The company labeled it as a “mystery oil,” and the tiny little bottle lived up to that label.
I’d received the mystery oil as an extra gift from an essential oil company as part of a sale. I eagerly opened up the package and found … carrot seed essential oil.
Determined to figure out this oil, I dug deep into the bowels of the internet and found a modest amount of positive feedback about the oil, mainly revolving around improving hair and scalp conditions, in addition to skin care conditions such as eczema, dryness, damaged skin, etc.
Carrot seed oil also kept popping up as an ingredient in natural DIY sunscreen recipes in a number of blogs and social media with the reasoning that it had a natural SPF of 38-40.
I decided that this use of carrot seed oil in sunscreen definitely needed a research check.
Does Carrot Seed Oil Have Natural SPF?
The claim: Carrot seed oil has a natural sun protection factor (SPF) of 38-40.
User experience: Many users in blogs or social media forums who provide a detailed recipe for natural DIY sunscreen containing carrot seed oil like to reference this 2009 study in Pharmacognosy Magazine as “proof” that the oil contains an SPF of 38-40.
The research: There is no published research to directly correlate carrot seed oil in isolation with SPF protection. If something new has popped up or I overlooked a study, feel free to let me know!
The often-cited 2009 study evaluated the efficacy and stability of 14 sunscreens containing herbal ingredients.
One of the suncreens tested had a total rating of 38-40 SPF and contained Daucus Carota, the carrot plant from which carrot seed oil is extracted.
The website Gwen’s Nest does a great job breaking down how that 2009 study doesn’t prove that carrot seed oil and other single herbal ingredients have a specific SPF value.
Instead, the study evaluated the effectiveness of combinations of multiple ingredients.
The suncreen in question contained two other herbal ingredients, in addition to carrot seed oil, and didn’t determine which ingredients provided specific SPF values but rather provided the SPF value as a combination of all the ingredients.
Some enthusiastic aromatherapy fans, including the author of Gwen’s Nest, did some remarkable sleuthing and found out the name of the actual sunscreen through a comparison of the unique ingredients and inspection of the entire ingredient list on the suncreen bottle.
Surprisingly, that sunscreen also contained zinc oxide, which famously provides broad-spectrum sun protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Gabriel Mojay, a well-known and respected aromatherapist and one of the founders of the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists, spoke out on the issue.
He separately analyzed the study and similarly determined that the herbal sunscreen containing carrot seed oil also contained zinc:
“It is primarily the zinc which makes the cream SPF 38-40, not the carrot seed oil and/or essential oil.”–Gabriel Mojay
Weighing in on the claim, world-renowned essential oil safety expert Robert Tisserand, who wrote one of the most referenced and iconic book on oil safety, wrote the following:
“The purported 38-40 SPF for carrot seed oil is based on some Indian research where they tested a natural sunscreen product that contained “Daucus carota” AND OTHER INGREDIENTS, and the product had an SPF of 38 in one test, and 40 in another. This does not mean that carrot seed oil of any type has a meaningful SPF. It’s more likely that they used carrot seed fatty oil than any other type of carrot extract, but the article does not give us that information. So, carrot seed FATTY oil may be very slightly sun-protective, but it has no known SPF.”–Robert Tisserand
Although the 2009 study in Pharmacognosy Magazine doesn’t provide evidence for carrot seed oil’s rumored SPF rating of 38-40, there may be some evidence of actual carrot providing slight UV protection.
This 2013 study examined various locally brought fruits which were ground up, extracted overnight with water, and then filtered.
The SPF values of all the fruits were calculated, and the researchers determined that the carrot extracts had an SPF of approximately 1.34. However, the SPF was calculated from carrot extracts and not carrot seed oil.
This interesting 2019 study did use carrot seed oil to determine SPF values and focused specifically on carrot seed oil-based cosmetic emulsions.
Carrot seed oil in different proportions were formed into cosmetic emulsions along with coconut oil, nonionic surfactants and xanthan gum.
The emulsions were then analyzed for different parameters, including SPF. According to the study, the highest SPF for one of the carrot seed oil formulations was 6.92.
However, considering that a separate study found coconut oil to have an SPF value of 7-8, it’s hard to determine whether it was truly the carrot seed oil or the coconut oil that provided the sun protection factor value (or a combination of both).
The carrot seed oil was not tested in isolation and instead combined with other ingredients that have an SPF factor.
Carrot Seed Oil vs Carrot Seed Essential Oil vs Carrot Oil
Another point of confusion with these research studies and DIY sunscreen recipes lies in terminology.
Carrot seed oil, carrot seed essential oil, and carrot oil are sometimes used interchangeably in articles; however, they are not the same.
The studies referenced often mention using carrot seed oil, which can refer to three different types of oil, while many (though not all) natural DIY recipes on the internet call for carrot seed essential oil.
Here’s the distinction:
- Carrot seed oil or cold-pressed carrot seed oil is extracted through cold press from the seed of Daucus Carota, the carrot plant.
- Carrot seed essential oil is typically steam-distilled from the seeds of Daucus Carota. Its aroma is often described with words such as earthy, woody, and warm.
- Carrot oil (also called carrot carrier oil) is another term and refers to the carrier oil. Carrot material is soaked for some time in a vegetable oil and then is filtered out, leaving the oil infused with the beneficial carrot properties.
If you want to learn more about the three carrot oils, this article provides an in-depth look at their properties and usage.
Sun protection is critical for helping prevent sunburns and skin cancer. When it comes to making sunscreen with natural ingredients, it’s important to use ingredients that have a solid base of evidence.
Have you tried any of the DIY sunscreens containing carrot seed oil? How was your experience? Would you continue using it despite the lack of research?