Natural Homemade Sunscreen Recipe

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Beauty » Natural Homemade Sunscreen Recipe

In the book Zero to One, Peter Thiel asks readers to consider what views/truths they believe that very few people agree with them on. For me, it’s that most sunscreen does not help avoid skin cancer and may actually increase the chances of it! This is one of the reasons I’ve been making homemade sunscreen for years (even though I rarely use it).

Sound crazy?

Sunburn is harmful… we all agree on that and it should absolutely be avoided. But sunscreen isn’t the only way to avoid it.

It’s definitely not a popular opinion, and I’m certainly not encouraging you to avoid wearing sunscreen or to ignore the advice of your doctor. I am, however, encouraging you to do your own research, look at the actual studies, and use common sense when it comes to sun exposure.

Why Make Homemade Sunscreen?

I explain in full my stance on sunscreen here, but here’s why I decided to try making my own years ago.

Avoid Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals

In the years since sunscreen use began, skin cancer rates have risen. Many reports show that most commercial sunscreens actually raise skin cancer risk. This might be due in part to the fact that many sunscreens contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is a known hormone disruptor that isn’t recommended for use on children. It’s been banned in many locations worldwide.

A 2020 study looked at several different active ingredients in sunscreen products. While they did offer SPF protection, chemicals like avobenzone are absorbed into the bloodstream, even after one use.

My DIY sunscreen recipe relies on a physical mineral barrier that stays on the skin’s surface. It doesn’t penetrate through as most synthetic chemical sunscreens do.

There are many more mineral sunscreens with safer ingredients on the market now than when I first started making homemade sunscreen. I’ve listed some of my favorite EWG-rated sunscreens below. That being said, you still have to read labels. Even more “natural” sunscreens can still contain problematic ingredients.

Protect the Coral Reefs

Recent research shows the ingredients in many sunscreens harm ocean life, especially coral. Researchers estimate over 5,000 metric tons of sunblock wash off of swimmers each year. This “swimmer pollution” threatens a large part of the coral life in the ocean and many other ocean species as well. This is because these compounds may awaken dormant viruses in symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae, which provide food and color to the coral.

Some sunscreen ingredients have even been banned in some places due to their negative environmental effects on the coral reefs. This natural sunscreen recipe avoids all such ingredients.

The Vitamin D Factor

Also, our bodies need some exposure to the sun to make vitamin D, a necessary building block for hormone function. Combine vitamin D deficiency with hormone-disrupting sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone and is it any wonder some of us are concerned?

I don’t buy the idea that even moderate sun exposure is harmful when our bodies need vitamin D and light exposure for so many aspects of health. Getting some of the sun’s rays every day is an important part of my daily routine. I also take astaxanthin daily to help protect my skin from the inside out (read why here).

Looking at these reasons, it makes sense to ask if sunscreen is the best or only way to avoid sunburn.

Is Homemade Sunscreen Dangerous?

Several recent articles claim that homemade sunscreens are harmful and you should never make your own sunscreen. This is because the FDA tightly regulates and verifies the SPF protection of commercial sunscreens. Since you can’t verify the SPF of homemade sunscreens, the chance of burning is higher.

I certainly agree that homemade sunscreens don’t have the lab testing that conventional ones do. But you know what else they don’t have? Endocrine disruptors and coral-killing compounds. Also, sunscreen should be a last resort as shade and getting out of the sun’s UV rays in the heat of the day are better options anyway.

So while maybe we shouldn’t use homemade sunscreens like conventional ones, I’d also argue we shouldn’t use conventional sunscreens in the way we do either!

Bottom Line: Use common sense and get safe sun exposure. The amount and safety will vary by person. I recommend doing your own research and talking to a knowledgeable naturopath or dermatologist to figure out what works best for you.

A Common Sense Approach to Sun

In most cases, my approach is to get adequate but moderate daily sun exposure, without getting close to burning. Since most of us don’t work outside these days, it takes effort to get daily sun, rather than to avoid it. I definitely don’t slather on the coral-destroying sunscreen on the off chance I might encounter a few stray rays of sunlight, and in fact, I welcome it!

