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Huile de sésame photoprotection.

Sun Protection: Sesame Oil to Prevent UV Damage to the Skin?

Exposure to the sun is essential for well-being and the proper functioning of the body. However, it has many harmful effects and is among other things, the cause of premature skin aging. In an era where natural alternatives are favored, many use vegetable oils as sun protection, such as sesame oil. It is often heard that it could prevent UV rays from damaging the skin. Discover in this article if sesame oil is a real alternative to traditional sunscreens and thus able to protect the skin from UV rays.

Summary
Published April 23, 2024, updated on June 21, 2024, by Marie, Scientific Editor — 6 min read

Sesame oil for natural sun protection for the skin?

Despite the beneficial effects it has on the overall well-being of the body, the sun is also known to cause numerous damages to the skin (sunburns, melanomas, photo-aging, hyperpigmentation, etc.). One of the main solutions to protect oneself is to apply a sun care product. However, with the potential adverse effects of sun filters on human health and the environment being criticized, sun care products are increasingly under scrutiny and often abandoned in favor of vegetable oils, which are considered more natural, safer, and healthier.

Among these, it is often said that sesame oil could actively protect the skin from the sun, thus reducing the need to use the chemical UV filters we are familiar with. Several studies have attempted to determine the protective capacity of sesame oil against UV rays. We have reviewed all existing scientific data to date to determine if sesame oil truly offers good protection against UV rays. All the information has been gathered and summarized in the following table.

References Variety of Sesame Oil Measurement method used SPF Value Determined
COIFFARD L. & al (2007) Sesamum indicum (France)Ultraviolet-Visible Spectrophotometry with an Integrating Sphere (300 - 1100 nm) The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of the anti-sun emulsion with sesame oil ranges between 14.1 and 15.3
SARAF S. & al (2010) Sesamum indicum (India)Ultraviolet-Visible Spectrophotometry (290 - 320 nm) SPF of pure sesame oil is 1.77
MEGHEA A. & others (2015) Sesamum indicum Ultraviolet-Visible Spectrophotometry (290 - 320 nm) About 30% of protection against UV rays (estimated SPF of 2)
HAWASH M. & al (2019) Sesamum indicum (Turkey, India, and Palestine) Ultraviolet-Visible Spectrophotometry (290 - 320 nm) The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of Palestinian sesame oil is 2.2, for Turkish sesame oil it's 3, and for Indian sesame oil, it's 3.2

The results from various studies are somewhat divergent, and do not provide the same opinions on the photoprotective power of vegetable oil. While the majority of research agrees that sesame oil has an average SPF between 2 and 3, others show that it may in fact have a higher SPF.

Indeed, a study conducted in 2007 on a solar emulsion, with a basic Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of about 8, attributed a sun protection index of approximately 14.7 to the product after the addition of sesame oil into the formula as a fatty substance. Therefore, according to this analysis, the SPF of sesame oil would be higher.

However, the results of this study should be approached with caution, as there are some limitations to note. In addition to being one of the first studies of its kind, the tests were not conducted on pure sesame oil but as a factor in enhancing sun protection. Finally, it did not employ the same spectrophotometric method as the others.

Is this sufficient to protect the skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun?

As of now, the collective body of studies cited does not definitively assert that sesame oil is a good alternative to traditional sunscreens. Despite the fact that various studies have shown that sesame oil does have an SPF, none appear to be high enough for it to be considered as a satisfactory sun protection against harmful UV rays on its own. Applying it alone on the skin before sun exposure would pose a higher risk of sunburn and burns.

While awaiting further studies, sesame oil is believed to have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) between 2 and 3, which is far from adequate to provide UV protection for the skin.

minimum SPF of 30 is required to prevent cellular damage caused by the sun and to help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

To preserve one's sun capital, it is also recommended to limit sun exposure generally, and especially during the hours when the sun's rays are most intense from 12pm to 4pm. It is also preferable to seek shade, when possible, and to wear covering clothing to enhance protection. Furthermore, the daily application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing a combination of mineral and organic filters is essential on all exposed areas.

Although it cannot shield the skin from the harmful effects of the sun, sesame oil does, however, exhibit antioxidant activity to mitigate the skin impacts of free radicals induced by UV rays. The study conducted by COIFFARD in 2007 particularly utilized this antioxidant activity to intensify the sun protection effects of the tested emulsion. Thus, sesame oil could be considered an interesting additional ingredient to incorporate into the composition of sun care products. It would thereby improve their formulation and positively influence their action thanks to its constituents.

graphique protection fps
Graph illustrating the percentage of protection against UV rays based on the SPF.
SPF corresponds to the percentage of UV rays blocked. Source: Inspired by the website of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Sources

  • COIFFARD L. & al. Influence de certains corps gras sur le Sun Protection Factor (SPF) mesuré in vitro. Oilseeds & fats Crops and Lipids (2007).

  • KHAMBHOLJA K. & al. Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation. Pharmacognosy Review (2011).

  • MEGHEA A. & al. Use of various vegetable oils in designing photoprotective nanostructured formulations for UV protection and antioxidant activity. Industrial Crops and Products (2015).

  • EBRAHIMI M. & al. Formulation, clinical and histopathological assessment of microemulsion based hydrogel for UV protection of skin. Colloids and Surfaces B : Biointerfaces (2019).

  • HAWASH M. & al. Impact of sesame oil source: A quality assessment for cosmeceutical and pharmaceutical use. FABAD Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences (2019).

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