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Do you love the sun as much as I do? My teen years were spent rebelling against sunscreen and having tanning contests with my older sister. We would lie in the sun (glistening with baby oil) well into the colder fall months – doing everything in our power to hold onto a golden tan until the snow started flying.


I still adore the feel of sunshine on my skin, and believe moderate amounts are important to our health, but I’m no longer a fan of endangering my health by overdoing it.

Homemade Sunscreen

Natural ways to protect your skin

While we normally suggest allowing your skin to get a good amount of sunshine to provide your body with ample Vitamin D, we do not condone soaking up the sun until you are burnt to a crisp. In years past, people knew how to avoid getting too much sun by following some simple sunny day guidelines:

  • avoid being outside during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are the hottest
  • seek shade under a tree, umbrella, etc., if being outside during peak sun is necessary
  • wear a large-brimmed hat
  • wear light, loose clothing to cover exposed skin

However, we understand there are times you will not be able to cover up or get out of the sun and may need to use sunscreen. But commercial sunscreens have been a hot topic lately, guilty of containing harsh chemicals and being counterproductive in maintaining healthy skin.

So let’s learn how to safely protect your skin when covering up or getting out of the sun is out of the question.

Ingredients for natural sun protection


There are several oils, butters, essential oils, and other natural ingredients that provide natural sun protection. While most of these offer very low amounts of sun protection, when added to your homemade sunscreen they nourish the skin and offer some protection against the effects of excessive sun.

Coconut oil - contains natural SPF properties

Shea butter - naturally protects skin, making it perfect for use in a sunscreen

Jojoba oil, sunflower oil, or sesame oil - these oils are easily absorbed into the skin and also provide some natural sun protection

Eucalyptus and lavender essential oils - eucalyptus has very low natural SPF and lavender is great for soothing and repairing skin. DO NOT use citrus essential oils in your sunscreen, as they may increase sensitivity to sunlight. 

Vitamin E oil - nourishes and moisturizes skin, and helps naturally preserve homemade sunscreen

Zinc oxide (non nan0) - a non-toxic, usually non-irritating, effective broad spectrum sunblock. The particles sit on the outermost layer of your skin, scattering and absorbing UVA and UVB rays, protecting the skin below. Be sure to use non nano zinc oxide to produce a natural homemade sunscreen. We purchased ours here. (The smallest amount you can purchase is a container that will last you years!)

Important: Nano or micronized zinc oxide has been treated to reduce the size of its particles, creating an ultrafine powder. When added to sunscreens it does not leave a white film on the skin, thus making it a popular choice in many commercial sunscreens. The problem with this is that the particles are so small they can enter the body through the skin, causing potential health problems. If purchasing from a company other than our source, be sure to purchase a non nano zinc oxide that has particle sizes as large as possible. (Anything with a particle size smaller than 100nm is considered a nano particle – the zinc oxide we found is 330nm.)

Choose your SPF

Different amounts of zinc oxide are needed depending on what SPF you would like your lotion to be. Once you have chosen the SPF a little math is involved. The zinc oxide must be a certain percentage of the weight of your ingredients (before adding the zinc oxide). For this reason, it’s easiest to use a kitchen scale when making your sunscreen. For example, if you have 2 ounces of lotion and you’d like to make SPF 10 sunscreen, according to the values below you will need to add .2 ounces of zinc oxide to the lotion. Use the zinc oxide recommendations below.

For SPF 2-5: Use 5% zinc oxide

For SPF 6-11: Use 10% zinc oxide

For SPF 12-19: Use 15% zinc oxide

For SPF >20: Use 20% zinc oxide

Homemade Sunscreen 1

Homemade Natural Sunscreen

Ingredients:

Directions:

Add coconut oil, shea butter, and jojoba/sesame/sunflower oil to a makeshift double boiler. (To make your own double boiler, place a Pyrex measuring cup containing ingredients inside a small pot filled with a few inches of water). Heat gently until shea butter is just melted. Remove from double boiler and allow to cool a little. Put on a mask that covers your nose and mouth (to avoid breathing in the fine particles of zinc oxide powder), and measure out your zinc oxide. Add zinc oxide, Vitamin E oil, and optional essential oils to the other ingredients. Stir well to combine. Store in a dark jar in the refrigerator.

To Use:

Apply liberally to exposed skin. Reapply every few hours, or more often if swimming or sweating.