Thanks to Nutrition Genome Testing, I know that I have mutations that make it very difficult to get enough vitamin D. This puts me at risk for a lot of serious diseases, and supplements don’t work very well to raise my levels. For this reason, my doctor advised me to get adequate vitamin D… from natural sun exposure.

Of course, there’s a limit to how much sun a person needs or should get. Here’s what I do when I reach this limit:

Use the Shade or Cover Up

If I’m going to be out in the sun for much longer than my skin is used to, it’s easy enough to put on a hat or shirt to shield my skin. This is the approach that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends. It’s more effective at stopping excess sun exposure, costs less, and doesn’t harm the environment. A common sense win/win scenario.

Use Natural Sunscreen When Needed

If I’m going to be in intense sun and can’t easily cover up, I will very occasionally use a natural sunscreen. I’ve yet to use it this year and hope not to at all, but I’m sharing my recipe (and the healthiest options for store-bought sunscreens).

Important Note: Unlike most sunscreens, natural and homemade sunscreens may not be as waterproof or have as high (or broad spectrum) SPF. Homemade versions may not protect as fully against UVA and UVB rays. I am not recommending entirely avoiding sunscreen or getting too much sun which could lead to sunburn or sun damage.

Support Skin From the Inside Out

Sun exposure itself isn’t the only factor linked to skin cancer. Many nutritional factors, such as optimal vitamin D levels or even reducing harmful omega-6 vegetable oils, can have a big impact on skin health. Getting enough antioxidants in our diet from colorful fruits and veggies also plays a big role. See this post for how I optimize my diet and supplements for healthy skin and improved sun tolerance.

Natural Sunscreen SPF

This homemade sunscreen uses a blend of waxes, butter, and oils to make a moisturizing base. The main ingredient for natural SPF (sun protection factor) though is zinc oxide. It acts as a barrier on the skin to block harmful UV rays. Non-nano and uncoated zinc oxide is the healthiest option for skincare.

My homemade sunscreen also uses skin-nourishing and moisturizing antioxidant ingredients for even more skin protection. These include red raspberry seed oil, carrot seed oil, and vitamin E.

The final version will have a varied sun protective ability depending on the amount of each ingredient used. This recipe uses about 10% zinc oxide which is roughly a 6-11 SPF. If you want an SPF of around 20, then double the zinc oxide. Keep in mind it hasn’t been tested by a regulatory organization for exact SPF.

For a simple version, even just coconut oil and shea butter with some zinc oxide or a little raspberry seed and carrot seed oil will work for moderate exposure.

As always check with your doctor or dermatologist before using any new products.

NOTE: This is an improved recipe since many people were having trouble getting the temperatures exactly right to get the lotion to emulsify (as per the comments below). This recipe shouldn’t have any of those issues!

Optional Essential Oils

You can add some skin-safe essential oils here for added benefits and scent. Be sure to avoid any phototoxic oils, as these can cause serious skin burns if used before sun exposure. Common phototoxic oils include:

  • bergamot
  • bitter orange (wild or sweet orange are fine)
  • cold-pressed lemon (steam-distilled is ok)
  • cold-pressed lime oil (steam-distilled is ok)
  • grapefruit (experts are mixed on this one)

Do not use the above essential oils for sunscreen! Some better options include lavender, frankincense, sweet orange, or sandalwood.

homemade sunscreen
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4.14 from 268 votes

Homemade Sunscreen Recipe

Make your own sunscreen at home with natural ingredients and avoid the chemicals in commercial brands. Make sure to check out the notes at the end of the recipe for tips.
Prep Time5 minutes
Active Time10 minutes
Cooling time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 10 ounces
Author: Katie Wells

Equipment

Materials

Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients except zinc oxide in a pint-sized or larger glass jar. You can also use a double boiler instead of a jar.
  • Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place on the stove over medium heat.
  • Put a lid loosely on the jar and place it in the pan with the water.
  • Stir occasionally to mix the ingredients as they melt.
  • When all the ingredients are completely melted, stir in the zinc oxide. This will take some stirring to incorporate.
  • Pour into whatever jar or tin you’ll use for storage.
  • Stir a few times as it cools to make sure the zinc oxide is incorporated.
  • Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator to increase shelf life.

