How to Make Sunscreen at Home

There are so many practical things you can make by yourself and homemade sunscreen is one of them.  Sunscreen is important whenever you are outside, working in the garden, camping and fishing, or bugging out.

You need to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun when exposed to it for long periods of time.  Even when the SHTF, the sun will still be shining (I hope!) and you will still need protection.  Fortunately, it is easy and practical to make your own homemade sunscreen.

Make Your Own, Control What Goes on Your Skin

The first question that might have come into your head is why on earth you would go to the trouble of making your own sunscreen when you can just walk into a store and buy it off the shelf?  That’s a good question.  The reason is simple – store-bought sunscreen is not something you want to put on your skin.

It’s true that the sun is harmful, but store-bought sunscreens can also be very harmful.  They have numerous chemicals in them, not the least of which are parabens, that are cancer-causing in their own right.  In fact, there are 15 chemicals the FDA approves of for use in sunscreen and nine of them are endocrine blockers, meaning they disturb the production and function of hormones in the body, particularly testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormones.

The fact that these store-bought sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and enter the blood stream doesn’t help matters because they can rampage through the body unchecked.  This doesn’t happen with zinc- and titanium-based sunscreens, and you will soon see that zinc oxide is a primary ingredient in homemade sunscreens.

Ingredients with Natural SPF

Incredibly, there are a number of natural substances that are completely safe for humans and that have a natural SPF.  Of course, there is zinc oxide, which I mentioned above.  Zinc oxide’s level of SPF protection depends on the amount used and is generally somewhere between 2 and 20.  The following is a guide to follow to ensure you get the level of SPF protection you want:

  • 5% zinc oxide – SPF 2-5
  • 10% zinc oxide – SPF 6-11
  • 15% zinc oxide – SPF 12-19
  • 20% zinc oxide – SPF >20

Be sure that the zinc oxide you use is non-nano so it won’t be absorbed into the skin and ALWAYS wear gloves and a mask when handling zinc oxide.  This is a fine powder that can cause serious respiratory issues if it is inhaled.

Aside from zinc oxide, other substances that have a natural SPF include:

  • Shea butter, with a natural SPF of 4-6
  • Coconut oil, with a natural SPF of 4-6
  • Almond oil, with a natural SPF of 5
  • Oil from carrot seeds, with a natural SPF of 35-40
  • Oil from red raspberry seeds, with a natural SPF of 25-50

Aside from these ingredients that have a natural SPF, other common ingredients in homemade sunscreen include:

  • Beeswax (or any other emulsifying wax)
  • Almond oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, sesame oil, or sunflower oil (which act as a carrier oil)
  • Essential oils, such as eucalyptus, lavender, or vanilla (so it smells pleasant)
  • Tea tree oil (good for the skin and also repels insects)
  • Vitamin E oil (to improve the health of the skin)

Equipment and Tools Required

When making homemade sunscreen, you will also need some tools.  First and foremost, you need a small appliance you can use to mix the ingredients.  This will be a small food processor or an immersion blender, and remember, once you have used the appliance for making homemade sunscreen, it should never be used to process food.  It becomes your sunscreen processor.  Aside from the mixing appliance, you will need the following:

  • Disposable baggies, such as Ziploc bags or a pastry bag
  • A kitchen scale
  • Mason jars and a pot of boiling water (or a double boiler if you have one)
  • Containers for the finished product
  • A silicone spatula
  • Gloves
  • A mask that is designed for use when handling powdered substances

The Best Homemade Sunscreen Recipes

There are a few recipes for making your own homemade sunscreen.  The first of these is particularly useful if you are in a hurry or don’t have time to get elaborate about it.  You simply take a bottle of any safe lotion you enjoy using and add two tablespoons of zinc oxide to it.  Just make sure the lotion does not contain any citrus oils as these can react with the sunlight to cause skin irritations and they can minimize the effectiveness of the sunscreen.  For sunscreens that are made completely from scratch, the following recipes are fabulous:

Recipe 1 (credits:

  • Coconut oil – 2 oz.
  • Shea butter – 2 oz.
  • Zinc oxide – 1 oz.
  • Tea tree oil – about 8 drops

Simply melt the coconut oil and shea butter in a Mason jar set in water over medium heat (or use a double boiler).  Once melted, remove the mixture from the heat and add zinc oxide and tea tree oil.  Stir the mixture, which is most effectively done in a food processor or with an immersion blender, and pour it into your containers.  Make sure it has cooled completely before using.  If you want to make this sunscreen waterproof, reduce the amount of shea butter and coconut oil to 1.5 oz. each and add 1.5 oz. of beeswax.

Recipe 2 (credits:

  • Beeswax – ¼ cup
  • Coconut oil – ¼ cup
  • Almond or olive oil – ½ cup
  • Zinc oxide – 2 tbsp.

