Homemade Sunscreen Sticks

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I’ve had fun lately creating several different varieties of lotion bars. I started with the basic recipe and realized the options were truly endless for variations. Sometimes I’ll use a mold, but I like making lotion bar sticks too for even easier application. One of my favorites so far is this DIY sunscreen stick!

Mineral Sunscreen Stick

It’s basically a stick version of my homemade sunscreen. It also avoids all the harmful chemicals, parabens, and potential carcinogens in regular sunscreen. And it’s easier to apply than a cream since it’s in a bar or stick form which makes it easier for kids to do it themselves. It glides across skin for easy reapplication as needed.

There are a few different ways to make these depending on how you like them. If you want some cute shapes and a handheld version, then use silicone molds. Muffin tins also work well if that’s what you have. The least messy option is to make a sunscreen stick with a twist-up tube or deodorant container.

It has hydrating ingredients that are moisturizing and great for sensitive skin. Because it’s basically a lotion bar with sun protection it’s perfect for dry skin too. If you’re prone to acne then this may not be the best sunscreen face stick option for you though. Coconut oil is not non-comedogenic, and neither is cocoa butter. Shea butter and mango butter though are much less likely to clog pores.

Sunscreen SPF

But first, let’s put on our science hats for a bit and geek out on the details of SPF. SPF stands for sun protection factor and tells how much UV protection you’ll get from your sunscreen lotion. It’s calculated by dividing the amount of sun exposure that causes the skin to get red by the amount that causes skin reddening without sunscreen. For example, if it takes the skin 30 times longer to burn with sunscreen on than without, that’s SPF 30.

However, this doesn’t take into account different skin types, skin tones, how much someone sweats, or other weather conditions. While many sunscreens are marketed as water resistant, this doesn’t mean they’re waterproof. If you’re in the water for several hours dermatologists recommend you reapply.

You’d think that a broadspectrum SPF 50 would have way more protection than SPF 15, but that’s not really the case.

  • SPF 15 – Blocks 93% of UVB rays
  • SPF 30 – SPF 40 – Blocks 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50 – Blocks 98% of UVB rays

There are also two different types of rays, UVB and UVA. UVB rays cause skin reddening while UVA does not. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will cover both, but UVB is what SPF is rated for.

Chemicals in Sunscreen

Skincare companies use chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate in sunscreen to absorb sun rays. Research has found these are absorbed into the body in unsafe amounts and can cause problems like hormone disruption. Sun sticks that promise ultra-sheer coverage are more likely to use risky chemicals. Sunscreen sprays are another option often full of harmful chemicals.

Drugstore brands like Neutrogena, Cerave, Aveeno, Sun Bum, and Cetaphil sheer mineral sunscreen stick all have ingredients I’d rather avoid. Other popular sunscreen brands include Supergoop, Eltamd, and Shiseido. These all score high on EWG for toxic ingredients. Another good reason to make your own!

Other more natural options are ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These sit on top of the skin and block UVB rays. I always opt for non-nano zinc oxide since the particles aren’t small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Mineral-based sunscreens are reef-safe and the safest and best sunscreen options for the skin.

Ingredients in DIY Sunscreen Sticks

I use coconut oil in these because it has a mild SPF on its own and adds a nice texture. If you have a coconut allergy then you can replace the coconut oil with a mix of liquid oil and more beeswax. Mango and shea butter both have a natural SPF of 4 and help moisturize and protect skin.

Beeswax helps thicken everything up and the zinc oxide provides protection from the sun’s rays. I also like adding vitamin E to extend the shelf life and add some skin-nourishing antioxidants. You can make a fragrance-free version or add essential oils for a nice scent and added skin benefits.

Certain essential oils are phototoxic, meaning they can cause burns if applied before sun exposure. Do NOT use lime, lemon, or bergamot essential oil in this sunscreen! Grapefruit may be phototoxic, but the jury is still out on that one. Other citrus options like sweet orange, tangerine, and mandarin don’t have this problem.

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4.50 from 8 votes

Homemade Sunscreen Sticks

These DIY sunscreen sticks are easy to apply, even for little ones! Use silicone molds for fun designs, or use tubes for even less mess.
Author: Katie Wells

Materials

Instructions

  • Combine the coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax in a double boiler. You can also use a glass bowl over a smaller saucepan filled with a few inches of water.
  • Bring the water to a boil and stir ingredients until melted.
  • Remove from the heat and add the zinc oxide powder, vitamin E oil, and essential oils. More zinc oxide gives you more sun protection, but it also makes a thicker layer on the skin.
  • Pour into your molds or tubes and allow to cool completely.
  • Store at room temperature or in the fridge. Keep below 80 degrees or they'll start to melt.

