The Athletic Rider: Sunscreen from Essential Oils?

If, like me, you hate slathering greasy white goo all over your sensitive skin, Leah Hinnefeld suggests a more natural approach.

From Leah:

I LOVE summer. I love almost everything about summer. I love heat, sunshine and suntans. What I don’t love is sunburns and sunscreens. You see, I have very sensitive skin and even the mildest of sunscreens makes my skin very angry. It makes the skin on my face terribly angry. Combine my body’s lack of tolerance for sunscreen with having to spend hours outside on a tractor mowing, on a horse riding or on my feet walking, and I have a sunburned mess on my hands.

Last summer I did a little research on natural sunscreens and discovered that certain essential oils have excellent sunscreen properties. Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that are extracted from flowers, leaves, stems, bark or other plant elements. The liquid is then distilled to make a “pure oil” (though it is technically not an oil). For sunscreen purposes, most recipes suggest adding a few drops of one or a combination of essential oils into a “base oil” or a “carrier oil” so it can be applied to the skin. Jojoba oil is an example of a carrier oil.

There are several different places to purchase essential oils so be sure to do your research because some oils are not as pure as others. Be sure to buy from a reputable company. I purchased mine from Eden’s Garden and have been very pleased with the quality of the oils.

I am by no means an expert on essential oils and would suggest contacting someone with expertise in that area if you have specific questions or concerns. I would also suggest speaking with your doctor about the sunscreen protecting properties of essential oils before abandoning your SPF sunscreen.

Below are the recipes that I used last summer. By using these recipes, I developed a protective suntan but never suffered from a sunburn.

On my body  I use coconut oil — yes, the same kind that is solid at room temperature and that you use for cooking. Coconut oil is a very simple sunscreen that works well on the body but is a little too greasy for the face.

My favorite essential oil for a face sunscreen is Myrrh. I mix 20 drops of Myrrh essential oil into 4 ounces of a carrier oil. My favorite carrier oils are almond oil and evening primrose oil. I also use this mixture as an overnight moisturizer.

Another simple and popular essential oil that can be used as a sunscreen is Lavender Oil. Mix 10-30 drops of Lavender essential oil into 4 ounces of a carrier oil.

The third mix that I also have very good luck with is 3-6 drops of  Helichrysum oil with 100 drops of a carrier oil.

If you decide to give an essential oil sunscreen a try, make sure you reapply it every hour or two or you may end up with a sunburn. What if you forget to reapply and end up with that sunburn? If it is on your body, coconut oil will soothe the burn. If it is on your face, Myrrh essential oil also reduces redness.

I would love for you to comment below if you have any additional natural sunscreen recommendations!

Leah Hinnefeld is a lifelong equestrian who spent over a decade studying hoof health and metabolism in horses before turning her attention to rider fitness. Leah is a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Fitness and offers Virtual Fitness Training for riders and horse lovers. You can learn more about how to get fit to ride at Please contact Leah if you are interested in learning more about the virtual posture assessment offered by The Athletic Rider.



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