Notes

  • This sunscreen is not waterproof and will need to be reapplied after sweating or swimming.
  • Make sure not to inhale the zinc oxide. Use a mask if necessary!
  • Add more beeswax to make thicker sunscreen, less to make smooth sunscreen.
  • Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge. I prefer to store it in a small canning jar and apply it like body butter. It will be thicker, especially if you use coconut oil in the recipe.
  • Remove the zinc oxide and this makes an excellent lotion recipe!

An Even Faster Way to Make Sunscreen

This easy recipe just takes two ingredients. While there’s no exact SPF guarantee, it should yield about 20 SPF.

  • 1/2 cup of your favorite lotion (that doesn’t have phototoxic oils!)
  • 2 Tablespoons of non-nano zinc oxide
  • Mix well

You can also make sunscreen bars with many of the same ingredients!

Store-Bought Natural Sunscreens

Not Interested in DIY? I’ve gotten numerous questions over the years about pre-made sunscreen options for those who don’t have the time or desire to make their own. I list my favorite store-bought brands in this post.

Does your family regularly use sunscreen? Do you try to get regular sun exposure? Leave a comment and let us know!

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Get sun protection without the toxins with homemade sunscreen. Made with coconut oil, shea butter, non-nano zinc oxide and other natural ingredients.
Sources
  1. Matta M. et al. (2020, January 21). Effect of Sunscreen Application on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2020;323(3):256–267.
  2. Ortenzi, T. (2011, November 17). Sunscreens With Vitamin A May Accelerate Skin Cancer: FDA Knows Danger, Doesn’t Report. Huffington Post.
  3. Hall, D. (N.D.). The Truth About Corals and Sunscreen. Smithsonian Ocean.
  4. Moulite, M (2018, July 3). Hawaii bans sunscreens that harm coral reefs. CNN.
  5. Roach, S. (2016, July 11). The Truth About Phototoxic Essential Oils and How to Use Them Safely. The Herbal Academy.

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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

976 responses to “Natural Homemade Sunscreen Recipe”

  1. SUEANN Avatar

    IS THIS SUNSCREEN MIXTURE SAFE FOR CHILDREN UNDER 6 MONTHS? SPECIFICALLY A PREMATURE 4 MONTH OLD?

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      I would always ask a doctor for any specific safety questions but I always just used rash guards, hat and shade for babies that age.

  2. Louise Avatar
    Louise

    5 stars
    Dear Katie,
    I would like to make the recipe, but I’m having trouble finding the “carrot seed oil”.
    But there is one thing I’m not sure about : online I mostly found “carrot seed ESSENTIAL oil”. But is that the same ? If not, would if work the same way, would I put the same amount ?
    Thank you for your help !
    Sincerely,
    Louise.

  3. Mauri Avatar

    Love this recipe. I would love to add either vanilla extract, essential oil or fragrence oil to it. Could you please tell me how much of any I should add? Thanks.

  4. Andrea Avatar
    Andrea

    What if I don’t have zinc? Can I use all the other ingriendents amd make the sunscreen without zinc?

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      The zinc is the part of this recipe that most protects from the sun, so it would not be as effective without it.

      1. Rick Woolsey Avatar
        Rick Woolsey

        Hi. I live in Cancun, Mexico. Where can I buy zinc oxide? Thank you in advance! -Rick Woolsey

  5. Denise Avatar
    Denise

    you sold me on most of it. the titanium dioxide is one of the most dangerous chemicals there is. it was first used to make paint gleeming white. then it was put into pharmacutials. then foods and many bath products. look all over it is everywhere. while a gram may not be too much of a bother, by the time you get 10 or 20 grams of it in everything you eat, wear or meds, you end up with a huge ” haklloween bag” of much more than you thought. It makes people very angry & aggressive. ( ever notice how pain meds or anti pysch meds make people angry? and all shooters end up being on some kind of pysch med?) all of your recipe is good just for real health never use titanium dioxide it is so not at all like zince oxide which is completely natural

  6. Jen Avatar

    Hi, what if I cannot use coconut oil? Is there a replacement? Thank you so much for the recipe.