Additional notes

This homemade sunscreen has about a 6 month shelf life, and should be refrigerated when not being used. The oils it contains are photosensitive, so do not leave your homemade sunscreen sitting out in direct sunlight. Keeping it in a cooler will prevent it from melting in high temperatures when taking it to the pool or beach.

If you prefer to add zinc oxide to another homemade lotion you like, simply weigh a desired amount of lotion and add enough zinc oxide to achieve the preferred SPF, mixing thoroughly.

*******


photo credit to Paul of Castaways.com.au and koadmunkee

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DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.

Comments

  1. Lauren says

    How cool! I’ve been wondering if there was a good way to make a DIY sunblock. How often do you recommend reapplying if you are spending the day outside?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I would recommend reapplying every few hours, or even more frequently if you’re swimming or working up a sweat. Hope you enjoy this homemade version!

  2. JAMES R. says

    Thank you Mademoiselle for the recipe for the sunscreen, and all the other recipes you share.

    Because of what you share with all of us readers, you have have made our lives a wee bit more bearable.

    ‘Thank You’ just does not show enough appreciation for all you. 8 )

  3. Alina N. says

    Hi Betsy,
    I share the same sentiment that James R. does. You guys are great! I very much look forward to your emails. When I see one I have a smile on my face and I dig into it right away because I know that I will learn something good.
    Questions:
    Is my skin going to have a white tint from the zinc?
    How effective would the sunscreen be if I was not to use the zinc?
    Thank you.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thank you Alina! It’s always so nice to hear when readers enjoy our stuff.

      The zinc we purchase has a fairly large particle size and it doesn’t leave a white tint on our skin. If you leave out the zinc oxide this sunscreen will probably have an SPF of around 4 due to the coconut oil and jojoba oil.

  4. says

    I love this article and can’t wait to get my other mom friends together and make ours! I was wondering, do you recommend any essential oils that could also help this to be an insect repellent?

  5. Doris says

    I don’t do well with coconut. Can I replace it with anything else? Thank you for your recipes and hard work. I am slowly replacing my store bought products with natural ones and I love it!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Sure…you can use more shea butter or cocoa butter in place of the coconut oil. We’re glad you’re having so much fun making the transition to natural products!

  6. Ange says

    Forgive me, but is there an easier way to measure out the ingredients, other than in ounces? I’m not very math inclined!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes, you can use tablespoons or teaspoons when mixing this, but the issue comes when you have to figure out what SPF you want your lotion. You will still have to do some math because the zinc oxide has to be a certain percentage of the weight of your base ingredients. However, here are the rough measurements you can use for a 2 oz. portion of lotion:

      2 TBSP coconut oil
      1 TBSP + 2 tsp shea butter
      1/2 tsp (rounded) jojoba, sesame, or sunflower oil
      1/2 tsp (rounded) Vitamin E oil
      *Use about 2/3 of a teaspoon of zinc oxide for SPF 2-5
      *Use about 1 1/4 teaspoons zinc oxide for SPF 6-11
      *Use about 1 3/4 teaspoons zinc oxide for SPF 12-19
      *Use about 3 teaspoons zinc oxide for SPF >20

      Hope that helps!

  7. Aimww says

    How often does this sunscreen need to be re-applied – If the kids are playing outside versus swimming?

  8. Vicktoria says

    I’m looking forward to mixing up my own batch. Question: If I’m weighing my ingredients on my kitchen scale, do I need to make allowance for the weight of the container they are in?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes, because when you’re figuring out how much zinc oxide to use it needs to be a certain percentage of the total weight of the other ingredients – NOT including the container you’re using.

  9. Angela Burger says

    I dont think this is healthy putting Zinc oxide in it. where u have to cover ur mouth not to breath in it. I ask my friend who have alot of knowledge of herbs and health freak. He said it does not sound healthy. Anything you can eat is safe to put on your skin. If u cant eat it. Its not safe..

    • Betsy Jabs says

      The reason I recommend avoiding breathing in the zinc oxide is for respiratory purposes…the particles are very small and dust-like. Once the zinc oxide particles are suspended in the finished sunscreen this hazard no longer exists. In terms of putting it on your skin, this is the entire reason for the non-nano argument I cover in the article. Non-nano particles will not be absorbed by skin, but sit on top of skin doing their job.

  10. anna says

    Can you also use titanium dioxide? The kind that I have is 0.3 microns, do you know what that means and is it safe? Thank you!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great question Anna. While titanium dioxide can be used for natural sunscreen, it does not do a very good job of protecting from UVA rays. This is why I recommend zinc oxide, which protects well from UVA and UVBs. Therefore, titanium dioxide should always be used in conjunction with zinc oxide to get a truly broad spectrum sunscreen. The size of titanium dioxide you have is equal to 300 nanometers…this is well above the safe particle size.

