I actually don’t tell too many people about this, so this is a big step for me. I don’t like to seem weird or different or fussy. The funny thing is that I know once I say my confession most people will be like, “What? That’s it? Yawn!” So, here goes… I’m allergic to store-bought commercial Sunscreen. Anything that says “SPF” on the label makes me swell up and get all hot and red with little blotches for about a week or two, and the little blotches stick around a lot longer.
I know what you’re thinking… “Yawn”.
But, there it is. Maybe there are other people out there who also have this problem. Maybe this post will help them. Maybe they don’t like to tell people either. Maybe we can start to talk about it, and maybe even start to come up with alternatives and other ideas to help.
I saw some info on Pinterest (I love Pinterest!!!) about Homemade Sunscreen and I decided to try making some. But let me back up a little and give some info on sunscreens.
Typical commercial sunscreens are absorbed into the skin; that’s how they protect against the sun. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are different because they sit on your skin, creating a layer between your skin and the sun. So, in theory, these oxides should be less irritating.
Some of the recipes I saw online call for zinc oxide. I’ve tried it in the past. It still made me react. Less of a reaction, but a reaction nonetheless. So, I had to eliminate it from my DIY version.
There’s information out there that skin cancer rates have actually risen since the rise in commercial sunscreen use. And, in several studies, commercial sunscreen use may promote skin cancer growth and free radical production. But, these are controversial ideas that I really don’t want to get too far into. If you’re interested in these ideas, please do some research on them; there’s a ton of info out there. I have some resources listed at the bottom of this post; they’re good starting points.
In addition, commercial sunscreen use may decrease vitamin D levels. My doctor has told me that she believes that low vitamin D is one of the major causes of osteoporosis. So, maybe it’s ok that I don’t use commercial sunscreens.
I looked for some Raw Shea Butter on Amazon. But, each product I found had some bad reviews saying that it was moldy when it arrived, or there was a bug in it, or it smelled bad. So, I decided to go to my local CVS to see what I could find. They had a raw Shea butter lotion with a few added ingredients, and they had some cocoa butter with vitamin E. They didn’t carry any essential oils. Since I wanted to just start using it, and I didn’t want to invest too much money in something that I didn’t know would work or not, I decided to just go with the Shea butter and cocoa butter from CVS plus the coconut oil that I already had at home.
- ½ cup Shea Butter (mine had Myrrh and Frankincense in it)
- ¼ cup cocoa butter (mine had vitamin E in it)
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- Mix all ingredients together. You can mix them with a hand blender or just mix them by hand with a fork or spoon (I find the latter easier and less messy). Pour into a glass container with a tight fighting lid, like a canning jar. It’s very soft, almost melty at room temperature. But, if you keep it in the fridge it becomes more solid, not hard, just more solid. And, it’s so nice to put the cold lotion on in the morning.
- Mine might be about SPF 7-12. And, it’s supposed to be reapplied every 1 to 2 hours (just like commercial sunscreens).
- And, please, ignore the calorie count on this, I like the layout of the recipe card for this, but you aren't supposed to eat it!
I decided to try some experiments to see if I could prove that this DIY sunscreen either works or doesn’t. I put the sunscreen all over my left leg and just in a couple lines on my right leg. I did the same thing with my arms, all over the left and only in stripes on my right.
I put some commercial sunscreen and my DIY Homemade Sunscreen on a blue piece of construction paper and a black piece of craft paper. I also put them both on a piece of SunPrint Paper.
And, the final experiment was this 4th of July weekend at a pool party I went to. I drew a heart on my lily-white tummy with the Homemade Sunscreen to see if there would be any change in the color of the shape vs. my exposed tummy.
I’ve been using the Shea butter sunscreen for about a month or two now. It has a lovely light buttery fragrance that’s very pleasant.
First, let me tell you that my skin is silky soft. Each of these ingredients help hydrate, heal, and soften rough dry skin. They may even help smooth scars, stretch marks, even skin tones, and soothe after sun and wind exposure. So, the fact that my skin feels great is no surprise.
The lotion is heavy, so it leaves a lotiony-oily sheen on my skin. But, that gives the appearance of the “after” pictures where the person is all tan and slick-looking.
My husband even tried the sunscreen lotion and he thought it was nice. The texture didn’t bother him at all. He thought it was similar to most commercial sunscreens. And, the light scent was pleasant to him.
How did the testing on my legs and arms go? Nope, can’t tell any difference between tan levels on the right or the left leg or arm. And, there isn’t any stripe where I put the lotion. So, these tests don’t show that it works.
The paper test showed inconclusive. The commercial sunscreen left a white smear, the Homemade Sunscreen left a dark oily smear, even after hours of drying. And, for my SunPrint Paper, well, I guess it was just too old to show anything, and the paper was a solid light blue color even where I had the control binder clip (no picture taken of that because it was just one solid color).
I wore the DIY sunscreen twice when we went out and spent hours on the ocean, and I didn’t get burned. I put it on my ears and my neck. No sunburn. I put it on my legs and my arms. No burn. But, on the day that I wore it at the pool party on the 4th of July, I got a sunburn on my shoulders and chest. Maybe because I didn’t reapply often enough. Maybe because it washed off in the pool. Maybe it doesn’t work all that well. I’m really not sure of the reason. And, the final test of the heart drawn on my tummy? No, no mark. Nothing. But, I didn’t get burned there either.
So, in the end, I have nothing conclusive. Nothing to show that it does or doesn’t work. Nothing except really soft skin and only minor sunburns after being out in the sun for hours at a time wearing the sunscreen. But, I can tell you this much for sure, I’ll continue to use it. That might be the real testimonial.
Sources and reference:
Tons of info on chemical sunscreen at Thank Your Body.
A great write-up, and a good recipe at Scratch Mommy.
Multiple recipes and a listing of commercial ingredients to avoid. I like this post from Simple Life Mom because she includes some SPF numbers on her post.
Another recipe from Coconut Oil Information.