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Documentary Lovers claims that coconut oil has a natural SPF factor in their Ditch those Toxic Sunscreens; Go Natural with Coconut Oil article:

Coconut oil has an SPF of 10 which means 90% of beneficial vitamin D creating UB-V rays are blocked.

It's not an isolated source as "coconut oil spf 4" returns 244,000 results. So people attribute an SPF to coconut oil when ingested or applied externally. I know that coconut oil can relieve sunburn and otherwise irritated skin, but how does it fare in the sunscreen metric?

  • Supposedly with coconut oil you have to "season" your skin to be able to use the oil as sunscreen. You apply it once and stay in the sun for only 10-15min, then the next day increase the time to 20min and so on. Applying it for the first time and then staying in the sun for long time will not work until you season your skin with coconut oil. Once seasoned you can stay out for hours with one application of the oil. I am not claiming truth, just explaining the method being advocated by people who believe this. – user19495 May 29 '14 at 1:49
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In the article "In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics" which was published in Pharmacognosy Journal it was found that coconut oil does offer protection from ultra violet radiations.

Table of measured SPF values

However, the purpose of the study was to measure sun protection factor (SPF) of herbal oils that are commonly used in sunscreen formulations using a proposed technique. So the study really can't be used as evidence of its effectiveness as a sunscreen as done in some articles.

If the measured values are accurate then it is plausible that coconut oil could be used as an extremely light sun screen with appropriate usage. However, it should be noted that the measured SPF of 7.119 of coconut oil is significantly below the dermatologist recommended SPF 15 or greater.

  • Wow, especially when I thought that SPF as a concept cannot be applied to any vegetable oils. – Jesvin Jose Jul 31 '13 at 14:44
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    A friend of mine used coconut oil in the strong sun. After a few hours his skin turned red and he was simply sunburnt, more than folks who used no protection at all. I guess exposing oily skin with low SPF to the sun is quite dangerous and similar to using tanning accelerators. – Rabbit Aug 1 '13 at 16:04
  • @Rabbit As noted in my answer, generally you should be using something that is SPF 15 or greater and most sunscreens say you should reapply every 30 minutes or every hour to ensure protection. – rjzii Aug 1 '13 at 16:08
  • @rob I perfectly agree with your answer, just wanted to add an anecdote that confirms that low SPF is not a sufficient protection. – Rabbit Aug 1 '13 at 16:22
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    So if you combine them all, do you get an SPF of 67.414 AND smell like an herbalist? – warren Aug 2 '13 at 18:58

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