Now that spring has fully sprung on the East Coast and temperatures have started to rise as days stretch longer, the promise of summer has me daydreaming about (and planning for) a season of fun. Thoughts of long hikes along rugged coastal cliffs and longer, languid days bumming around our beaches or puttering in the garden have me excited for what’s to come.
But because of the pale, freckled skin I inherited from the redheads in my genealogy (thanks, family) it also has me thinking about how to best avoid paying for my time in the sun with any new sunburns — I’ve had my share — I’m good, no worries. I’ve never been much of a fan of sunscreen — hence all those burns — because what’s sun damage when you’re in your 20s? But as I’ve gotten older, wiser, and wise to the reality of age spots — I’ve reluctantly embraced higher SPFs, and learned to love the protection of a good summer hat.
But I still don’t love sunscreen. It’s expensive, and filled with ingredients that sound like a threat. And as someone who likes to experiment with DIY recipes I always wanted to try making my own sun protection but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. It’s entirely possible I still won’t like it, but cutting the cost and avoiding the toxins the store bought stuff contains seems a pretty great compromise. And, as luck would have it during a recent conversation with one of the amazing moms we recently profiled — Tracy McNeil — owner & maker at Teebags (and also my cousin’s wife) she shared with me her recipe for homemade, toxin-free sunscreen!
My zinc is on order, and as soon as it arrives I’ll be giving this recipe a go. Check it out below. Is DIY sunscreen something you’d try on your own?
A few important notes: According to McNeil, people are often confused about safety when using zinc. Her own research found that yes, zinc is harmful if it gets into your bloodstream, which is easily avoided by wearing a mask during production. She also recommends using “non-nano” zinc which has larger particles that can’t be absorbed through the skin. Commercial sunscreens usually contain zinc nanoparticles that absorb without leaving a residue.
WARNING: Do not inhale zinc oxide powder. Wear a mask & gloves while working with the powder. Once incorporated into the mixture the zinc oxide is rendered safe.
3 TBSP Shea Butter
2 TBSP Coconut Oil
1 TBSP Olive Oil (Or another carrier oil)
1 Tsp Vitamin E Liquid
5 Tsp Zinc Oxide Powder (Non-nano)
10–15 drops Essential Oil for scent (AVOID citrus as it increases sensitivity to the sun)
- Makes about 15–20 SPF. For higher SPF add more zinc.
- Gently melt shea butter and coconut oil in a double boiler or glass/metal bowl over a pot of boiling water
- Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients one at a time.
- Pour into airtight container, shaking every so often to keep solids suspended
- Store in a cool dry place or in the refrigerator long-term
Use with Caution:
- Apply liberally to skin before sun exposure
- Avoid contact with eyes
- Reapply after heavy sweating, swimming, or every 2 hours
Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.
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