Sun protection is critical for anyone who likes to spend time outdoors. But one glance at most sunscreen ingredient labels will reveal a long list of chemicals and other artificial ingredients, the kind many people are looking to eliminate from their lives as much as possible. Fortunately, there are some fantastic and effective natural alternatives to those mass-manufactured sunscreens. Read on as we shine a light on ten of the best.
Sun-Protective (UPF) Clothing
Other than mass-market chemical sunscreens, there's no better choice among sunscreen alternatives to protect your skin from the sun's harmful impacts than clothing with protection built right in.
UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) measures how much an item of clothing blocks UVA and UVB rays. Normal, everyday clothes have UPF ratings of around five, helpful for some protection but not nearly enough when the sun is strong or you'll be outside all day.
Outdoor enthusiasts should opt for special sun-protective clothing instead, like the many high-quality offerings of Free Fly's UPF clothing for men and women. These have UPF ratings up to 50 or more, dramatically reducing the potential for sun damage while staying cool and comfortable at the same time.
Related: What Does UPF 50+ Mean?
Coconut oil is one of the better-known natural alternatives to sunscreen. In its purest form, coconut oil is derived from firmly pressing the flesh (or meat) of a coconut, either fresh or dried. Consumer preparations block approximately 20% of harmful UV rays through a compound known as lauric acid while nourishing your skin with Vitamin E. Like many natural oils, frequent reapplications are best, and those with lighter skin tones may still experience some burning.
Raspberry Seed Oil
Seed oils provide a surprising level of protection against the sun as well, and few are better than raspberry. Research has found this oil to be packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, sometimes providing up to 50 SPF protection from UVB rays (the kind that causes sunburns), with more limited benefits of 8-10 SPF for aging-related and cancer-causing UVA. It can also moisturize the skin, leading to its presence in many commercial skincare products.
Carrot Seed Oil
Like raspberry seed oil, carrot seed oil is full of anti-inflammatory substances like beta-carotene. This makes the oil a powerful antioxidant as well. In some cases, it's been found to have an SPF rating of up to 40.
A useful natural sunscreen may be sitting right on your kitchen counter. Data has suggested olive oil provides an SPF of around 7 or 8, better than some other chemical-free alternatives. Its biggest advantages may be how common it is and how it can pull delicious double-duty for a waterfront cookout once the sun goes down! Plus, it never hurts to smell like tasty Mediterranean food.
Wheat Germ Oil
A final seed oil that's among the common natural sunscreen alternatives is derived from wheat germ, a part of the grain's kernel. With high amounts of Vitamin E, it's popular for its skin-nourishing benefits. From a sun perspective, it's been known to provide protection up to 20 SPF.
Zinc oxide may not sound as eco-friendly as some other items on this list, but this naturally occurring substance has been protecting people from the sun for generations. Unlike sunscreen, it creates a physical barrier that blocks the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays. SPF ratings of 30 and above are common, providing robust, broad-spectrum safety. It's also naturally anti-inflammatory and soothing on the skin, making it an excellent choice for areas that have already been sunburned.
Most familiar to many people from organic skin care products, shea butter also provides a built-in, all-natural sunscreen. It's a moisturizing fat made from the nuts of the West African shea tree, a longtime home solution for softening and moisturizing the skin. While it's not the most powerful by any means (with an SPF generally between 3 and 6), it's best thought of as a bonus level of protection available for those who use shea butter for other popular reasons.
Aloe may be most associated with treating your skin after sun exposure, but fewer people know it can protect like sunscreen, too. Paired with the natural soothing and hydrating properties, it's been suggested that certain aloe preparations can provide an SPF of up to 20, comparable to many traditional sunscreens. However, effectiveness can vary from plant to plant.
A Good Diet
Many people don't consider that protecting their skin from the sun can start on their plates! Generally, foods that have high amounts of antioxidants and healthy fats will encourage healthy skin that can resist sun damage. This includes colorful vegetables with lots of carotenoids, green tea, and even edible versions of options mentioned above, like coconut oil, which are typically high in omega fatty acids and other beneficial compounds. While diet certainly can't fully replace the effects of sunscreen, it can provide some extra protection and help your skin heal more quickly from sunburns and other damage.
Plenty of Natural Alternatives, but One Choice Stands Out
As the list above shows, those looking for alternatives to sunscreen that don't involve mysterious chemicals and additives have an extensive selection of ways to protect their skin while enjoying the great outdoors. Still, it's critical to remember that while many of these choices provide some protection, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends broad-spectrum sunscreens (those that protect against both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF rating of at least 15.
With all this in mind, sun protective clothing from Free Fly stands out among the crowd. Unlike some sunscreen alternatives, it provides robust, high-level protection against all UV rays—not to mention reduces the need to frequently reapply sunblock, saving you time and money.
No matter how you do it, sun protection is one of the most important parts of enjoying a long, healthy, comfortable life outdoors. Use Free Fly's UPF clothing, along with other skin protectants, and you'll look good and feel good from sunup to sundown.