faceSometimes I like to imagine I’m a medicine woman. In this scenario, I’m a wise (and somewhat mysterious) elder the young ones come to with all their deepest problems and secrets. I dispense potions and salves, tinctures and ointments to cure every manner of ill. And nobody ever gets sunburned or skin cancer on my watch. Unfortunately, I have nowhere near the knowledge (nor the time) to add “medicine woman” to my list of skills. But if I ever did decide to follow this aspiration for real, here’s a list of the plants I would recommend for summer sun lovers, because they all have natural inborn sunscreen properties.

Cost comparison: commerical sunscreen vs. plant oils 

Of course you can find some great deals on commercial sunscreens using coupons! But if you are seeking natural alternatives due to sensitive skin or other reasons, you will see below that you can get small quantities of each of the listed oils to try without spending a bundle.

While most of these plants cannot provide the level of SPF (sun protection factor) required to repel sunburn with continuous exposure, they will do nicely for short outdoor jaunts such as running errands, walking the dog, or taking the baby for a stroll in the park. These plant oils are listed in order of SPF (from lowest to highest).

1. Avocado

Not only is avocado delicious to eat, and very nourishing to skin and hair, but the oil produced by the avocado plant is rich in vitamins and nutrients, including a slight natural sunscreen property, which is enhanced by its fast-acting skin replenishment abilities.

  • SPF rating: 4
  • Price: $3.99 + free shipping  (Piping Rock)

2. Alfalfa

Alfalfa is an edible plant that is very pretty and also quite nutritious. It produces seeds that sprout and also lovely deep purple flowers in addition to its slender bright green leaves. In traditional Indian culture, alfalfa leaves were used to treat skin ailments, including burns. The oil from alfalfa seeds contains antioxidants and natural low-grade sunscreen properties.

  • SPF rating: 5
  • Price: $10.00 + $2.00 shipping (Etsy)

3. Aspen

The aspen tree's bark produces a white powder that acts as a low level natural sunscreen. Just by spreading the white powder on any areas of exposed skin, you can delay the onset of sunburn. The white powder is somewhat sticky, so you can just rub your hands along the tree trunk to gather it and spread it over skin.

4. Hemp

The hemp plant is coming into its own today as the green movement picks up steam. For instance, you may have noticed the greater visibility of products made from hemp fabric, hemp wood, and hemp oil. Interestingly, the molecular structure of hemp oil and the molecular structure of our own bodily lipids (fats) are quite similar. Hemp oil, which is extracted from compressed hemp, has natural sunscreen properties as well as keratin, which helps skin maintain moisture.

  • SPF rating: 6
  • Price: $7.99 + free shipping (Piping Rock)

5. Soybean

The soybean plant is best known for producing tofu, a meat alternative. But soybean oil is also great for cooking, and for its moisturizing properties. Soybean oil contains lots of wonderful nutrients and is also an effective natural sun repellant.

6. Wheat germ

Wheat germ literally translates to mean "wheat embryo." The "wheat germ" is contained in the lower portion of the wheat plant and has long been considered the most nutritionally fortified part of the plant. When the wheat germ is compressed, it produces a natural oil full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and sun repellant properties.

  • SPF rating: 20
  • Price: $2.79 + $1.99 shipping (Etsy)

7. Red raspberry

Red raspberry seed (which in fact does come from the well-known red-purple fruit) can pack a SPF punch. When the seeds of the raspberry fruit are compressed, the resulting oil has a rich content of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

  • SPF rating: 28+
  • Price: $10.00 + $2.00 shipping (Etsy)

8. Carrot seed

Not to be confused with the orange veggie, carrot seed is actually another name for "Queen Anne's Lace" or "Daucus carota." Carrot seed oil is extracted from the dried seeds of the Queen Anne's lace plant. In addition to natural sunscreen properties, carrot seed oil has plenty of antioxidants and other restorative nutrients.

  • SPF rating: 38+
  • Price: $4.95 + $2.99 shipping (Amazon)