Homemade Sunscreen – Non-Toxic and Natural

A simple recipe for an effective, non-toxic sunscreen that’s safe for the whole family!

Homemade Natural Sunscreen - Chemical-Free and Non-Toxic

I’ve long had a recipe for homemade body butter that contains zinc oxide, which I was using as a thickening agent. But that fabulous mineral is also a natural sunscreen. Almost all sunscreens on the market today contain chemical sunblockers (like oxybenzone) that are absorbed into the skin, which is why they suggest you wait 20 minutes before getting out in the sun so your skin has time to absorb it. Zinc oxide is not absorbed, so this sunscreen is ready when you are!

What Should and Should Not Be in a Safe Sunscreen?

The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has a great sunscreen guide they publish each year. I use them all the time to look up ingredients in cleaning and cosmetic products to see if what I’m using it safe. Here are the basics of what they published this year:

  • No spray sunscreensThe FDA has already expressed concern that although these are the  most convenient to use, they are not as effective and are dangerous to inhale.
  • No super high SPF’sThe high SPF doesn’t apply to UVA rays, which are the dangerous cancer-causing ones. The FDA is considering putting a cap on the number companies can use to 50 SPF, as is already done in many other countries.
  • No oxybenzoneThis is the chemical used to create the sunblock. Prelimary studies show it is absorbed into the body and mimics estrogen, which is very dangerous – it caused endometriosis in some women and low birth weights in daughters of pregnant women who used it.
  • No loose powder sunscreensDangerous if inhaled.
  • No retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A)Government studies have shown Vitamin A in sunscreens speeds up the growth of lesions and tumors in sun-exposed skin.
  • No combined sunscreens/bug repellentsStudies show that combining the two increases the absorption of the bug repellent chemicals into the skin and body – dangerous ones like DEET. 
  • No tanning oilsEncourages risky behavior and high risk of skin cancer and sunburn.
My Merry Messy Life: Homemade Sunscreen Right After Being Rubbed In

Here’s what it looks like right after being rubbed in – it then disappears even more after a few minutes.

Here’s another great article from the EWG – 9 Surprising Facts About Sunscreen. Some of the facts I find interesting are that skin cancer, in particular, melanoma, is on the rise even though more people use sunscreen and are educated about the dangers of too much sun damage. Funny enough, many people like myself, have low levels of Vitamin D and are having health problems due to it. So, we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place – too much sun causes skin cancer and damage, too little results in low Vitamin D. I think the answer is in the middle – it’s a bad idea to lay out in the sun and get prolonged exposure, but getting our 15 minutes a day is healthy. So, while outside, I like to wear a hat and sunglasses and allow my limbs to get about 15 minutes of sun before applying a healthy, non-toxic sunscreen. Then, I stay in the shade when possible.

Homemade Natural Sunscreen

Here’s what the sunscreen looks like right out of the jar. Once rubbed in, it leaves no white residue.

So, What’s Special About Using Zinc Oxide?

Zinc oxide is not a chemical (well, by scientific terms it is because it is a compound, but so is water and oxygen) – it is derived from the mineral zinc. Chemical sun blockers are absorbed into the skin and body, non-nanoparticle zinc oxide is not. Zinc oxide offers full range protection (UVA and UVB) and, according to the EWG, many of the chemical sunscreens do not because it is not strictly regulated by the FDA to back up the broad-spectrum claims.  Physical blockers are also better for sensitive and young children’s skin, are non-comedogenic, non-irritating, and the FDA actually lists it to be the one of the most effective active ingredients for sun protection. However, it absorbs the sun’s rays and zinc oxide scatters it, making it safer and more stable than titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide is antimicrobial and wound healing! I use the non-nanoparticle version as it is not absorbed into the skin (read more about the importance of using non-nanoparticles here).

