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DIY Sunscreen Without Chemicals or Zinc Oxide

It’s taken since the beginning of the summer to source, make, and test this DIY sunscreen recipe. I’m super proud of the fact it’s an effective recipe, made along with my friend Michelle who is a local holistic health nutritionistWe are not doctors, experts in the field of cancer or product manufacturing, but we are two moms on a journey to remove products we see as possibly harmful for our 6 children combined. What changed my thoughts over the last year from buying organic sunscreen to making my own?


There have only been a few times in my life where I totally couldn’t wrap my mind around subjects that should have been easy. Sunscreen has always been one of them. Long time Mommy Footprint readers will know how many sunscreen articles I’ve written trying to get to the bottom of ingredients and why titanium dioxide vs zinc oxide are better choices. The topics of 1) preservatives that make products shelf-life stable and 2) nanoparticles and non-nanoparticles are confusing topics that haven’t been researched enough for my liking. And once you remove the zinc and titanium ingredients from organic sunscreen, you start actually looking at ingredients you are left with and think “Hey – I could make this!” It’s very empowering to find your own ingredients that you can pronounce and understand how each one works within a recipe like sunscreen. Most importantly with this recipe, once you learn the SPF levels of oils and products you have in the kitchen – you’ll really be surprised.

And although I still have mad respect for organic sunscreen companies that have paved the way to cleaner ingredient lists and done SO much to educate consumers (Badger and Green Beaver in particular), I know that sunscreen originated in labs and was created with chemicals that just might have spiked the skin cancer rates over the last 50 years. Cancer rates have increased every year, even with all our knowledge of how to better protect our skin. So rather than just go without sunscreen this summer, Michelle and I have done our research and are happy to follow this recipe from Health Impact News. What ingredients were important to source and use? Red Raspberry Seed Oil and Carrot Seed Oil. Check out the SPF ratings for these two products and you’ll see why. Site reference here:

Carrier Oil SPF
Red Raspberry Seed 28 – 50
Carrot Seed Oil 38 – 40
Wheatgerm 20
Soybean 10
Macadamia Nut 6
Jojoba 4
Sesame Seed Oil 2 – 4
Shea Butter 3 – 6
Coconut 2 – 8
Olive 2 – 8
Avocado (unrefined) 4 – 15
Castor Oil 6
Almond Oil 5

So the recipe we adapted and followed from Health Impact News is:

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup shea butter
1/8 cup sesame or jojoba oil (next time we’ll swap out for avocado oil)
2 TBSP beeswax granules (use more if you want it more water resistant)
1 TSP Red Raspberry Seed Oil
1 TSP Carrot Seed Oil

Click here to get full instructions on how to make your batch of DIY coconut oil sunscreen. Scroll down to Instructions.

You can use essential oils to scent the sunscreen, but the woodsy smell of the carrot seed oil was enough for our batch. My kids did complain slightly about the woodsy scent, but nothing compared to the fuss they made when we first started using organic sunscreen scented with lavender. ;0

You can use whatever essential oils you would like for scent, but make sure to stay away from phototoxic essential oils, which includes the citrus family and a few others. When these essential oils are exposed to the sun, they can cause the skin to burn faster.  **This is really important information**

Another surprise while we made the sunscreen, Michelle’s hubby was hedging bets that the exercise to make our own sunscreen was going to be much higher than just buying a bottle of organic sunscreen from the store. And we agreed. But then he started doing the math (bless him) and surprised all of us to learn that it was cheaper to make our batch of sunscreen than buying store bought organic sunscreen. And we still have lots of ingredients left over to make more! Here is the breakdown in cost:

1/4 cup (60ml) Coconut oil – ~$ 1.25
1/4 cup (60ml Shea butter – ~ $6
1/8 cup (30ml) Jojoba – ~ $3.75
1 tsp (5ml) Red Raspberry Seed oil – ~ $5
1 tsp (5ml) Carrot Seed Oil – ~$9
Bees Wax ~$.80

We took the average cost of our ingredients to figure out how our homemade sunscreen compared to the average store bought ‘clean’ one.  All of our 6 ingredients are organic and/or Fair Trade. The approximate total cost to make this sunscreen is around $26.  When we put it into the jar we ended up with around 220 ml of sunscreen.  The average price of ‘clean’ sunscreen that we purchase is around $19 and the size of container is around 100ml-125ml.  Our homemade sunscreen works out to be cheaper.

