DIY Natural Sunscreen for Everyday WearAuthor : Cristina Tarziu
Despite all the warnings and awareness campaigns created around the damage that the sun can cause to our skin, the beaches all around the world are still pretty much empty in the morning and become overcrowded at noon. At this point, you’re probably just thinking “well, yes, but I always stay under an umbrella!” Sure, that may be helpful, but it depends a lot on the size of the umbrella and especially on the fabric it’s made from. While a heavy, dark and opaque fabric may block a significant portion of the UV rays, a sheer umbrella may do nothing to protect you. Actually, some dermatologists even say that staying under an umbrella is worse than being exposed directly to the sun because it gives you a false sense of comfort, which encourages you to stay longer on the beach and take no precautionary measures; meanwhile, though you cannot feel it, your skin gets burnt.
The general recommendation is that you do not expose your skin to the sun after 10am and before 5pm. But if you do, can sunscreen help? Definitely! You would never be advised to apply sunscreen and then lay in the sun for hours, but sunscreen can undoubtedly protect your skin and should be applied every time you get some sun exposure.
Then what’s the dilemma? Well, your typical sunscreen is a chemical product which, as any chemical product, can pose dangers to your health. Some of the ingredients can penetrate the skin and, unfortunately, more and more evidence emerges about the dangers of sunscreens, their role in raising the risk of skin cancer and their negative effects on our overall health. The danger of exposing your skin to the sun for long periods of time without any protection is definitely higher than the danger of using sunscreen, but, whenever possible, try to opt for the natural alternatives. We only get a few days of vacation every year, but at least part of our skin gets sun exposure almost on a daily basis – depending, of course, on where you live. For that daily walk to work and those weekend afternoons in the park, these natural sunscreens are just what you need – they offer sufficient UV protection, but pose no risk to your health.
How does sunscreen work and why make your own?
Sunscreens contain ingredients that either absorb UV radiation – such as octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) or oxybenzone or reflect it – such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide. According to the American Cancer Society, sunscreen should always be applied on skin when exposing it to the sun because it aids in the prevention of squamous cell carcinomas. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure that it blocks both UVB and UVA radiations, as the latter are linked to a higher risk of melanoma and photodermatitis.
The problem is that many of the ingredients in these products have worrisome effects on our health. For example, oxybenzone, an ingredient present in many of them, was linked to a low total testosterone level in adolescents, methylisothiazolinone is a powerful allergen and, according to various lab studies, some chemical UV filters can mimic hormones and are especially dangerous for children and adolescents.
Natural ingredients, on the other hand, have been used for thousands of years to protect the skin from sun damage. Ancient Greeks used olive oil, while ancient Egyptians used extracts of jasmine, lupine and rice. Zinc oxide paste was also popular, the benefits of which were first described in ancient Indian medicinal scripts around the year 500 B.C.
Your DIY Sunscreen recipe
Homemade natural sunscreen
What you need:
- Mix all ingredients in a ceramic or glass bowl and put it over a pot with boiling water. Make sure that you maintain a constant temperature and that the bowl does not get in direct contact with the water.
- Mix from time to time until you obtain a homogenous paste.
- Take the bowl from the heat and put the paste in a glass jar. If kept in a cool, dark and dry place, this natural sunscreen can be used for up to 6 months.
Tip: To obtain a sunscreen with a higher SPF, you can also add two tablespoons of Zinc Oxide Powder. The disadvantage is that you’ll get a more dense paste, not necessarily suited for everyday wear.
How does it work?
Coconut oil has a SPF of approximately 4, which means that it blocks 75% of UV radiation. It is also rich in antioxidants that protect the skin from harmful radiation, but it allows the beneficial rays to get through, thus preventing the formation of free radicals that contribute to skin aging.
Thought Olive oil does not necessarily act as a sunscreen, it does protect the skin against sun damage and contains antioxidants that can help prevent skin cancer.
Shea butter has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and sun protective properties.
Carrot seed oil contains beta carotene and vitamin E which are antioxidants and protect the skin.
Ylang Ylang, Lavender and Rose essential oils are added for a pleasant smell, but are also some of the best essential oils for skin health. They have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, help hydrate the skin and act as natural skin toners.
Beeswax is used in this particular recipe as a natural binder for all the other ingredients, but it is also beneficial for your skin – it calms, soothes and creates a protective barrier against the environmental stressors. It also has a pleasant fragrance and is rich in vitamin A.