There is a rumor circulating on the internet that cooking oils are a natural substitute for sunscreen – dangerous misinformation. Nevertheless, the trend has spread so widely that an open-air pool in Switzerland has even issued a ban.

The heat wave, which has had southern Europe under control for weeks, should also arrive in Germany this week. Besides shade and clothing, the most effective protection against UV radiation is known to be sunscreen. However, some people are critical of it. They fear that the physical and chemical sun filters in the creams will damage the skin and therefore rely on so-called “natural sun protection”.

Cooking oil instead of sunscreen in the outdoor pool

One of them is said to be cooking oil. Rumors are circulating on blogs and social networks that olive oil, coconut oil and the like have UV protection that is as effective as sunscreen. In addition, the oils would care for the skin and provide it with nutrients. While the latter undoubtedly applies to some oils, such as coconut oil, their sun protection is close to zero. Nevertheless, the trend has caught on to such an extent that an open-air pool in Switzerland feels compelled to issue a ban.

As the news portal “20 Minuten” reports, the Basel women’s pool in Eglisee has officially banned the taking of cooking oils. A sign at the entrance informs visitors about this. “More and more women rub themselves with cooking oil,” explains Peter Portmann, Head of Baths at the Basel Education Department. “This has negative consequences for the bathing water and is therefore prohibited.” And oil can also have harmful consequences for humans when used instead of sunscreen, as several studies have shown.

Oils are not an effective sunscreen

At the Center for Geosciences in Akkulam, Indian geologists used a spectrometer to measure the solar transmittance of coconut oil, peanut oil, castor oil, olive oil, neem oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil and cod liver oil – with sobering results. According to the “Pharmazeutische Zeitung”, the results have shown that the oils have a permeability of 60-70 percent. For a better comparison, Dr. Chanchal Deep Kaur and Dr. Swarnlata Saraf from the Ravishankar Shukla University in Raipur, India calculated the sun protection factor of the oils.

Olive and coconut oils managed SPF values ​​of just 7-8 – and are still the front runners. Almond oil has a sun protection factor of 4, mustard oil has a sun protection factor of 2 and sesame oil brings up the rear with a value of 1. According to the “Pharmazeutische Zeitung”, SPF specifications of 30-50, which are said to be the oils on the Internet, are simply wrong. As does the claim that sunscreens block vitamin D absorption.

UV filters in sun creams scientifically examined

“Further negative aspects are the fluctuations to which natural products are subject, as well as the risk of contamination due to a lack of preservation,” writes the “Ärzte Zeitung” about the supposedly “natural sun protection”. Both doctors and the Federal Office for Risk Assessment (BfR) expressly point out that there are no health concerns with sunscreen. Sun creams contain chemical or mineral filter substances that shield the skin from UV radiation. According to the BfR, these must be examined for health risks and scientifically evaluated before they can be used at European level.

“According to the current state of science, health impairments due to these UV filters in sunscreens that are available in the European Union are not to be expected,” says the authority. The concern that microparticles contained in mineral filters could penetrate the skin can also be allayed. Studies show that, for example, nano-titanium dioxide in the forms used in cosmetics cannot penetrate the human bloodstream.

The best protection against sunburn is to avoid the sun’s intense UV rays. When staying outdoors, the skin should be covered with clothing and free areas should be sunscreened – this also applies to Switzerland. “The best sun protection is shade and clothing comes second,” quotes “20 minutes” Stefanie der Bora, media spokeswoman for the Swiss Cancer League. “Oils do not have filters that effectively protect against UV-A and UV-B radiation.”

Sources: “Apotheken-Umschau”, “Ärzte Zeitung”, Federal Office for Risk Assessment (I), Federal Office for Risk Assessment (II), “Pharmazeutische Zeitung”, “20 Minuten”