After reading this article about the toxic effects of oxybenzone (a common ingredient in sunscreen), and the fact that 97% of Americans are contaminated with it, I started looking for a more natural option, especially for my very fair daughter. Unfortunately, these less toxic sunscreens are expensive! Fortunately, I love making my own products. Challenge accepted!
Last year, I made my own with shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax as the base. I melted it, added zinc powder and lavender essential oil, and poured it into an old deodorant stick. Although it was a bit dry, it did the job and lasted all summer. I would run it across baby’s arms and legs, let it melt a little, and rub it in. We spent three weeks in Italy, walking through cities for hours in the burning sun. My daughter did wear a sun hat most of the time to protect the top of her head, ears, and neck (it’s hard to get those areas covered well, and she did not have much hair yet), but she did not get burned once.
This year, I was out of shea butter, and I wanted to try making a lotion-type sunscreen that would spread more easily. The beeswax in my old recipe is what made it solid. The problem with using just coconut oil and shea butter is that it will melt in hot weather (such as when it’s sitting in the sun on the beach). This causes the zinc to separate and makes the sunscreen too drippy and messy to apply. On top of that, coconut oil can stain clothing. So to make my life easy, I decided to use some old lotion and the zinc powder I still had from last year. With this recipe, you DON’T need to melt any ingredients to mix them, you DON’T need to wait for anything to cool, and you DON’T need to worry about it being too solid or too drippy depending on the temperature.
Yes, this sunscreen will leave your skin looking a little white at first. This is because you’re using non-nano zinc powder, which means the particles lay on top of the skin (creating the barrier you want) and are not absorbed by the skin (which is toxic).
You want to use a thin lotion that spreads very easily. The mixture will eventually become thicker when you add the zinc, and you don’t want it to become TOO thick. You also want to avoid lotion with any kind of citrus ingredient/fragrance. I used Aveeno baby lotion with oatmeal because I had a ton of it left over (we never used baby lotion). But since it still has some ingredients I don’t like (such as Petroleum), I will be using a fragrance-free non-toxic but economical base lotion in the future (like this one).
The lavender essential oil is optional. I used it because 1) I have tons of it, 2) it smells nice, 3) it’s good for the skin, and 3) it’s a mild bug repellant.
This sunscreen is approximately SPF 2o. If you’re used to using nothing but SPF 100, and you think spf 20 will only work 20% as well, consider this: SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays, SPF 50 blocks 98%, SPF 30 blocks 97%, and SPF 15 blocks 93%. SPF 20 is as high as you can go with this natural sunscreen; adding even more zinc powder will not give you an SPF higher than 20.
- 1 cup lotion
- 1/3 cup non-nano uncoated zinc powder (this one)
- 20 drops lavender essential oil (optional!)
Despite having this great recipe, I still use sunscreen only when absolutely necessary. I prefer to just use clothing/hats, or an umbrella. If we’re going to be out in the sun for less than 15 minutes, or it’s late in the day, I won’t even put any on. A little vitamin D every day is very beneficial.
This recipe is so easy, I hope you give it a try!