Do you have a recipe for homemade sunscreen?

Although I have an off-the-shelf sunscreen that I love (find out in a coming post what it is!), I have played around a bit with creating a DIY sunscreen.

The main ingredient in natural sunscreens is usually either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, or a mix of both. They provide a physical barrier to protect your skin from the sun's rays, which is why they leave a white film when you apply them.

This makes you look cool. Like a lifeguard!

And this is good. :)

I lean toward using products containing zinc oxide as it provides broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. Titanium dioxide protects only against UVB and short UVA rays (not long UVA rays).

Many sunscreens out there are chemical sunscreens, which use icky chemicals (such as oxybenzone) to absorb the sun's rays. Chemical based sunscreens pose a myriad of health concerns, including penetration into the skin, disruption of the body's hormones and toxicity concerns. For an in-depth review of the dangers of chemical sunscreens, check out the EWG Sunscreens Exposed

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide powders are easy to purchase online to create your own sunscreen and you can sometimes find them at your local natural foods store. Although these ingredients are a safe and effective choice, there is concern about titanium and zinc oxide "nanoparticles", which are micronized (very tiny) versions of the larger titanium and zinc oxide powders.

The concern with these wee particles is that they can penetrate into the skin and cause potential hazards, including gene changes, autism and Alzheimers. Nanoparticles are desirable by sunscreen manufacturers, as products with micronized titanium or zinc oxide will usually not leave the white film on your skin.

But then, how would you rock the lifeguard thing? (As a side note, do you all remember the Zinka colored zinc oxide sticks from the 80s? They still make that stuff. How rad!)

Much of the research on nanoparticles seems to still be a bit preliminary to me. I have yet to see solid research that shows undeniably that they can penetrate the skin to reach viable skin cells AND that they pose concrete health hazards when they do reach those skin cells. Still, in Europe there are guidelines for the use of nanoparticles and labeling them as such. Not so in the U.S. It is something to keep in mind when you choose your own sun protection. Check the labels and call the company if you need to be sure.

So here is my current recipe. I'm still playing around with it and you can, too! Experiment with adding aloe gel instead of juice or a different hydrosol (rose or lavender would be lovely!).  Use less shea and more coconut oil. Add a bit of calendula infused oil or whatever else strikes your fancy. Make this recipe your own! :)

Although it is tempting to add essential oils to a body care recipe, I strongly suggest skipping it for a sunscreen. Many essential oils (grapefruit, orange, lime, bergamot, ginger, lemon and tangerine - to name a few) are photosensitive, which means they can react to sunlight, causing a rash or burn. This can even happen if you have used the product within a few days. Eek!

DIY Sunscreen

1/4 cup coconut oil (can be found at your local natural foods store)
1/4 cup shea butter (can be found at your local natural foods store)
4-5 teaspoons zinc oxide (you can purchase at Essential Wholeslale or purchase non NANO HERE)
2 Tablespoons aloe juice (can be found at your local natural foods store)
2 Tablespoon chamomile hydrosol (can be purchased online at Mountain Rose Herbs)
1 vitamin E capsule (optional)

Melt the coconut oil and shea butter in a double boiler.
***Oh, and enjoy the moody lighting of these pics - the light has been out in our kitchen for about 2 months and we have grown accustomed to cooking in the dark. My daughter thinks it would make a great reality show - "Cooking in the Dark" - where contestants have to prepare a three course meal in a kitchen with no light. Hmmm....***

Stir in the zinc oxide powder.

Add the aloe juice and hydrosol. Both the aloe juice and chamomile soothe skin and add a bit more fluidity to the sunscreen. You can alternately use aloe juice in place of the hydrosol, too.

Squeeze one vitamin E capsule (if you choose to use it) and mix in. This will help to preserve the product a bit longer (which is a good idea since it contains water-based ingredients which have a short shelf life).

As the mixture begins to cool, whip it to a nice lotion consistency.

Package in a jar with a secure fitting lid. This lotion will harden a bit, so I have found that the jar works better with this recipe than a squeeze bottle. If you must have a squeeze bottle, try adding a bit more of the aloe juice or hydrosol to make it more, well, squeezable. :)

While I have no idea what SPF this sunscreen provides, it does offer a good deal of sun protection. Even though titanium and zinc oxide sunscreens stay on really well, always remember to reapply periodically during the day and after heavy sweating or swimming. Wear a hat and loose fitting clothing that covers your skin, too, as it is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from the sun.

All that said, though. It is important to soak in a few rays to get the Vitamin D your body needs. 15 minutes is a good rule to spend in the sun sans sunscreen each day. I usually do it in the morning right before I apply my sunscreen.

Enjoy the sun, safely! Let me know how this recipe works for you or how you modified it to suit your sunscreen fancy!

Do you have any DIY sunscreen recipes?


  1. Good post, i am interested in trying out my own homemade sunscreen. LOL about the kitchen light.

    1. Let me know how it works out for you if you try it. Our dog, Niko, decided to eat some today when he found the jar out by the garden. Thank goodness it is non-toxic! Hoping to have the kitchen light in by 2013. LOL!