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Safe, Natural, and Homemade Sunscreen

by guest writer, Nina Nelson

Learn about natural sunscreen alterantives, including homemade sunscreen, safe brands and more, via SustainableBabySteps.com

Looking for a safer, natural, or even homemade sunscreen? Until last month, most of my children didn't even know what sunscreen was. I purchased it for a swimming outing, knowing that they would be spending a great deal of time in the sun and I didn't want them to get burned.

Why don't I use sunscreen? Aside from the fact that commercial sunscreens use many unsafe chemicals that I don't want to rub all over my children's skin - their largest organ - I also want them exposed to the sun so they can produce Vitamin D. (Vitamin D deficiencies are linked to low immunity, heart disease, MS, multiple forms of cancer, autoimmune disorders, osteoporosis, and more.)

What about skin cancer, you ask? Too much sun exposure can cause skin damage and cancer. But according to the EWG, skin cancer rates are on the rise, despite the widespread use of sunscreen. One study suggests that the Vitamin A used in many sunscreens, because of its anti-oxidant and anti-aging effects, may actually be causing cancer. The report states that Vitamin A has photo-carcinogenic properties, which means that it can cause cancerous tumors when it's applied to skin that's exposed to sunlight. And adequate Vitamin D is actually known to help prevent many types of cancer, including skin cancer.

Ingredients in Sunscreen

According to the EWG's Skin Deep Database, many commercial sunscreens contain chemicals that have been shown to disrupt hormones, irritate, and even damage skin. The EWG has also shown many dangers of the chemicals in sunscreen.

Some of those dangerous ingredients in sunscreen include:

Zinc Oxide (Nano):
This form of zinc oxide has been made into such small particles that it could potentially be inhaled into the lungs, then enter the bloodstream, posing a risk to internal organs.

Mimics estrogen in the body and has been found to alter sperm production in animals. In addition, it has been associated with endometriosis in women. Studies have shown that this chemical has been found in breastmilk, which means it can also cause harm to a developing fetus. There is a tie between this chemical and low birthweight daughters. There are also high rates of skin allergies to this chemical.

Also mimics hormones. Studies on animals have shown that it alters both behavior and thyroid functioning.

Yet another hormone-disrupting chemical found in many commercial sunscreens. Homosalate disrupts estrogen, androgen and progesterone.

Are There Natural Sunscreen Brands?

Needless to say that when I do use sunscreen, I want to use one that is free of harmful chemicals, and sometimes I just don't want to or have the time or resources to make my own. I've used a couple of natural sunscreen brands and have had a few others recommended to me.

The brands below contain natural ingredients that rate low on Skin Deep's toxicity rating:

How to Protect Your Skin Naturally

Over the years, I've learned that common sense is much easier, and cheaper to employ than heavily-marketed products.

Smart sun exposure
While I advocate sun exposure to produce Vitamin D, we also try to spend plenty of time in the shade and stay out of the sun during the hottest time of day when we can. Do your best to avoid excessive sun exposure during 10am-2pm every day, and use umbrellas, trees, and sit under awnings whenever you can.

Dress accordingly
Wearing hats with brims and loose, flowy clothing keeps you cool while protecting your skin.

Coconut oil & shea butter
We use a mixture of coconut oil and shea butter as our main moisturizer because they're incredibly hydrating without being greasy. They both just happen to have a low amount of natural sun protection factor (SPF). A thin layer of this, plus the other precautions we take, protect us well from sun exposure and sunscreen.

Use essential oils
Helichrysum is an essential oil that is said to provide limited protection from the sun. Try applying a drop on areas such as the nose, or shoulders, or adding it regularly to your lotion. (Also very helpful for after sun care!)

Natural Homemade Sunscreen Recipe

If you would like to try your hand at making homemade sunscreen yourself, it's pretty simple and only requires a few ingredients.

Here's what you'll need to gather:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup shea butter
  • 3 Tbsp beeswax or candelila wax for a vegan version
  • 2 Tbsp Zinc Oxide (non-nano)
  • 15 drops lavender and/or helichrysum essential oil

Combine the coconut oil and shea butter in a sauce pan and place on low heat. Once they've melted, remove from heat and stir in the wax and zinc oxide. Then add the essential oil. Store your homemade sunscreen in a glass jar with a lid and don't forget to label it!

Voila! It's done and ready to use!

After-Sun Care Recipe

While we're on the topic, let's talk about what you can do if you happen to forget your homemade sunscreen and end up needing some skin soothing. This recipe below is my favorite! Try it out and you'll see why!

You can make this up in advance, or mix it in your hands as needed. Apply it to the burnt areas as often as every 2-3 hours in most cases. Keep it in the fridge to add an awesome cooling effect that feels soooooo good!

Nina Nelson is a writer, student midwife, and mama of four. She blogs regularly at Shalom Mama and loves helping others create wellness through simple living. Check out her website for more simple wellness tips and connect with her on Facebook.

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