Who did this recipe get tested on?  We finished it at the beginning of August, and although the excitement has been high to share, we completed testing first. My lovely teenaged friend who has worked so much this summer and seen very little sun came with us to the pool and used this sunscreen on a very hot day. No trace of burning or pink. My children have very good base tans but we just returned from a week in the desert and they wore the sunscreen and only deepened their tans. And finally, Michelle’s daughters are very fair skinned and she is loving the results of the sunscreen too!  We are still trying to avoid mid-day super hot sun when we are spending a long time outside, and Michelle uses sun shirts, so please continue to use common sense and respect for the sun and UV. If you don’t already have a base tan, you’ll need to reapply this sunscreen recipe every few hours or more often if swimming. The good news is you’ll love how your skin feels after. If you really dislike the white zinc results from store bought organic sunscreen, you’ll love how this recipe immediately soaks into skin, has little scent, and makes your skin very soft after a day outside.

This recipe for homemade coconut oil sunscreen uses a variety of oils and is safe for the whole family, though you want to make sure children don’t eat any of it. Also, when not in use, store the mixture in the fridge to help extend the shelf-life and prevent it from going rancid.

You will know when you are ready to make and trust using your own homemade sunscreen. When the idea of it no longer sounds crazy, but a really smart, practical, idea.



Moisturize & Sun Protection With Marie Veronique

Any West Coaster can tell you this summer has taken a while to get going with the weather. I think today counts as officially the 6th sunny day so my testing of sunscreens was put on hold in June. I won’t be talking about sunscreen for much longer, having happily found my favorite brands for my kids & me. But a product was presented for me to test a few months ago and I must be growing up, because I found the Marie Veronique combination of SPF30 with their moisturizing face screen intriguing. I’ve used organic moisturizers before (and loved them) but made the mistake of walking out into the sun and literally could feel my face sizzling, then burnt. The Marie Veronique Moisturizing Face Screen is all us grown up ladies need before leaving the house for daily activities during the summer months. After I wash my face, I put on the moisturizer (you can purchase tinted or plain) apply to my face and neck and I’m out the door. No need to worry about breaking out from pimples from using sunscreen on my face, or the whitening effect you get from most organic sunscreens, and you are very well protected from the sun. Rated with a safety hazard score of 1 from EWG, the Marie Veronique Moisturizing Face Screen and Kid Safe Sunscreen line can become trusted brands this summer.

Most Mommy Footprint reviews come with a story and Marie Veronique is no exception. Marie Veronique is a former chemistry teacher, along with her daughter (a Professor of Physics) and a partner in Marketing & melanoma survivor – the goal is creating products that are safe. The combination of biodegradable contents in these bottles, packaged in recyclable materials, and made in the US, this company knows that creating cosmetics without toxins, nano-particles, petroleum and instead using intelligent ingredients is the key to quality skin care. As I sit here reading the ingredient lists for both the moisturizer and kid’s sunscreen, I realize that not only can I easily pronounce each of the ingredients, but I can easily identify most of them to be natural. Without needing a degree in environmental engineering or chemistry..very refreshing. Marie Veronique also simplifies their packaging to include some big clues that their products are safe – here is the important branding to watch for when shopping for sunscreens: item contents are biodegradable, packaging is fully recyclable, paraben free, no nanoparticles, broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, and the active ingredient is zinc oxide.

