The dog days of summer are a time you’ll want to stay stocked up on sunscreen. Traditional sunblock may ward off one problem but create another: many sunscreens are comprised of chemicals that when exposed to sunlight, break down into carcinogens which are then absorbed through the skin. Whether you’ve protected your skin so far or know you’ve done some damage, there are natural and effective sunscreens you can purchase or make yourself to help minimize future harm without chemicals.
How to Buy a Natural Sunscreen
Natural skin care expert Chris Gibson says there are natural alternatives to those chemical-laden “traditional” suncare products. He suggests that shoppers look for a couple of key ingredients: zinc oxide—a mineral which doesn’t soak into the skin, stays stable in sunlight, and reflects UVA and UVB rays—and a base of some sort of natural oil, such as olive or sunflower oil. “Natural oils don’t become carcinogenic in the sun,” Gibson says.
Two products that meet the criteria are Badger Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Cream ($15.99 for a 2.9 ounce tube) and Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen SPF 35 Original ($19.79 for 4 ounces). If you’d rather make your own sunscreen, check out Gibson’s recipes. Both provide protection around 20 SPF and need reapplied about every 30 minutes.
DIY Sunscreen Waterproof Bars
1.5 oz. beeswax
1.5 oz. shea butter
1.5 oz. coconut oil
1 oz. zinc oxide
10 drops tea tree oil (also acts as a natural insect repellant)
Melt the beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil together (don’t boil, just melt). Gibson uses a mason jar and sets the jar in boiling water until melted. Remove from heat and stir in zinc oxide and tea tree oil. Pour into a mold such as an ice cube tray or empty deodorant container. Let cool completely. Remove from molds and place the bars in a plastic bag. Refrigerate until ready to use. Put the bars in your cooler when you go to the beach or a picnic, then rub the bar on your skin.
DIY Sunscreen Lotion
2 oz. shea butter
2 oz. coconut oil (use more or less for thicker or thinner lotion)
1 oz. zinc oxide
8 drops tea tree oil
Melt the shea butter and coconut oil together (use same method as the bars). Remove from heat and stir in zinc oxide and tea tree oil. Pour into an airtight container (travel plastic bottles work well). Let cool completely before use. Store at room temperature.
If you end up with a burn, Gibson recommends a mixture of about ¼ cup of aloe vera (either fresh or in a jar from a health food store) and a teaspoon of witch hazel. “This will restore moisture and bring the PH of the skin back to normal, which helps minimize the burn,” Gibson says.
Once the skin returns to normal and no longer peels, Gibson suggests an exfoliation routine with a gentle sponge. Give your skin about two weeks to recover before you expose it to sunlight.
Chris Gibson is the author of Acne Free in 3 Days. He is a health and wellness coach who promotes holistic health, nutrition, inspiration, and natural skin care.