Homemade Sunscreen

by Daisy

Just in time for winter! Sunscreen recipe!

My timing might not be particularly awesome. On the other hand, the sun does shine year round. (Although it isn’t making much of an appearance here today).

This recipe makes a sunscreen that contains emollient ingredients as well as zinc oxide. Shea butter and avocado oil also offer a small amount of sun protection factor (SPF 4-6). No matter what sunscreen you choose, follow the recommendations of the American Cancer Society for maximum benefit. Sun is serious.


6 T. avocado oil
3 T. shea butter
1 T. beeswax
1 tsp. soy lecithin
1 capsule vitamin E
1 T. aloe vera gel
2 T. zinc oxide
3-5 drops essential oil (optional)

Melt the shea butter and beeswax in a double boiler. (If you want to see what this looks like, see photo in our Lotion Bar Recipe post.)

Wisk in the avocado oil, lecithin, aloe vera gel, zinc oxide, and essential oil.

(I like to whir it in the food processing container of my immersion blender.)

This sunscreen leaves a white sheen on skin from the zinc oxide, but it is not opaque. It is moderately oily and very conditioning.

I get my zinc oxide from a company called Essential Wholesale, but it is available from other soaping/cosmetics type suppliers as well.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kadence June 6, 2009 at 2:34 am

What SPF is the final sunscreen product?

TL June 6, 2009 at 4:54 am

I really do not know. I think that would take a lot more skill than I possess to determine that. A laboratory thing.

X June 29, 2009 at 6:37 am

From http://www.mothering.com/discussions/showthread.php?t=603356 :

“I took about two cups of shea butter and mixed in about a teaspoon of titanium dioxide. I was trying for a ratio of about 10:1, because it looked like the commercial sunscreens used about that much.

The suncreen worked fine for myself and my toddler son last summer but we never overdid it in the sun; we tried to avoid being out between 11 and 2, we wore hats, and we increased our exposure to the sun gradually. In fact by the end of the summer we could skip the sunscreen altogether– though we still avoided the hottest sun times.”

Cindy July 20, 2009 at 1:53 pm

When working with homemade sunscreen and zinc oxide, you really need to use weight measurements, not volume. As for SPF, current spf testing and fda regulations are flawed and highly inaccurate. It is based on human sunburn testing in a controlled lab environment that hardly mimics real world situations. Consumers are better off paying close attention to their own skin’s reaction as opposed to relying on SPF. But as a general rule for conventional (not micronized) zinc oxide, the higher the concentration and more opaque the application, the more UV rays it shields. You do not need a thick opaque layer to be protected though. Even a thin layer will give some protection. You just have to decide how much whitish tint is acceptable and adjust your sun protection accordingly (i.e. seek shade, clothing, hats, etc…). A side benefit of making your own safe zinc oxide based sunscreen is that you can experiment with color and tint your cream with iron oxides or mica. More details at:

Tomato Lady July 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Cindy–I love your comment, it makes such good sense. Thanks for the benefit of your wisdom, I learned a lot.

Jeremy August 31, 2009 at 11:05 pm

What do you think the equivalent SPF is? I’m not sure what SPF means really anyway other than higher is better. All seem to do about the same to me. I was going to try this recipe – http://www.marilynfarms.com/blog/make-your-own-bug-repellants-and-sunscreens.html

Tomato Lady September 1, 2009 at 1:00 am

Jeremy–I’ve always heard SPF was “sun protection factor” (but TCBY used to be This Can’t Be Yogurt and now it’s The Country’s Best Yogurt, so I won’t promise anything). I don’t know how to grade sunscreens, most likely a very technical process (involving monkeys doing the macarena).
Seriously, though *sigh*, I’m digressing. I wish I could help more in this, but I’m afraid to guess since sun protection isn’t anything to play around with and I don’t want to lead anyone astray.
The recipes you linked sound cool, maybe she can help with the SPF information. Sorry I’m so useless.

abeer December 6, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Hello there,

is using 40% zinc oxide too much daily?

I am looking at baby rash stuff with 40% zinc ox.

thank you!

Tomato Lady December 7, 2009 at 11:37 am

abeer–Zinc oxide is considered safe to use. Some concern over the nanoparticulate/micronized form of zinc is out there, mainly because it hasn’t been completely studied, but the kind you are referring to (the kind in most baby rash ointments–the white stuff) is believed to be one of the safest kinds of sunscreen and I think 40% is well within normal use.

Angel December 21, 2009 at 10:36 pm

I wanted to try mixing Zinc oxide cream (10%) into my regular sunscreen for better protection against UVA rays. I can already get enough UVB protection (by SPF rating), but want more UVA protection because that is what is supposed to cause skin damage, wrinkles, etc.
I don’t really see the point of wearing it if you estimated that that SPF was 4-6 because that is almost like wearing nothing at all…Unless this had better UVA protection, but focused on burn.
Do you have any insight on this factor? Thanks. 🙂

Tomato Lady December 22, 2009 at 10:00 am

Angel–SPF is such a complex issue that it makes my head spin. Very possibly I had better confine my recipes to moisturizing lotion, but I do use this recipe myself because I was unable to find a laboratory-tested commercial version that left out all the chemicals I was wary of. One can adjust the amount of zinc oxide to get up to the “lifeguard nose” level of protection with the accompanying level of whiteness but it’s not something I want for my whole body–yikes! run! it’s the scary white lady! I know what a serious issue this is so I don’t pretend to be an expert and I advise doing everything possible to make certain the best level of sun protection is achieved in addition to my amateur concoctions.

Darlene May 16, 2010 at 11:05 am

One note about sunscreen: Sunscreen prevents your body from producing Vitamin D, which is ESSENTIAL to good health. UVB rays trigger Vit D production, and they are strongest during midday. UVA rays – which are harmful – come through at ALL hours, even through clouds, windows, etc… may want to research this a little bit more.

Antonis June 4, 2010 at 5:59 am

Do I need to keep it in the fridge? What is the shelf life of the recipe?

Tomato Lady June 4, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Antonis–I keep it in the fridge for several months.

Living So Abundantly\ June 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

I learned that SPF refers to the amount of time that you are protected(although not completely protected) from the sun. If the SPF is 30, then you should reapply after 30 minutes. I had never done that before, as I didn’t understand what it meant and would wonder why I would burn when I put on a high SPF sunscreen. Now I know!

jj January 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Aw dude. I have everything except the avocado oil. Will grapeseed or olive oil work?

Daisy January 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm

jj–Yes! That would be fine. Go for it!

Debra Newton February 10, 2014 at 12:00 am

Read article from Huffington Post on how bad soy lecithin is. Also many articles on Girlmeetsnourshment.com . What are your thoughts?

Daisy February 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

First I’m hearing about it. I read the article (HP) and one from GMN and it seems like it’s in a whole lot of processed foods (or almost all!). When you have a chance to avoid its use, like in a recipe you make yourself, here for example, if it worries you please leave it out. The difference in consistency probably won’t be that detectible and you have one fewer ingredient to purchase! The Environmental Working Group classifies it as low to moderate risk, with those risks being mostly that of allergic/immunotoxic reactions. Read the entry for more information: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/703513/LECITHIN/
I’d say mostly don’t eat it, especially if allergic to soy.

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