  7. Elena Avatar

    After 2 years of testing the recipe for the sunscreen, I feel the need to leave my feedback here. I am not sure why the article is dated 2019 since I know for sure that I have made it in may 2018 for the first time. Anyway, my son is dark blond with golden like pigment when tanned. I made this recipe with only one oil, the carrot seeds one and we used it on holiday in Egypt, in Spain where one can imagine how hot can be. We are also using it in the Kindergarden, where we had to do a self declaration that we are aware of the danger of the sun and that we are responsible for the effectiveness of our home made cream. Not once we ever had any sun burns. We use this together with a diet where there is planty of fish, avocado, coconut oil, so that the protection comes also from inside. My son is now 5 y old and we all 3 are using this same cream.

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      Thanks for the feedback! You’re right, the post is several years old, but I think it shows that date because of updates made at that time. So happy to hear that it has worked so well for you guys!

  8. Raquel Avatar

    Hi Katie. Thanks for sharing! Can you tell me where you got your information on the SPF of the different oils? I’m interested in learning more!

  9. Caley Avatar

    Thank you so much for posting this! Excited to try it out. How much essential oil should I add if I am adding it? Same with Vanilla Extract?

  10. Sarah Byerley Avatar
    Sarah Byerley

    5 stars
    Okay, no offense, but please don’t comment on a topic that you obviously know nothing about. White and other pale colored domestic cats OFTEN get cancer on their ears if they spend too much time in direct sunlight and can LOSE THEIR EARS OR DIE because of this. I have ALWAYS put vitamin E oil on the inside of ear tips for the palest cats we have, in hopes of supplying at least something of a barrier to the sun in the worst of summer. I was hoping that a variation of this recipe might be more effective, but no one seems to consider the fact that OTHER ANIMALS BESIDES HUMANS can get sun-related cancers. Stop and think before spouting off, please, if you don’t have pertinent knowledge to share. I suppose it’s back to the drawing board since no one here apparently knows any more than I do about whether or not a modified version of this recipe would be worthwhile to even attempt to use.

  11. Michelle Avatar
    Michelle

    5 stars
    Please add a note to NOT use citrus oils in this recipe since they generally make skin MORE sensitive to the sun. Otherwise, love this idea!!

  12. Holly Avatar

    I made this last year and loved it! I always kept it in the fridge when not using and it’s still in my fridge now and wondered if this should still be good to use almost a year later?

    1. Jenn Avatar

      I was wondering this same thing? Like would it have an expiration date?

  13. Angel Cedarleaf Avatar
    Angel Cedarleaf

    Hi Katie! Thank you so much for your natural sunscreen recipe. I have used it successfully many times over the last couple of years. This year however I made a mistake while making it. I accidentally added in the zinc oxide before melting everything. what affect will that have overall? Would it eliminate the effects of the zinc oxide? Also I inadvertently added a few drops of orange essential oil. What effect does that have on the overall recipe??? If you could help me on this I would so appreciate it! Thank you! Have a great day!

  14. Morgan Avatar
    Morgan

    Hi Katie,

    Any reason why not to increase the amount of carrot seed oil or raspberry seed oil in the recipe?

    Thank you 🙂

  15. Haana Avatar

    Thank you for the awesome recipe! I am trying this for the first time without beeswax. I am excited to see the results!