Notes

  • You can use different shaped molds for different designs or use a square baking pan and cut them into bars. 
  • You can use any amount of shea, cocoa, or mango butter you want as long as they total 1/2 cup.
  • Experiment with how much zinc oxide you need to use for your skin type and sun exposure needs. 

What SPF is Homemade Sunscreen?

The short answer here, is I don’t know. No one does without extensive (and expensive!) testing. Because this is a homemade product not made in a lab I can’t guarantee exact SPF amounts and I’m not going to try to guess. However, with the amount of zinc oxide used and from my family’s personal experience using this I can say we’ve had good results.

Natural sunscreen needs to be reapplied every few hours and after swimming. Normally I like to use hats, sun-protective clothing, and shade whenever possible.

Storing Your Sunscreen Sticks

I recommend keeping your sunscreen sticks in the cooler if you take them to the beach. They’ll start to get soft in higher temperatures. These sunscreen sticks store well at room temperature though.

I’d also encourage experimenting with how much coverage you want based on how much Zinc Oxide you add to the recipe. These have a smoother, thinner, and more waterproof coverage than my basic sunscreen recipe.

Don’t Forget Your Vitamins!

When possible, it’s also important to spend some time in the sun without sunscreen for vitamin D production. I try to get a few minutes of morning sunlight each morning, plus more in the afternoons. And of course, it’s really important to eat your sunscreen! There are also supplements and high-nutrient foods that help us avoid burning when we don’t use sunscreen.

About this time of year, I start taking a specific regimen of supplements that help reduce inflammation and improve sun tolerance. Here’s what I take:

  • Vitamin D3 (I take about 5,000 IU/day)- Emerging evidence shows that optimizing blood levels of Vitamin D can have a protective effect against sunburn and skin cancer. Here’s where I get it.
  • Vitamin C – (I take about 2,000 mg/day)- A potent anti-inflammatory and it’s good for the immune system too. What I use.
  • Coconut Oil– the Medium Chain Fatty Acids and saturated fat are easily utilized by the body for new skin formation and are protective against burning. I don’t use this as much anymore since my body does better with fewer saturated fats.
  • Fish Oil – I like to get my fish oil naturally from low-mercury fish options like salmon and sardines. These healthy Omega-3s reduce inflammation and help protect skin. Here’s what I use when I need a fish oil supplement.
  • Astaxanthin– A highly potent antioxidant that research shows acts as an internal sunscreen. It’s also anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, plus other benefits! I use this one.

Do you use sunscreen? What kind do you use? Share below!

These sunscreen lotion bars contain zinc for a natural sunscreen without the chemicals. The natural coconut oil and butters provide SPF and moisturize skin.
Sources
  1. Environmental Working Group. (N.D.) The trouble with ingredients in sunscreens. 
  2. MacGill, M. (2018, June 18). Which sunscreen should I use? Medical News Today
  3. Siegmund-Roach, S. (2016, July 11). The Truth About Phototoxic Essential Oils and How to Use Them Safely. The Herbal Academy.
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

341 responses to “Homemade Sunscreen Sticks”

  1. Laura Avatar

    And could I use grape seed oil instead of vitamin E oil to preserve?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Yes, and it will physically coat the skin and block Vitamin D production so I personally don’t wear sunscreen unless needed…

  2. Laura Avatar

    Thank you so much! What does the Zinc powder actually do to your skin? Does it prevent vitamin D from the sun getting to you? Would it be bad for you to wear this lotion everyday, all year? I am very sensitive to the sun and have quite pale skin. My dermatologist told me off because my skin was in a terrible state and said I should wear sunscreen every single day of my life from now on, and limit sun exposure. To her, I should have stayed in bed under a blanket in a dark room everyday of my life! I thought it was ridiculous, also because I’ve read a great book on vitamin D and sun exposure that proves her completely wrong. I never noticed my skin being in a terrible condition before, it’s not dry or anything, I just have freckles. But the lady did kind of get me a little concerned…

  3. Jenna Avatar

    I just made your sunscreen and am about to make these bars but noticed your instruction not to use citrus oils… I used Lemon Essential Oil in the sunscreen I just made! Is that a problem? If so, why?

  4. Marie Avatar

    Hi and greeting from Denmark
    I´ve just made two amazing sunscreen-bars – and now I am wondering… if it is possible to make as a liquid sunscreen, using some of the same ingredients or other oils/butters? – if so…which one(s) would you recommend? =)

    Thank you, for your great work and advice.

  5. Sadie Brazier Avatar
    Sadie Brazier

    Hi wellness mama.