How to Use It Safely

  • Use it liberally and reapply every one to two hours.
  • The beeswax in this recipe helps to make it more waterproof, but not completely so. If in the water, I would reapply every hour instead of two, at least on the most exposed parts, and especially after drying off.
How to Make Homemade All-Natural Sunscreen

Short version – take the above ingredients, melt them in a double boiler, let them cool and harden in the fridge, then whip it in a mixer to emulsify. For a more detailed tutorial, check out my Homemade Lotion Recipe (link below).

The Recipe

(for a more detailed tutorial, check out my Homemade Lotion Recipe)

5.0 from 2 reviews
Homemade Sunscreen - Non-Toxic and Natural
 
Author:
Serves: Makes 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unrefined, raw shea butter (where to buy) or cocoa butter (where to buy) if you have a nut allergy
  • ½ cup raw organic coconut oil (where to buy)
  • ½ cup sweet almond oil (where to buy), olive, sunflower or other similar carrier oil
  • 2 tablespoons beeswax (where to buy) (for waterproofing, I like the tiny pastilles)
  • 4 tablespoons non-nano zinc oxide (where to buy) (more if you want a higher SPF than 20)
  • Optional - 2 tablespoons water (this makes it more thin and like real lotion. Otherwise, it'll be thicker and like a salve.
  • Optional - essential oils for fragrance like lavender, patchouli, cedarwood - but NOT citrus oils as they attract the sun (where to buy high quality essential oils)
Instructions
  1. In a double boiler (or a smaller pot inside of a larger pot that has water in it), melt together the shea butter, beeswax, coconut oil and almond oil together.
  2. Once it all turns to liquid, let the oils cool in the fridge (I put the pot in the fridge once it returns to room temperature so I don't have to clean more dishes)
  3. Once it has returned to being hard (an hour or more), whip it with a hand mixer or a standing mixer for a few minutes.
  4. Then, add the water, zinc oxide and optional essential oils.
  5. Whip for about five minutes to emulsify the ingredients.
  6. Scoop into a jar and you're done!

 

My blogging buddy, Amanda, from Natural Living Mamma, has an excellent Safe Sun Tips and Sunscreen Guide that is very helpful, too!

Other sources for this post come from:

How to Purchase High Quality Essential Oils through My Merry Messy Life

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Comments

  1. It says for the whole family? Is is enough sun protection for young kids?

    • Hi Tishara! Let me say this – I’ve used it on all my boys from age 4 months to 4 years and they did not burn with it on – even on a boat ride. I applied it very liberally, we did not get wet, and we were in the sun for about an hour. They’ve had it on many times while playing outside as well with no burning. If you’re not sure but want to be safe, I’d try it on yourself first, or reapply every hour on your child. It has the same ingredients that other natural sunscreen makers use.

  2. Hello, just looking at your link for the zinc oxide on amazon and was wondering how you know it’s non-nano. It doesn’t say so on the bag. Or does the recipe make it non-nano? Thanks!

  3. Hi Sara,

    I’m allergic to coconut, do you have a suggestion for replacing the coconut oil?

    Thanks!
    Becca

  4. Do you use this on the face as well? Since it all natural I’m sure it’ll work on sensitive skin. I was curious. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Hey Sarah!
    Just wondering how the heck you got your dishes clean after this?? My beeswax stuck and dried to basically everything!

  6. Ok, let me just say that I love the idea of a chemical free homemade sunscreen. HOWEVER, summer is fast approaching and while I have so far slowing been transferring my life to homemade organic products, I know it will be fall before I am able to get to making sun screen. (I also have a 7 mo old that needs attention :)
    SO, can you recommend an organic product that I can purchase?

  7. Hello,
    How long does this sunscreen last? does it need to be stored in the refrigerator?

    • Zinc oxide has a shelf life of one year, so it will be good that long unless some bacteria gets in your jar and you see some mold growing. I’ve never had that happen, but it could. It does not need to be stored in the refrigerator.

  8. i made some, and love it and so does my family, but they ask about spf- what can I tell them? I know Coconut has some spf, and so does the zinc oxide- thanks in advance!

  9. Love this recipe,
    Have you tried to mix oils to make insect repellent with it? Also, can it be stored in a plastic container?

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