One such belief of mine is that using too much sunscreen (for example, lathering it on every day) may actually be quite harmful to us.
Is this a little far-fetched?
It’s definitely not a popular belief among society, and I am definitely not encouraging you to not wear sunscreen when out in the sun or ignore your doctor’s advice. I am, however, encouraging you to do your own research, look at the studies around sunscreen, and use common sense when it comes to sun exposure.
Don’t get me wrong. Sunburn is harmful, but sunscreen isn’t the only way to avoid it and protect yourself against the sun.
The Issue With Sunscreen
A lot of sunscreens have been found to contain toxic ingredients or endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals that have been shown to actually promote the production of free radicals and skin cancer growth in the body in many cases.
In the years since we started using sunscreen, skin cancer rates have actually risen, not declined. Surprising, aye! In fact, the FDA’s 2007 draft of sunscreen safety regulations states that: “The FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer.” What’s even more shocking is that there are many reports out there showing that most sunscreens actually increase your risk of skin cancer.
Even commercially available, natural sunscreens may often contain toxic ingredients.
Oxybenzone, a hormone disrupting chemical found in many sunscreens, is an ingredient not recommended to be used by children.
As vitamin D is needed by the body for healthy hormone function, ingredients like Oxybenzone can cause more harm than good.
New research has discovered that many of the compounds found in sunscreen harm ocean life, coral especially.
This is due to the fact that these compounds in sunscreen have the ability to activate dormant viruses in symbiotic algae called Zooxanthellae. This algae provides food and colour to the coral. The chemicals in sunscreen cause the dormant viruses in these Zooxanthellae to duplicate until the algae host dies. This then causes the coral to die.
It is estimated that over 5,000 metric tons of sunscreen is washed off of swimmers each year. This sunscreen pollution poses a huge threat to coral life in the ocean, which will have a flow-on effect, impacting many other marine species as well.
Vitamin D Deficiency
What’s ironic, especially in Australia, is a lot of us are vitamin D deficient. Surprised? You would think that as we receive so much sun throughout the year, we would be overflowing in vitamin D. But this is not the case for most. This issue isn’t only affecting Australians though, many people around the world are suffering with vitamin D deficiency.
Many cancers have been linked to vitamin D deficiency, including breast cancer. Problems during pregnancy including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, premature labour, and more conditions may be linked to a lack of vitamin D also.
As a society, we’ve shut out the sun, which also means we’ve shut out the vitamin D our bodies produce when exposed to the sun too.
But what’s interesting is sun exposure is not the only factor linked to skin cancer. Many other factors, such as high omega-6 intake, has been linked to skin cancer too.
A Healthier, More Common Sense Approach To Sun
Majority of the time, my approach to sun exposure is to receive an adequate daily exposure, without getting to the point of burning. As I live in Australia, the ozone layer over our country is quite weak, which means it can be quite easy for us to get burnt, especially in the middle of the day in Summer! This is why I tend to get my vitamin D hits during mid morning or afternoon, when the strength of the sun has died down a bit.
For some of us, the problem isn’t actually avoiding the sun, it’s getting enough of it. Many of us are usually indoors most of the day, whether that be at school, at work, or at home. It’s very important that you do go out and enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine at least once every day. Go out and welcome that warmth onto your body!
Of course, there is a limit to how much sun a person needs. When I reach this limit, I:
Sit In The Shade
If I’m going to be out in the sun for much longer than my skin is used to, I look for somewhere shaded to sit/stand, OR, I put a hat or shirt on to protect my skin. This is much more effective at stopping excess sun exposure, and doesn’t harm the ocean.
Apply Natural Sunscreen
If I’m going to be out in the heat of the day and I’m not able to easily cover up when I’ve gotten enough sun, I will very occasionally use natural sunscreen. Later on in this post I’ll share with you the natural sunscreen I use when I’m out in the sun for extended periods of time.
The Controversy Over Natural Sunscreen
Several recent articles have stated that homemade sunscreens are actually harmful and that a person should not even consider making their own sunscreen. Their reasoning behind this is that you can’t confirm the SPF with homemade sunscreens so the chance of getting burnt is higher.
It is true, homemade sunscreens do not have the lab testing that commercial ones do, but they also don’t have endocrine disruptors or coral harming chemicals. Also, sunscreen should be a last resort, with shade and covering up being better options anyway.
It is important to note that we shouldn’t use homemade sunscreens in the same way we use conventional sunscreens.
What To Look For When Choosing Natural Sunscreen Ingredients
A lot of the ingredients used in this recipe have a natural SPF (Sun Protection Factor).
Note: This is a natural recipe and has not been tested by a regulatory organisation for its exact SPF.
For this reason, I don’t make any claims as to the combined SPF.
The following ingredients are considered low SPF and are generally quoted at these levels:
- Shea butter – SPF 4-6
- Coconut Oil – SPF 4-6
- Almond Oil – SPF around 5
- Red Raspberry Seed Oil – SPF 25-50
- Carrot Seed Oil – SPF 35-40
- Zinc Oxide – SPF 2-20 depending on how much is used
The sun protective ability of the final product will vary depending on how much of each ingredient is used. Always check with your doctor or dermatologist before using any new products.
Homemade Sunscreen Recipe
- ½ cup Almond or Olive Oil
- ¼ cup Coconut Oil (natural SPF 4)
- ¼ cup beeswax
- 2 tbsp Zinc Oxide (This is a non-nano, uncoated variety. Do not inhale the powder).
- 1 tsp Red Raspberry Seed Oil (optional)
- 1 tsp Carrot Seed Oil (optional)
- 2 tbsp Shea Butter (natural SPF 4-5)
- Optional: Vanilla extract or essential oils (Note: Citrus essential oils can increase sun sensitivity. Avoid using them).
- In a glass jar, combine all the ingredients except the zinc oxide. A great eco-friendly option is to reuse jars from olives, pickles or other foods.
- On the stove over medium heat, fill a saucepan with 2 inches of water.
- Loosely place a lid on the jar and place in the saucepan with the water.
- As the water heats up, the ingredients will begin to melt. Stir the contents every so often until ingredients are mixed together.
- Once all the ingredients have melted, add in the zinc oxide, stir well, then pour into whatever jar you will be using for storage of the sunscreen.
- Do not pur into a lotion pump, it will not pump well. These mason jars are a great storage option.
- As it cools, stir the mixture a few times to ensure the zinc oxide doesn’t separate.
- Store in a cool, dry place at room temperature.
Recipe by Wellness Mama.
Things To Keep In Mind
- This sunscreen isn’t waterproof, so after swimming or sweating you need to reapply.
- Ensure you don’t inhale the Zinc Oxide. Use a mask if need be.
- Coconut or vanilla extract, or lavender essential oils are great to use for a nice fragrance.
- If you remove the Zinc Oxide, this makes an excellent body lotion recipe.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
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What’s your opinion on sunscreen?
Have a fantastic day!
Wells, Katie. (October 23, 2018). Natural Homemade Sunscreen Recipe. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/2558/homemade-sunscreen/