With a few ladies in my life announcing pregnancies – I’ve started thinking of products I can recommend for them to be using. Marie Veronique is definitely a brand that an expecting mama can use without worrying about chemicals. Research shows that nanoparticles can cross a mom’s body and enter a baby’s developing system. With little to no accurate research out there on nanoparticles – it’s just best to stay away when possible. Cosmetics, sunscreens, lotions are absorbed into our bodies through very porous skin – we need to be vigilant in reducing and eliminating toxins and chemicals with these products.

I’m a busy mom with lots of sweet children to protect once we hit the hot sunny days.  I’m enjoying the moisturizing face screen and appreciate the fact it adds very little time to my already rushed routine of getting ready in the morning. After I wash my face, I apply the face screen then I’m out the door and don’t worry about the sun’s rays while I’m out running errands. With so many more organic sunscreen options this summer to protect my children, it’s wonderful that a company is worried about protecting and nourishing my face and skin.

Related Articles:

2011 Organic Sunscreens

Choosing A Safe Sunscreen



Sunscreen Surprising Truths Part II

In Part I of learning about safer sunscreens, we shared the latest findings on sunscreen safety from EWG (Environmental Working Group) and they are surprising!  Most of the points listed in their article about  ‘surprising truths‘ don’t need further explanation, but here is one that I’ve always struggled to understand. It’s the topic of nanoparticles and mineral (organic) sunscreens. We learned from Part I of this series that not every sunscreen (chemical sunscreen or organic sunscreen) is safe to be using, however it’s the mineral (organic) sunscreens made with zinc or titanium that receive the highest ratings for safety each year from EWG. My thanks to Gwen, owner of Nayla Natural Care for taking the time to write this great article on mineral sunscreen and the issue of nanoparticles. Take it away Gwen!

What is zinc oxide and titanium dioxide?

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are natural minerals found in the earth. Both have many uses such as ingredients in paints, foods, vitamins, cosmetics, and of course sun block. The reason why these minerals are used in sun blocks is that they have remarkable properties that give them the ability to reflect light and this is exactly what we want our sun block to do. Both of these minerals are excellent choices for sun protection because they both provide broad UVA and UVB protection.

What are nanoparticles?

Defined, a nanoparticle is a solid particle measuring between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is equivalent to a billionth of a meter. Manufacturers using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide must break down the natural particles before adding them to the sunscreen. If they didn’t, the particles would remain large and your sunscreen would go onto your skin as a thick and very white paste. Think of the pictures of lifeguards with thick white strips of sun block on their noses and ears. Not the most visually appealing look right?  To lessen this “white” look, natural sunscreen manufacturers use a process called micronization. Micronization is the process that breaks down the particles so they are smaller and will give the sunscreen that more appealing look once applied. Natural sunscreens will still leave a whitish tinge to the skin, but because of micronization, you will not look like the lifeguards.  =)

Some sunscreen manufacturers such as Thinksport, Thinkbaby and TruKid do not use nanoparticles in their sun blocks (but use micronization). The zinc oxide and titanium dioxide particle sizes in these formulas are greater than 100nm. Badger uses particles that range from 70nm to 300nm in size, so yes, a small fraction of their zinc oxide is made up of nanoparticles, but they assure that the nanoparticles in their formulas are safe. Badger also uses a special coating process on all of their zinc oxide particles that makes the zinc oxide “less likely to generate free radicals and will be less reactive with the skin than uncoated zinc oxide.” For more information on Badger’s stance on nanoparticles and to learn all about the coating process they use, please click here.

How will I know if my sunscreen contains particles that fall within the “safe range”?

The best way to know is to visit the sun block manufacturer’s website. Most manufacturers will post the nanoparticle info in the FAQ section like Badger has done. If you cannot find the info on the company website, contact them by email or by phone. If you are buying from a retailer, contact the retailer and ask them the questions you want answered before purchasing your sunscreen. You want to be sure that you are buying the best and safest thing for your family, so spend the time doing the homework and be confident in your purchase.

