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.
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 Natural Sunscreen
- 1 oz. coconut oil (find high quality coconut oil here)
- 0.8 oz. shea butter (find it here)
- 0.1 oz. jojoba, sesame, or sunflower oil (find oils here)
- 0.1 oz. Vitamin E oil (find it here)
- 30 drops essential oils, optional – I use 15 lavender, 10 eucalyptus, 5 peppermint (find 100% pure essential oils here)
- zinc oxide powder (determine amount for 2 oz. of lotion) (We purchased ours here)
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.
Apply liberally to exposed skin. Reapply every few hours, or more often if swimming or sweating.
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.