In the maelstrom of sunscreen intelligence, it's a bit difficult to see the forest for the trees. One year, one chemical is new and sexy (and safe!) — and the next, it's pulled from the shelves and you have to start all over again. While battles will always wage about sunscreen safety and effectiveness, there's a third path emerging that has our interest piqued.

You've no doubt heard about how miraculous coconut oil is as a beauty cure-all: It's the best moisturizer, eczema treatment, hair conditioner. What if you could also use it as an organic sunscreen? Weird, right? Well, in some holistic circles it's being vaunted as an alternative to chemical sunscreens, and while that sounds too good to be true, we couldn't help but wonder, as Carrie Bradshaw liked to say, if it was really possible to skip the use of chemical sunscreens and go the hippie route.

To get the full download on this topic, we reached out to naturopath Mille Lytle, who offers clients a full range of holistic and natural healing services at Mountain, a boutique wellness center in New York. Citing research from Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems With Coconut Oil, Lytle explained that though coconut oil has been reported as having a natural SPF of 10, there actually isn't any scientific research which proves or disproves this ability. "Just because there is no evidence doesn't mean it's true — it just means science is not aware of the answer yet." She went on to explain that "the only sunscreen studies using coconut oil look at coconut oil as a vehicle for sunscreen absorption and penetration into the skin. It found that coconut oil at a ratio of 50% coconut oil and 50% alcohol allowed the SPF chemicals to penetrate the skin the most. Coconut oil alone did not allow SPF chemicals to penetrate the skin. This likely means coconut oil is a good barrier for chemical penetration through the skin." Score one for coconut oil, since acting as a barrier between our skin and the many harmful elements it is constantly exposed to, including UVB and UVB rays, is pretty powerful stuff.

Does this mean slathering extra virgin coconut oil on is as good as a healthy swipe of Coppertone? Not quite. Lytle says, "While I wouldn't tell someone to use coconut oil instead of SPF to avoid a burn if they were exposed to full, hot sun all day long at the beach, it is an option for someone who is spending only a small amount of time in the sun with partially covered skin." She explains that coconut oil, while not a reliable SPF, does moisturize, block chemicals, protect and heal skin cells — something that most chemical lotions with SPF do not do.

Lytle also suggests that the chemicals that make up sunscreen formulations can also potentially be harmful while they are helping, since they can aid in the penetration of harmful substances into the skin. The best route? In Lytle's opinion, it's necessary to limit daily sun time, in addition to limiting exposure to SPF chemicals and other airborn pollutants.

Hm. We're not tossing out our bottles of sunscreen just yet — but we're definitely adding coconut oil into our beauty routines, since its powerful protection abilities can't be disputed.

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