Related Posts:

EWG Sunscreen Guide & Surprising Truths Parents Need To Read



EWG Sunscreen Guide & Surprising Truths Parents Need To Read

I’m very appreciative of the folks at EWG (Environmental Working Group) for their hard work to help parents decipher through the toxic world of cosmetics, bath products, sunscreens and more. A few days ago, EWG issued a news release stating they only recommend 8 percent of all sunscreens. The reasons are exaggerated SPF claims and new developments in understanding possible hazards of some sunscreen ingredients – in particular Vitamin A.  Equally helpful is finding a business owner that has done their research on products they sell.  I often turn to Gwen, the owner of the web-based Nayla Natural Care to help me because she knows her stuff and I trust her. She has been great with providing information on the confusing topic of nanoparticles and sunscreen. This is one of the 9 ‘surprise truths‘ released by EWG so I’d like to start by summarizing some of the new – must read data listed on the EWG site. Some of the other ‘surprising truths’ in this article were kinda shocking for me and I encourage all parents to read the article in full.

All of the numbered bullets is direct research and quotes from the EWG site.

EWG Surprising Truths About Sunscreen

1) The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the FDA concur that “FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer”. The IARC recommends clothing, hats and shade as primary barrier to UV radiation and sunscreen should not be the first choice for cancer prevention. Read more here.

2) Some evidence that sunscreens might increase the risk of melanoma among sunscreen users. Scientists speculate that sunscreen users stay out in the sun longer or poor UVA protection over the last 30 years may have led to this surprising outcome. More info here.

3) In 2007 the FDA published draft regulations that would prohibit companies from labeling sunscreens higher than SPF 50+ because these values were misleading. ** Note from Suzanne – check out the article called Hall of Shame from EWG and lists Banana Boat Baby Max Protect, SPF = 100+ as a product with sky-high SPF protecting against sunburn but leaves skin exposed to damaging UVA rays. Think of how many parents read the title of the sunscreen and see the SPF 100+ and think they are giving their child the best sunscreen protection…it makes my stomach turn. **  More info here.

4) Adding to the confusion is the fact that sunshine serves a critical function in the body that sunscreen appears to inhibit – production of vitamin D. Read more info here.

5) The common sunscreen ingredient Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) may speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions. Troubling because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41 percent of all sunscreens. Read more info here.

6) Pick your sunscreen: nanomaterials or potential hormone disruptors. The major choice is between chemical sunscreens which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone systems and “mineral” sunscreens (zinc and titanium) which often contain micronized or nanoscale particles of those minerals. More info here.

7) Europe’s better sunscreens.   Sunscreen makers in Europe can select from among 27 chemicals for their formulations, compared to 17 in the US companies. Companies selling in Europe can add any of seven UVA filters to their products, but have a choice of only three when they market in the US. Read more here.

Some new information for some people I’m sure.  I’m even surprised by the strong emphasis from EWG on the focus of shade, clothing, and hats over sunscreen this year. Plus, more than ever the EWG’s new calculations for recommending safer sunscreens really eliminates more traditional sunscreen products and organic sunscreens on shelves today. Follow the quick tips for sourcing good sunscreen from EWG to best understand ingredients and products to avoid or look for:

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid: Oxybenzone, Vitamin A, added insect repellent
Sunscreen products to avoid: Spray, powders, SPF above 50+

Look for these sunscreen ingredients: Zinc, Titanium dioxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX
Look for these sunscreen products: Cream, broad spectrum protection, water resistant for beach, pool and exerice, SPF 30 + for beach & pool.

For a full list of all of these tips in one great guide – download the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Safer Sunscreens and post it where parents, co-workers, or family will see it. There are some wonderful tips that should be reviewed before the hot weather arrives for all of us.

Please check out next article on the topic of Nanoparticles from Gwen in our next post ~ Sunscreen Surprising Truths Part II. Gwen, the business owner of Nayla Natural Care continues to get more of my business because her sunscreen picks for the last few years have also been top picks from EWG. Join us while she breaks down the mystery behind nanoparticles in sunscreen.



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