    I’ve just made the sunscreen bars. They look great I was a bit caught out with how quickly it started to set. I can still see some really small clumps of the zinc oxide. Is that normal? Ok to use? Thanks x

  6. Wilma Avatar

    I’m getting ready to make this and my beeswax is really tiny pellets — it almost seems like snow. Can you tell me what the weight of one cup of the Pastilles is so that I can just weigh my tiny snow beeswax. Thanks!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Not sure on weight, but mine are pretty finely ground too, so I would guess that you’d use just slightly less…

  7. alicia Avatar
    alicia

    My zinc oxide seemed to settle a bit when I mixed it in. I stirred it for a while trying to get it all mixed. When I finally poured it into my deodorant containers, there was some thick white stuff in the bottom. I’m assuming it was zinc oxide that didn’t get mixed all the way. What did I do wrong? Did I just use too much? Thanks again! And by the way, I LOVE your website!! :):)

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      There seems to be a catch-22…The non-nano zinc doesn’t dissolve in as well in higher amounts but the nano versions are not good for you…

  8. Calyn Avatar

    Katie, since you have experience with children, do you know if Astaxanthin is safe to take while breastfeeding?

  9. Lauren Avatar
    Lauren

    I’m curious about why you take D3 in the summertime, when you can get a great amount of it from the sun? Granted, sunscreen blocks some of this out, but if you are out without it in the less harsh times of the day, it’s not an issue. I would have thought taking D3 supplements would be more for the winter time. I plan on making these bars tonight, thank you for the idea!

  10. Shelli Avatar
    Shelli

    Is this safe to use on babies? I have a yr old that loves being outside but has sensitive skin

  11. Kelly Avatar

    I have a 5 year old, fair skinned, red head. She will turn into a lobster after just moments in the sun. Needless to say we go through A LOT of sunscreen. I really want to make this for her, but I need to make it at least a 50 SPF. Any ideas about ingredient ratios to get a 50? Thanks!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I’m not sure, I’d probably remove the beeswax and add a lot more zinc oxide to make almost a paste…

      1. Nicole Avatar

        Ditto with the redheads!! I have 4 of them!!! I’ve tried lots of OTC “natural” sunscreen and it doesn’t work on my kiddos. Hopefully this will work!
        How do we make this waterproof??

  12. Kathryn Brown Avatar
    Kathryn Brown

    I just finished my first batch. When I got down to the last little bit I noticed a lot of zinc oxide powder hanging out in the bottom of the bowl. Did I not stir enough? Did I wait too long getting the liquid into the molds?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      That can happen… it is so temperature dependent so it could just be that it was still slightly too warm when it went in to the molds but it should still have a protective effect…

  13. Stacy Smith Avatar
    Stacy Smith

    I rub coconut oil as a sunscreen, I love it , it doesn’t clog my pores. I even put it in my homemade toothpaste, I would love to make sunscreen bars , going to do this soon.

  14. Michelle Byrum Avatar
    Michelle Byrum

    Do you give your children the same dosage when supplementing? I am interested in taking supplements to help improve sun tolerance (we live in Southern California). If you don’t how much should I be giving them? My kids ages are 3, 5, and 9. Our homeschool science project will be making sunscreen bars!!! Thank you so much for posting this!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I give them 1/4 or 1/2 doses depending on their size…

  15. Liz Avatar

    I just made these tonight and I’m so excited to use them! Do you think they would also be an effective diaper rash cream, and if so, ok to use with cloth diapers? Thank you!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Yes… and I use these with cloth diapers but I use a disposable insert or a paper towel when diaper cream is needed…

  16. Kaela Green Avatar
    Kaela Green

    Hey wellness mama, I’m new to the making of the lotion bars and such… I saw that you updated your post on lotion bars to heat the ingredients in a mason jar in water- will this work in this recipe too? Also, do you need to get these wet to apply, how about the lotion bars too? Thanks!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      You can make that way. Just put the ingredients in a mason jar to melt and make sure that no liquid at all gets in the jar. They are both applied to dry skin..

      1. Klara Ibarra Avatar
        Klara Ibarra

        Hi Wellness mama. Wow I just read through all of these comments. So
        after doing some research I saw that it was very important to get
        purified distilled pharmaceutical grade zinc oxyde. the particles need
        to be greater than 30nm. I went to the link you provided for purchasing
        zinc but it didn’t say what size or quality the zinc particles were.
        Could you please tell me? And also, how did you figure out how much zinc
        to put for the recipe?

        Thank you!

  17. Rima Avatar

    Does anyone know what SPF this recipe would have? Also how do you know how much zinc oxide to add to make different SPF?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      About 15 SPF as written I think, and you could add more zinc oxide to increase SPF though I don’t know specifically how much the SPF will increase.

4.50 from 8 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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