We began by researching sunscreen. What is natural, what isn't and what is most effective. We found numerous listings of SPF ratings for many natural sunscreen components. The listing below is from Amazingly magazine's article, All About Sunscreen (this, by the way, is a well-researched and comprehensive article):
- red raspberry seed oil – SPF 30 to 45
- carrot seed oil – SPF 30
- wheat germ oil – SPF 20
- hazelnut oil – SPF 15
- coconut oil – SPF 10
- soybean oil – SPF 10
- shea butter – SPF 6-10
- grapeseed, macadamia, jojoba, sesame, rice bran, hemp, avocado, peanut oil – SPF between 4 and 10
But, what is SPF? I know you are asking yourself, "Seriously? These people are looking at making sunscreen and they doesn't even know what SPF is?!" Ok, it is sun protection factor, but what does it actually measure? SPF is a measure of effectiveness against UVB radiation from the sun. The EPA describes each of the types of UV rays pretty concisely:
- UVA: Wavelength: 315-399 nm. Not absorbed by the ozone layer.
- UVB: Wavelength: 280-314 nm. Mostly absorbed by the ozone layer, but some does reach the Earth’s surface.
- UVC: Wavelength: 100-279 nm. Completely absorbed by the ozone layer and atmosphere.
So, UVA and UVB are the rays we should be concerned with. What is the difference between the two, aside from wavelength? The Skin Cancer Foundation describes them in the following way (we have condensed this):
- UVA: accounts for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface. They are 30 to 50 times more prevalent than UVB rays. Present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year and can penetrate clouds and glass. UVA plays a major part in skin aging and wrinkling. Studies over the past two decades show UVA contributes to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers. It is the dominant tanning ray outside and is the UV used in tanning beds.
- UVB: is the primary cause of reddening and sunburn. Intensity varies by season, location, and time of day.
Why do you care? Well, you should care because many commercially available sunscreens do not offer broad-spectrum protection; broad-spectrum protection provides both UVA and UVB coverage. This means that many commercial sunscreens only protect you from 5 percent of the sun's damaging rays.
Two types of physical sunblock’s are predominantly used in sunscreen: zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Particle size of both types have been an issue of great debate. Some scientists argue that nanoparticles of either component are potentially dangerous, others say they not unsafe unless inhaled and yet others say there is no long-term effect. In Europe, nanoparticles are defined as a "primary" particle size of greater than 100 nm (nanometers). In Australia, the vagueness of the term "primary" is removed in their specification that 90% of the particles should be greater than 100 nm. The FDA has not weighed in on this topic. My research indicates that predominant thinking is that uncoated non-nanoparticle zinc oxide is safe for use. Zinc oxide also offers water-resistance.
This is more complicated than you expected, isn't it? It was certainly more complicated than I expected; I just wanted to make sunscreen. But I like to learn.
After all the above research, we decided to make our sunscreen using the recipe below. We've made annotations with additional information in italics.
Homemade Sunscreen Recipe
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (I used an organic coconut oil that you can purchase at Sam’s or Costco)
- 1/4 cup shea butter (I used organic expeller pressed shea butter from NOW purchased on Amazon, http://a.co/1GycaFs
- 1/8 cup sesame or jojoba oil (I used certified organic jojoba oil purchased on Amazon, http://a.co/j2ivhbU
- 2 tbsp. beeswax granules (I used beeswax pastilles from Mountain Rose Herbs, https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/wax/wax.php#wa_bee_p)
- 1-2 tbsp. zinc oxide powder (I used 2 tbsp of zinc oxide purchased on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003IGOL8U/; please note, there is some debate over this particular product. The item description says the item includes nano + 20% sized particles. The manufacturer commented as Essential Depots on Amazon; Last edited by the author on Aug 29, 2012 3:18:15 PM PDT: "Essential Depots Zinc oxide does not contain nano particles (defined as particles less than 100nm). Essential Depot particle size ranges from 108nm to 132nm. With an average particle size of 120nm. Essential Depot specifically selected its Zinc Oxide to have the ideal particle (uncoated) for sunscreen (Lowest whitening effects while still being safe). Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. We will update our spec sheets." We can only hope the manufacturer's comments are a correct reflection of the product they sell.)
- 1 tsp. red raspberry seed oil (I used a little less than 1 tsp cold pressed virgin Red Raspberry Seed oil, from Dr. Adorable purchased on Amazon,
- 20-30 drops carrot seed essential oil (I used 20 drops of Young Living carrot seed essential oil)
- Essential oils of your choice to add aroma (lavender, rosemary, or peppermint) (I used about 10 drops of Young Living lavender essential oil)
2. Once all ingredients are liquid, remove the mixture from the heat and let cool to room temperature. If you’re using zinc oxide, whisk it in at this point, being careful not to create a lot of dust. If there are some lumps, that’s OK. They will break up when you whip the sunscreen in step 4.
3. Move the mixture to the fridge for 15-30 minutes. You want it to start to set up, but still be soft enough to whip.
4. Whip the mixture using a stand mixer or hand mixer. Drizzle in the red raspberry seed oil, the carrot seed oil, and any essential oils of your choice, and continue whipping until the mixture is light and fluffy.
5. Put the mixture into a container for use.
6. Use as you would any sunscreen. Application rates will depend on your activity and exposure to water. Store in a glass container in the fridge between uses.
The sunscreen was easy to make. We are now ready for summer!!!!
Amazingly Magazine, All About Sunscreen
Hybrid Rasta Mama, Natural Oils as Sun Protection
Dr. Frank Lipman, Natural Sun Protection
Cosmetics Design, Fruit oil trend down to berry good SPF and moisturizing properties
EPA Sunwise Program
Skin Cancer Foundation, Understanding UVA and UVB
Pharmacognosy Review, Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation