If the latest research confirms anything, it’s that we’ve got our sun facts muddled. That sizzling celestial star has been the subject of a great deal of fear-mongering—particularly when it comes to sun protection and using products containing essential oils. Yet leave it to the wise Laurel Shaffer, founder of Laurel Whole Plant Organics, to allay our fears in a totally eye-opening interview with Beauty Heroes about essential oils and photosensitivity.
The timing, of course, is perfect, since August’s Beauty Heroes offers Laurel’s brilliantly-formulated Sun Damage Repair Serum with Sidekicks: Before & After Sun Body Oil and the delicious companion, the lick-able Honey Berry Enzyme Mask. You can still enjoy this lovely trio—valued at $102—for two more days until August 20th, and I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity.
Can a serum that contains essential oils really protect skin from the sun?
The answer, in short, is yes and no. No, you would not want to go out in full sun with only the thin layer of a serum. Neither Beauty Heroes nor Laurel WPO advocate that, particularly since essential oils absorb too quickly. However, infusing skin inside and out with antioxidants actually does offer measured protection over time. It gives skin greater resilience to the elements and, in that sense, does afford significant shielding from the damaging effects of the rays.
Laurel explains the way it works in the interview:
Using antioxidants inside & out helps strengthen the body's response to the sun's rays. Click To Tweet
The sun’s rays are actually not harmful free-radicals themselves. It’s how our own body responds to them that determines the level of free-radical damage we get from UV exposure. If we use antioxidants in and on our body every day, then we are strengthening our body’s response to these rays.”
Instead of creating barrier protection that physical SPF does, the oils in the Sun Damage Repair Serum work overtime to reverse damage and prevent it. With an extraordinary roster of 27 beneficial active ingredients, this serum includes these key players:
- Scarlet pimpernel ﬂower, Sea Buckthorn, Gotu Kola, Rosehip, Chamomile, and Marshmallow—help reverse signs of sun damage, including freckles and hyper-pigmentation, addressing skin discoloration and collagen loss, as well as soothing and softening rough, sun damaged skin (according to Laurel WPO website)
- Organic licorice—naturally breaks up melanin patches
- Carrot seed oil—naturally occurring Vitamin A strengthens the integrity of collagen and elastin
- Cranberry seed oil, jojoba, and red raspberry seed oils—provide SPF properties, adding a layer of plant-powered sun protection
The key is in using raw, unrefined, fresh oils because they have greater power for protection, while processed or rancid oils can actually be detrimental in the sun. Laurel says:
This is why using plants as protection is such an impossible thing to measure, because the state and quality of the plant has to be considered.”
Incorporating the “whole” plant also factors into its performance. The way a plant is extracted—cold-pressed versus steam-distilled, for instance—alters the chemical composition, which you’ll see in a moment, impacts an oil’s photosensitivity levels but also its efficacy.
What about photosensitivity and essential oils? Isn’t that a problem?
Laurel says studies are not clearcut, and we’ve mainly been exposed to one side of the discussion. While it’s true that essential oils like grapefruit, lime, and bergamot contain coumarins that leave skin more vulnerable to the sun, that only occurs when they have not been diluted properly. Other studies indicate the very opposite: that some coumarins are actually antioxidative against photo damage.
With inconclusive studies, we are left with our own judgment and that is always to use plant medicine like essential oils with discrimination and wisdom. As Laurel confirms:
Essential Oils are strong medicine, and are not meant to be used undiluted or improperly: sun care is just a small part of that discussion.”
My thoughts on August’s Beauty Heroes selection
At first I was surprised to see a facial serum as August’s Hero but, I must tell you that having the chance to enjoy a Laurel WPO collection of products is always a total win and at this price you’ve got to run, not walk to get it. It costs about $38 for these treats. Subscriptions are offered in three ($115), six ($225), or 12 month ($450) options. And BIG REVEAL next month is NOT a facial oil product at all. It’s AMAZING and I can’t wait to share it!
Laurel’s products are ripe for the picking and feel like they’ve been plucked straight off the plant and bottled fresh. In case you missed it, this Laurel WPO serum is my Holy Grail serum. Even though I test many products, I do always go back to it. Now the Sun Damage Repair Serum promises to take a top spot among my skincare standouts.
I’ve been mixing Laurel’s robust golden hued serum with Previse Nutrify Tonic or Blissoma Amend Solar Repair Anti-Aging Serum for enhanced benefits and sun protection, and then both patting and massaging this emulsion into damp skin (misted with toner first). I follow this step with my Kari Gran 365 SPF 28 Sunscreen. I’ve also been diligently taking Astaxanthin supplements (recommended by the pros in this post), and I must say the results are incredible. I’ve skipped foundation for days at a time for the first time in YEARS!
If you think that the Before & After Sun Body Oil looks teensy—which is admittedly what I thought at first—you’d be surprised how little you need to use in order to enjoy the full benefits! It’s a rich, delectable oil with a scent that grabs me—not because it’s so strong, but because of how grounding and comforting it is. I can not explain how much I love it and will most definitely be getting a full size of it when I run out. My torso definitely feels the dose of high-wattage antioxidants in this body serum.
The Honey Berry Enzyme Mask contains my all-time most effective single ingredient: raw honey. It’s a wonder at healing scars quickly and turning around a bad skin day. It can be used twice a week to exfoliate and generate new cell turnover. This product is my kind of jam with royal jelly, raw honey, organic blueberries, strawberries and crisp grapefruit.
For summer and post-summer skin, this Beauty Heroes selection is well-chosen for the season and another winner from this reliably outstanding beauty box.
Did you buy it already? How much are you loving it? Tell ALL in the comments!
*Full disclosure: I received the Beauty Heroes Discovery Box for evaluation. Decision to review and all opinions my own. Affiliate links in post for products I would recommend anyway. Thank you for helping keep my blog sustainable and for supporting ethical small businesses that care about you and the environment.