Make Your Own Natural Sunscreen

sunny field

By Jonathan Parker

With warm sunny days fast approaching (hopefully right?) pale folks like me start planning the annual easy-bake avoidance strategy. Before I started learning about natural health and the dangers of chemicals, it was an easy fix. Slop a couple handfuls of SPF-one-billion on and hit the shore! Well, studying for my license I learned about topical medications, which tend to have an absorption rate of … wait for it … 60%. So, imagine you could apply that little factoid to every topically applied lotion or cream, including sunscreen.

Some of the ingredients that commonly get included in sunscreens are avobenzone and benzophenone. These nifty little chemicals absorb Ultra Violet Radiation and are the main ingredients in many broad-spectrum sunscreens. Avobenzone, ironically enough, degrades quickly in sunlight and many sunscreen brands add stabilizing chemicals to make the sunscreen effective for longer periods of time. I’m not going to get into the compounds and ingredients, but suffice it to say that for someone trying to lead a more chemical-free life, it was enough to get me thinking of alternatives.

Natural Coconut Oil

After a recommendation from Heather Callaghan, I started looking into natural coconut oil as an alternative sunscreen. It was really interesting to read some of the experiences people had using it. Topical applications and even eating it! Of course, I know of many benefits and uses, but I have to say, I never thought of sunscreen. It seems like using oil on your skin would kind of be counter productive when introduced to sunlight. Well, score another one for natural health. Most of the ‘reviews’ I read made it clear that while coconut oil will NOT keep you from getting pink, it IS an amazing defender against sunburn and sun-damage. In a study by researchers in India, coconut oil was actually proven to have a very low SPF rating, much lower than other tested oils like neem seed, sunflower and even sesame seed oil.

(On a side note, SPF ratings are a little misleading, with only a small jump in protection between 30-50. Even with 100 SPF, you aren’t blocking 100% of the UV rays, keep that in mind if you shop for sunscreens.)

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What’s cool about coconut oil is the way it reacts with your body’s cells to prevent the sunlight from damaging your skin. You will pink up, for sure. But the nasty side effects of overexposure to sunlight can be avoided with coconut oil protecting your (read: my) delicate skin. However, my freckles warned me in advance that bringing my skin to a bronze, if even possible, probably wasn’t the best idea, even with coconut oil protection. So from here I decided to look one step further.

Editor’s note: Non-nano Zinc oxide powder is what you want if you want to truly block your skin from getting too much of the harmful radiation.

Before I get into the potential ingredients for your homemade sunscreen, it’s good to keep in mind that many additional benefits can be gleaned from watching your diet in the summer. Here’s a short list of foods that help protect your skin from too much sun.

Green Tea
Green tea contains large amounts of natural polyphenol antioxidants which help reduce inflammation and irritation. Antioxidants also combat the damage that free radicals released by overexposure can cause.

Black Grapes annndd Red Wine
Also powerful antioxidants, fruits with red or blue skin contain powerful flavonoids whose free-radical reducing powers rival and surpass Vitamin C by up to 20%.

Brazil Nuts
A small serving of Brazil nuts contains a whole daily serving of the antioxidant mineral selenium, which has the benefit of protecting your cells.

Salmon, Flax Seeds, Hemp and Walnut can also be beneficial in keeping your outer layer healthy and damage free.

So, for the sunscreen ‘recipe’

Individually, these ingredients might not give you total protection. Experiment with different mixtures and see what works well for your own skin.

A few natural oils that have proven SPF and skin protection benefits:

  • Carrot Seed Oil
  • Raspberry Seed Oil
  • Wheat Germ Oil

And as mentioned above, coconut seed oil is a good one. Also some to consider – Hemp oil, avocado, soybean and peanut oil (not if you are around someone with an allergy.)

In addition to the oils you want to add a butter such as shea, mango or cocoa butter.

  • 1 ounce of oil mixture
  • 1 ounce of beeswax (provides a binding and waterproofing quality)
  • 1 ounce butter mixture
  • 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil

This mixture tends to be on the firmer side when it cools, so an applicator similar to a deodorant or squeeze tube like toothpaste would be great for application. And another good way to reduce/reuse what would otherwise be garbage.

– Over a low heat, melt the beeswax and butter, slowly stirring in the oils.
– Remove this from your heat source and allow it to begin cooling.
– Add your vitamin E oil. You can also add any essential oils you desire to the mix at this time. It’s good to stick with the skin-health theme, although something with an aroma that reminds you of summer might be nice.
– Pour the mixture into your container and let it set. When it’s ready, you should be able to roll it and apply it easily to your skin.

Remember, these are natural products and will not have the same effect as a heavy commercial sunscreen. Don’t apply it once and spend 12 hours baking in the desert sun. Give yourself a few days with light exposure to the sun to see how your mixture really works for you.

The final step is Enjoy! We spend far too much time indoors and most of us don’t get nearly enough vitamin D. We shouldn’t be afraid of the sun. Let’s find a way to enjoy it and soak in the rays safely.

Jonathan Parker is an EMT-Paramedic and Preparedness Instructor with a love for emergency medicine, self-sufficiency and homesteading. His goal is to empower people towards a natural and sustainable lifestyle.

Image from wikimedia commons.

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