oil. Have you seen it anywhere? Because it's first time I hear about it.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Thanks, sito hogan, cool shoes you have there.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Thanks, packer and movers in Mumbai. Checked out your website--very nice. Enjoy your work and I wish you success in your endeavors.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    spuas, good point. If you're more comfortable with tested sunscreen, that's good. If you're not sure about homemade ones, try them out before using it exclusively. Thanks for dropping by.

  • profile image

    sito hogan ufficiale 7 years ago

    I should try making my own natural sunscreen. Love this hub. Voted up!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Thanks, On the Rock, for commenting.

  • profile image

    Packers and Movers in Mumbai 7 years ago

    Thanks you so much Anglnwu.I enjoyed making my first natural sunscreen.Will use it.Lets see how it works on my skin because most of the time i am out.You write it thoroughly and in a very siple lucid language.Great and very helpful write up.I am awaiting for your next articles on health.Keep it up!!

  • spuas profile image

    spuas 7 years ago

    I'm sorry to say but I wouldn't play much with house-made sun cream. Sun damage is something serious that people don't see at all.

    Of course you can test it as an experiment, but for long exposition in sun high season I would recommend a good tested one.

    Thanks for the Hub Anyway

  • profile image

    luisa1825 7 years ago

    It is a useful article for me, thanks the author’s sharing. Hogan Progetto Donna

    Hogan Progetto Donna

  • profile image

    carolyn59 7 years ago

    I loved the sunscreen recipe...the sun damage info was a bit long...I almost didn't make it to the recipe

  • OnTheRock profile image

    OnTheRock 7 years ago from Tortola, British Virgin Islands

    I live and the Caribbean and worry about using chemicals on my skin everyday. I will definitely try to make my own. Thanks!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    habee, it's so good to hear from you. I love the sun too.

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

    Excelent info! I'm a sun worshipper and need to be more careful. Rated up!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Thanks, ma45frost, let me know how yours turn out.

  • ma45frost profile image

    ma45frost 7 years ago from USA

    I should try making my own natural sunscreen. Love this hub. Voted up!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    bernieadkins, thanks for commenting.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Thanks, Prasetio, this sunscreen hub is just in time for summer.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Very nice information. I thought all of us need to read this hub. Well done, my friend. You got my vote!


  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Cassidella, good to see u. I love aloe vera too. Enjoy making your own sunscreen.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Om, agreed, UV rays can be very damaging.To think, we can make our own sunscreen and rock it--well, rock our skin. Good to see u and have a great day.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Pamela, thanks for commenting. I think making your own sunscreen is pretty cool.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 7 years ago

    Thanks, Katrinasui, for being the first to comment. Good to see u again.

  • bernieadkins profile image

    bernieadkins 7 years ago from Virginia

    Great hub! Loved the sunscreen recipe.

  • Cassidella profile image

    Cassidella 7 years ago

    This is an info-packed hub! What I like best is that you featured how to make sunscreen easily using natural ingredients that I love like virgin coconut oil and aloe vera gel. Thanks for sharing!

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 7 years ago

    Awesome hub. I will have to try making my own natural sunscreen some day. It doesn't sound too complicated to make at all. Our fellow hubber, Dolores Monet and I actually just had a little discussion about wrinkles on one of my hubs the other day. We agreed the sun might do more harm to the skin than alcohol and cigarettes. Rated up and awesome. :)

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

    This is a very excellent, detailed hub about the dangers of the sun. I learned some new things in your hub also.

    I never thought about making my own sunscreen, so I may try this. I never go outside without sunscreen. Great hub. Voted/ rated awesome.

  • katrinasui profile image

    katrinasui 7 years ago

    Another great hub from my lovely friend anglnwu. Thank you so much for explaining the process of making natural sunscreen. I learned a lot from this hub. A very useful hub and beautifully written.


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