  16. Hennie Beugelink Avatar
    Hennie Beugelink

    I do like your sun screen recipe. I do not have Zinc Oxide, but do have Ionic zinc, can I use that in this recipe?
    Will that do the same thing?
    Thank you in advance.
    Hennie

  17. Kathie Avatar
    Kathie

    5 stars
    Have been making this for years and just checked back in to make sure the post was still active. My son has eczema, asthma, and several food allergies and homemade sunscreen via this recipe is all he’s ever had on him as we changed our lifestyles to go chemical free and I even used a lot of the soap recipes from here among others and it has helped us out so much. So shout out to you for making it possible, and I’ll be sharing your site so spread the word 🙂 Kathie

  18. Sarah Byerley Avatar
    Sarah Byerley

    This is probably going to sound odd, but do you know of any natural sunscreen recipes that would be safe to use on pets? I have been trying to research online to find a sunscreen safe to use on a light-haired cat who wants to go outside now that the weather’s finally a bit nicer and keep finding contradictory information about what is and isn’t safe to use . The vet said baby-safe products are safe, but then apparently zinc oxide is NOT safe for cats to ingest at all. I’ve been contemplating just trying straight coconut oil, but if there’s any other alternative that might be stronger than just that and still safe, it would be nice to know. Thank you for any idea you might have!

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      Why would you even consider putting sunscreen on an animal? No where in nature does this happen and I would definitely not recommend doing that! Being out in the sun is how animals naturally get vitamin d, which is why you often see them laying out and “sunning” themselves. Please don’t even consider doing such damage to your “pet”!

      1. Sarah Byerley Avatar
        Sarah Byerley

        Obi’s a strawberry blond baby and his ears turn pink and freckle inside (he is the first and only cat I’ve ever seen get freckles inside his ears and not just inside his “lips”) and I worry about sunburn. White cats and light colored cats are particularly prone to sunburn (ears, noses, pads) and can develop skin cancer just like humans. I’ve tried to ask the local vet and been told to use “baby safe” products, but then half of those contain products that shouldn’t be ingested by cats and the other half contain products that shouldn’t be ingested by dogs. I’m just trying to come up with a more natural remedy that shouldn’t upset his delicate tum and yet actually give some protection against summer sun.

        1. Katie Wells Avatar

          Animals don’t need sunscreen, it’s not found in nature other than the natural protection they have, and if a vet is telling you to put chemicals on your pets for this, it’s time to find another vet!

          1. Anthony Avatar
            Anthony

            Domesticated animals are not found in nature.

          2. Gil Avatar

            Katie, I love your recipes and what you do, I just have to say that because animals have been domesticated they lost some of their natural protection from the elements. I have a couple of animals that will get sunburned when they shed in the summer, just for a week or two till the hair grows in, some are known for getting sunburned, also, if an animal was in surgery or gets scraped I will first keep them out of the sun, second cover up the area or third use sun screen. I think your recipe is perfect for animals that need it.
            AND AGAIN- LOVE what you are doing and all the info that you share!

      1. Roanna Avatar

        Dear Katie,

        On my Zinc Oxide (non nano) there is a disclaimer that it is highly toxic to the living organisms in water. More research on my part found this to be true. I would love to hear if u have a safe alternative.

        Thanks so much for all the info,

        Roanna Sold.

  19. Sheri Avatar

    This recipe concerns me because of the zinc oxide. According to the following article, and others I’ve read, “Cell toxicity studies by Dr. Yinfa Ma, Curators’ Teaching Professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, and his graduate student Qingbo Yang, suggest that when exposed to sunlight, zinc oxide, a common ingredient in sunscreens, undergoes a chemical reaction that may release unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals seek to bond with other molecules, but in the process, they can damage cells or the DNA contained within those cells. This in turn could increase the risk of skin cancer.

    Ma also found that the longer zinc oxide is exposed to sunlight, the greater the potential damage to human cells.”

    So – how effective is this sunscreen without zinc oxide?

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120507131951.htm

  20. Elene Gusch Avatar
    Elene Gusch

    I’m wondering, based on articles I’ve read in the past, about adding powdered vitamin C directly to a sunscreen recipe, and if so, how much to use.

4.14 from 268 votes (222 ratings without comment)

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