  11. Jessi says

    Anyone know where I can get non-nano zinc oxide in Canada? SoapGoods seems like an awesome site, I’ve gawked at it for some time, but they won’t ship outside the US

  12. mandy says

    Love this so much, have been trying to figure it out and found this :) question if anyone is still following. If I wanted to make like 4 oz how much zinc would i need to add to achieve a SPF 30? Thank you all very much!! THIS IS GREAT!!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      For an SPF 30 lotion, you’ll have to use more than 30% zinc oxide in your mixture. Just to warn you…this will create a very thick, white, pasty sunscreen. If you’re making 4 oz. of lotion, use between 1.2-1.3 ounces of zinc oxide to achieve a SPF of around 30.

  13. Jessica says

    Thank you x’s A BILLION for the links to the websites!!!!! :-) I discovered that Radiant Life sells *NATURAL AMAZING* Homemade Baby Formula for those, like me, who are low on BM supply and have to supplement. Soooo excited but wish it hadn’t taken me so long to discover…on baby #2 now.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I haven’t tried it, but I wonder the same thing! I bet you could try mixing the zinc oxide with a mixture of a very light oil and pure aloe vera gel (which is very runny in its pure state, so it would spray well). The problem I foresee is the zinc will probably sit at the bottom of the spray bottle. You could shake it vigorously before applying, but I’d be afraid that you wouldn’t get the desired amount of zinc in each application, possibly leading to sunburn. So this will be a “try at your own risk” experiment. ;)

  14. Kimberly says

    I am dangerously low in vitamin D. Would this sunscreen block what I need to get vitamin D?

  15. Sherry says

    Carrot seed essential oil would work even better. Also, taking 8 mg a day of astaxanthin not only repairs sun damage, but also helps keep you from burning, giving you some internal sun protection.

  16. Judy Rowe says

    I have used straight aloe vera as sun screen. The children don’t burn but do get a light tan while wearing it.

  17. Ogreletmama says

    Howdy from Texas! I love your blog and was reading this particular post and thinking about an idea that I had recently and have been trying to formulate for a bit. I like silicone type primers underneath my makeup, but HATE having to put on multiple products and let them sit to dry; I have two little ones and simply do not have the time nor brain cells to track what I’ve put on and how long ago. SO-I had the thought of buying some cosmetic grade silicone and silica microspheres from a place that I buy a lot of makeup pigments from and making my own primer. Then a second little light bulb went off…what about making it a sunscreen too. Now- the first attempt I did with this was to add silica microspheres to a makeup primer that I had been using for a while and then add sunscreen to it as well, mix really well and …. well, no voila. Over the course of the next few days, it became a somwhat liquidly separated goo-ish substance. Needless to say, I threw it away. After doing some research, the primer I was using was waterbased, and the sunscreen the opposite, and the silica spheres just pulled all that all sorts of ways.

    Here’s my real question: Do you think it would work with a silicone gel, silica microspheres, and then your 300 nm zinc mixed together for a very basic (few ingredient) sunscreen makeup primer? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Thanks

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes, my hunch is that the powdered zinc oxide should work well with those other ingredients. Great idea! Just remember to use something to cover your mouth/nose when working with the powdered zinc oxide so it’s not a respiratory irritant.

  18. Brian says

    I am assuming this is safe to put on lips, but have you tried adding anything that will make the consistency more like lip balm?

  19. Betsy Nash says

    I was wondering what the final consistency of the sunscreen will be. The reason I am asking is to decide what kind of packaging to put it in. Will it harden at room temp (due to the addition of the coconut oil)? If so, I was thinking it would be convenient to put it in a deodorant tube for ease of application. Or is it more like a lotion I should put in a squeeze bottle? Thanks!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I always put mine in a small jar because it can melt at the beach to a soft consistency, or it may be solid if I keep it in the cooler/refrigerator. However, if you’re just adding zinc oxide to some of your favorite lotion, go ahead and put it in a squeeze tube.

  20. BM says

    Do you have a version for oily/ acne prone skin? I am ok with coconut oil, but worry that the shea butter may cause my skin to break out.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      My best recommendation would be to use a lotion you already know works well with your skin and mix in the amount of zinc oxide you would need to create the SPF you want. Blend very well so the zinc oxide is mixed throughout.