For some years now I have been making my own lotions, moisturisers and balms, both for myself and for my son, Finn. This is for two or maybe three reasons really – firstly I wanted to avoid the toxic load of some shop bought options, and secondly I wished to avoid unnecessary single use plastic waste… My third reason is a happy by product of the former two reasons; it’s lovely to make your own skincare products, is as relaxing as baking, and can turn out some lovely bespoke results which can often be nicer than shop bought alternatives (and cheaper!).
When Finn was a teeny weeny baby, I wanted more than ever to use only natural products on his skin. Around this time, my sister said that she had bought the ingredients to make homemade sunscreen for her family. Genius! I had never thought of doing that! Up until then I had been using a shop bought sunscreen which purported to be more natural than most in ingredient terms…. But making your own seemed a much better option!
Of course my first port of call, as for most parents, is cover up my child with loose cool clothes and shade them from the sun, but in some circumstances this isn’t possible.
I did some research into homemade sunscreen. I’ll be upfront about this – I am not a skin expert or a doctor, so it is wise to speak to your GP or clinician if you are in any doubt here. My research was that of a concerned eco-mum, not of a qualified skin specialist! Some online articles suggest that homemade sunscreen is not safe to use, as there is a higher risk of burning the skin. However, other avenues I looked into suggested that homemade sunscreen was perfectly safe when used correctly. I pressed on… (and urge you to do some research yourself and take an informed choice here… combine that with a common sense approach to sun safety, and you’ll be just fine :-)
Some reasons to make your own sunscreen
- Avoid yukky toxins & chemicals for your skin and your babies skin – most shop bought sunscreen (the ones that penetrate the skin) contain all sorts of nasty chemicals which should really be avoided at all ages, but particularly for those who are little and still developing. Things like parabens (a synthetic estrogenic compound) can interrupt our endocrine system signals, and other chemicals such as oxybenzone found in sunscreens is another known nasty chemical which is also an endocrine interrupter.
- Help the coral reefs – Chemicals in some shop bought sunscreen contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are thought to be harmful to the ocean’s coral reefs; the reportedly 14,000 tons of sunscreen that ends up in the coral reef every year contributes to its damage and bleaching. Blimey!
- Avoid plastic waste – I am yet to find a shop bought sunscreen in a nice glass jar that can be safely reused! Refuse single use plastic, by making your own, and maybe keeping it in a tiny kilner jar or tin, which is safe for you and your baby, and better for the environment
- Cost – some of the more ‘skin friendly’ / ‘eco friendly’ ‘non-toxic’ alternatives to sunscreen available on the market are super expensive! There is an upfront outlay in buying the materials for this sunscreen (and any other homemade skin products that you make) but they can make many batches for future use, and end up being far more cost effective in the end
- It’s nice to make – I am writing this at a time when Coronavirus is a big global concern, and we are all having to turn to homely activities to keep us busy as the normal parks, restaurants, and social spaces are not open to us. Making homemade skincare products is just a really nice activity, and done in the calm hour after the children have (finally!) gone to bed for the night (hopefully!), is relaxing, rewarding and productive. It’s not too labour intensive, either. Like cooking, if you follow the recipe it should be fine! Some elements of making this sunscreen can also be done with children (my son enjoyed mixing the lotion base... "like cakey" he said!)
What’s different about this homemade sunscreen?
Unlike most shop bought sunscreens, this sunscreen recipe is made using minerals (zinc oxide) which act as a physical barrier cream to block sun rays from penetrating the skin. As such it’s really important to apply this sunscreen with a generous amount on the skin, and reapply very regularly to retain skin protection. Water can wash it off, or things like excess sweat, so keep reapplying to stay safe in the sun (although the recipe includes bees wax, which increase it’s waterproofing qualities). Also, some people don’t like the ‘white-ish’ layer left on the skin after using zinc oxide based sunscreen – I find that it mainly melts into the skin no problem especially when the weather is hot, but you can also add cocoa powder a little dash at a time to the final lotion to get a tinted sunscreen which is bespoke to your colour preference…
What about SPF (Sun Protection Factor)?
I can’t say exactly what the SPF will be of this resulting lotion, because it would have to be lab tested. But you can increase or decrease the amount of zinc oxide depending on what you’d like the resulting SPF to be.
Also… I wasn’t aware before I started making this sunscreen that some base oils also have a natural SPF. I opt for Carrot Oil which has a high SPF (around SPF 35 – 50). Here are some examples (with approximate SPF):
Raspberry Seed Oil: SPF 30–50
Avocado Oil: SPF 4-15
Coconut Oil: SPF 2-8
Olive Oil: SPF 2-8
Have fun making this recipe - have fun in the sun!!
HOMEMADE SUNCREAM RECIPE:
Part 1: For the lotion base:
35g base oil (such as Grapeseed Oil / Sweet Almond Oil… even olive oil would work!)
11g emulsifying wax
2g bees wax
60g spring water (or floral water)
Part 2: To add to make into sunscreen:
10 drops carrot seed oil
25g zinc oxide
Cocoa powder (optional)
Other things you’ll need:
A little glass jar to keep your homemade sunscreen in (sterilised in boiling water beforehand)
Glass bowls & pans
I have separated off this part of the recipe, because you can then adapt and change the recipe to your needs. If you would just like to make a lovely homemade, smooth, and creamy lotion, then just follow the steps in Part 1 (and add around 8 drops of essential oils of your choice at the end). If you’d like to to make a sunscreen, then complete Part 2 also. ALSO! If you have a favourite lotion or cream that you already use (ideally with all natural ingredients) then you can use this as the base, and just add the ingredients in Part 2 to make a sunscreen, if that’s easier for you.
By the way - in creating a sunscreen, you’ll find that this also doubles up as a really good barrier cream for bums too! So… this is a 3-in-1 recipe!! (1) Lotion (2) Sunscreen (3) Barrier Cream! :-)
Part 1 – make the lotion base
- Put all the oils and waxes into a glass bowl and stand in simmering water until the oil and waxes are completely melted and mixed
- Put the waters in a separate pan and simmer, but don’t boil. This is just to heat up the water, because putting cold water into hot oil/wax mix can be very tricky
- Remove both from the heat and pour the heated water into the oil/wax bowl little by little and stir softly for around 2-3 minutes to avoid it separating
- Leave it for a minute or so, then give it another stir. You should repeat this until the lotion is lovely and smooth, and fully cooled. If you don’t do this, then the mixture will probably separate – if it does, then just reheat it all again, and mix, mix, mix!
- Optional - If using just as a lotion, now is the time to add your favourite essential oils (being aware that you will need more dilution, around 1%, for use on babies & children, and that there are some essential oils that cannot be used on babies & children, or during pregnancy / breastfeeding). Put the lotion into a glass jar that has been sterilised. Label and keep refrigerated. Lasts for around 4 weeks.
Part 2 – make the sunscreen
- Put the lotion into a bowl
- Add the zinc oxide and carrot seed oil drops and mix really, really well until any lumps have gone – there can be a grittiness to zinc oxide which can be smoothed out by a good old mix. Zinc oxide isn’t great to get up the nose – wear a mask if you feel concerned (and avoid kids getting involved in this step).
- Optional – if you are hoping to get a cream that is more matched to your skin tone then now is the time to add in some cocoa powder. I normally add in 1-2 teaspoons, but this will depend on your skin tone and your preference.
- Put the sunscreen into a glass jar that has been sterilised. Label and keep refrigerated. Lasts for around 4 weeks.