Optional ingredients include 1 tsp. each of any or all of carrot seed oil, red raspberry seed oil, and vitamin E oil; 2 tbsp. of shea butter; a few drops of the essential oil of your choice.  Place all the ingredients in your Mason jar and place in a pot of water over medium heat (or use a double boiler).  When all the ingredients are melted, remove from heat and mix in zinc oxide.  Stir it well, which is most effectively done in a food processor or with an immersion blender, and transfer to containers to cool.  It is good to stir the mixture a few times as it cools to ensure even distribution of zinc oxide.  Use after cooled completely.

Recipe 3 (credits:

  • Shea butter – 0.8 oz.
  • Coconut oil – 1 oz.
  • Sunflower, sesame, or jojoba oil – 0.1 oz.
  • Vitamin E oil – 0.1 oz.
  • Zinc oxide – decide on the amount you want for desired SPF based on 2 oz. of lotion (0.5 oz. is a good amount)

Again, you can add 30 drops of any essential oils you desire.  Place all ingredients into your Mason jar and place in a pot of water on medium heat (or use a double boiler).  Once everything is melted, remove from heat and thoroughly mix in the zinc oxide, which is most effectively done in a food processor or with an immersion blender.  Pour into designated containers and allow to cool completely before using.

When You Don’t Have Sunscreen

If you find yourself in a survival situation, whether you have become stranded in the bush or it is a full blown SHTF scenario, and you don’t have sunscreen, either homemade or store-bought, there are ways you can protect yourself from the sun.  First and foremost, you should be wearing a long-sleeve shirt, pants, and a good hat with a brim that is a minimum of 3” wide and goes all the way around the hat.  If you have prepared well for the outdoors, then you will have these items.

If for some reason, you get stranded outside and away from home and from access to sunscreen and don’t have the proper clothing, there are still a few options.


You might get dirty, but if you cover any exposed skin with mud, you will be protected from the sun.  Mud acts as a sunblock, physically preventing the harmful UV rays from touching your skin.  Even as the mud cracks, dries, and falls off, the residue that is left behind will still protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.

Aspen Trees

Aspen trees are a very wide ranging tree species.  These trees can be found from Alaska across Canada to the east coast and all the way down the Rocky Mountains to Mexico.  The largest population of aspens is in Colorado and Utah.  What is remarkable about Aspens is that they have a white powder that coats their trunks and this powder has an SPF of 5.

All you need to do is rub your hands on the tree trunk and the white powder will stick to your hands.  Then apply this to any exposed skin.  With only and SPF 5, this will need to be applied frequently to maintain protection, but since Aspens are abundant, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Treating a Sunburn

I will end here with ways to treat a sunburn, if you do happen to get one, and it’s inevitable that most Caucasians will end up with a burn at least once in their life.  The first thing to do is get out of the sun so no there will be no more damage to your skin.

If you have access to your home and a pharmacy, then place a cool, damp cloth or towel on the sunburn.  Get a moisturizer that contains aloe vera, but ensure that the lotion does not contain benzocaine or lidocaine, which will irritate your skin, or petroleum, which will trap the heat in the skin.  You should also drink plenty of water, take ibuprofen if there is pain associated with the sunburn, and if blisters form do not break them.  Leaving them intact will help prevent infection.

If you are in the outdoors and need to treat sunburn, then you still need to cool down the skin.  Find a stream or river that has cool running water.  You can either soak any affected skin in the water or make a compress for the skin.  There are also plants you can find in the wild that can help treat sunburn. These include:

jewelweed stems and leaves
jewelweed stems and leaves

Jewelweed (aka Touch-me-Not; also great for treating Poison Ivy and Nettle stings): Make a poultice out of the Jewelweed and spread it over sunburned skin.

Witch-Hazel: Press out the oil of the leaves of the Witch-hazel plant and spread the oil on the sunburned skin.

an aloe vera plant ready to harvest (2 year old)
an aloe vera plant ready to harvest (2 year old)

Aloe Vera: Break off a leaf and apply the gel-like liquid found inside directly on the sunburned skin.

Again drink plenty of water if you have it and if the sunburn is bad enough to blister, do not break the blisters.  Leave them intact to prevent infection and allow them to heal.  Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Stockpiling Sunscreen

Sunscreen doesn’t have a long shelf life, even store-bought sunscreen, which makes it difficult to stockpile.  If you are making your own sunscreen, it is best to make as much as you need at the time (say for the season) and stockpile the ingredients so you can make it as you need it.

The sunscreen itself will keep for about 6 months and is best stored in the refrigerator when not in use.  If you do purchase sunscreen from the store, it will have a shelf life of about 2 years, provided it is stored in a cool, dry place.  This means don’t keep it in your car, in a window, or anywhere that gets a lot of heat.

Final Word

Make it a point to be prepared to stay safe in the sun, no matter why you are outdoors.  Preferably, you are outside enjoying your summer days, but even in an emergency situation, you can beat the sun by staying cool and protected.

1 thought on “How to Make Sunscreen at Home”

    Can’t wait to make up a batch of each!
    Thanks Ms. Hendry!

    (I knew a Doctor Hendry who live on 27 acres in Annandale, VA during the 1980’s. Any relation?)


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *