How To Make Homemade Sunscreen

homemade sunscreenThe first sunburns of the season have begun showing up at my house this week! My daughter’s boyfriend Neil was sporting a DOOZY of a sunburn Friday afternoon after attending an outdoor concert SANS SUNSCREEN, and No. 1 son Erik helped a friend dig fence posts on Friday SANS SUNSCREEN and ended up looking slightly lobster-like! *sigh*

Homemade or store-bought…you have to put the sunscreen ON boys! :-)

This reminded me of the growing number of requests I have been getting lately for a natural alternative to store-bought sunscreen. I have to admit I never really gave it much thought before this, but after reading about what is in some sunscreens, I figured a “natural” homemade alternative sounded pretty good (not to mention WAY less expensive.)

Studies show that many sunscreen ingredients (avobenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate, and oxybenzone to name a few) have toxic properties that are absorbed through the skin and end up circulating in your bloodstream. These are called chemical barrier sunscreens.

homemade sunscreenThe ingredients in PHYSICAL barrier sunscreens, on the other hand, are zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide.

These types of sunscreens are considered the safest sunscreens to use, especially when combined with ingredients like the ones in this recipe I found on

The person who posted it lives in Hawaii and said a lot of surfers there make their own sunscreen similar to this recipe, and she adds that she’s never been burned while using it.

1/4 cup Diaper Rash Cream (I used Desitin Maximum Strength)
1 tablespoon Coconut Oil
1 tablespoon Cocoa Butter
1 tablespoon Aloe Vera Gel
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Beeswax
5-10 drops Lavender Essential Oil (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a glass bowl set on top of a pan of boiling water and melt all the ingredients together. Allow mixture to cool and then add your favorite essential oil (if desired).  Just make sure to avoid any of the CITRUS essential oils as they can actually cause burning. Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge.

This recipe has an SPF of about 30. Once you know the percentage of zinc oxide in the diaper rash cream you use, you can estimate the SPF. For example, the Desitin Maximum Strength I used has 40% zinc oxide which would be an SPF of 60…but since it’s diluted by half with the other ingredients I would says the SPF is approximately 30. 


homemade sunscreen

This recipe made the perfect amount to fill one of these travel size bottles you can buy at the grocery store.


homemade sunscreen

My daughter-in-law Kaitlyn and I tested it out this afternoon and were both really pleased with it!

homemade sunscreen

It rubbed in easily, felt moisturizing but not greasy, smelled good, and even gave our skin a little bit of a “glow” which we both commented on and liked! Just a little beauty bonus. :-) Since it contains Beeswax it should be fairly water resistant as well. But be sure and re-apply after swimming or  every 2 hours.

A couple more things I thought were worth mentioning here about sunscreen:

  • a common mistake people make is applying too LITTLE sunscreen, which can drastically reduce its’ effective SPF. About 1 ounce (5-6 teaspoons) of sunscreen is recommended to cover the entire body.
  • sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outdoors.

Hopefully now you are more informed and better prepared to naturally protect yourself from harmful sunburns this summer.

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  1. Hollie Rollins says

    Hi Jillee

    Do you just double/triple the ingredients to make a larger batch- we are headed to the beach and will use alot. Thanks for your awesome blog!

  2. says

    Wonderful! My son and his friend went to the pool yesterday for the first time all season. I slathered him with sunscreen, and when he got home he was covered in what looked like 2nd degree blisters, and they hurt him terribly. Needless to say, I was furious thinking that the sunscreen hadn’t worked. (They were only there for 2 hours, and it was supposedly waterproof.)

    Turns out, he’d had an allergic reaction to this particular brand of sunscreen. As soon as he’d showered, the “blisters” started to fade. Thank goodness I figured out what was going on so I could give him some Benadryl and stop the reaction. I’m going to make this homemade version this week rather than risk that happening again. Thanks!

    • Jamie says

      As a nurse and mom I wanted to read the research article but you must have a membership to read it, very aggravating when trying to figure something out. My main question on the study is why lung cells and how much zinc oxide did the researcher use in each sample. That is a news article and they will take the snip its to fit to their article. The researcher states this:
      “Ma’s research on zinc oxide’s effect on cells is still in the early stages, so he cautions people from drawing conclusions about the safety or dangers of sunscreen based on this preliminary research.

      “More extensive study is still needed,” May says. “This is just the first step.”

      In the meantime, Ma advises sunbathers to use sunscreen and to limit their exposure to the sun.
      “I still would advise people to wear sunscreen,” he says. “Sunscreen is better than no protection at all.”

      Just wanted to through two cents in. I will make this for my kids because they have allergic reactions to everything else.

  3. says

    Would it be okay to subsitute olive oil or avocado oil (ingredients I have on hand!) for the sesame oil?

  4. says

    I completely forgot to add the information about the SPF to the post! My bad! I have updated the post with this information:

    This recipe has an SPF of about 30. Once you know the percentage of zinc oxide in the diaper rash cream you use, you can estimate the SPF. For example, the Desitin Maximum Strength I used has 40% zinc oxide which would be an SPF of 60…but since it’s diluted by half with the other ingredients I would says the SPF is approximately 30.

    Hope this helps!

    • Lynn says

      Thanks! Definitely going to make this one! I go through too much sunscreen and would love to save money where ever I can! Thanks again!

  5. Lynn says

    I would love to try this but since I have super fair skin, I am worried about the spf too. Does anyone know how to calculate what it would be based on the ingredients?

  6. Lelah says

    I have seen recipes that call for titanium oxide, instead of Desitin, so maybe people could try that if they are wary of using the chemicals in the diaper cream. Though I have to say that stuff is awesome for diaper rashes. ;)

    Oh, and yes – get sunscreen on those boys! Or they will end up like my hubby who really dodged a bullet by catching his melanoma early (at age 36)! He “only” has two NASTY scars on his back. And ONLY has to see his doctor 4x a year for a full-body mole check.

    • April says

      I second that Lelah, I was only 31 when mine was found, and also caught early, so I only have 1 nasty scar on my chest (s0 far… my doc said I’d likely have more as the years go by, I’m hoping that the pale, frankenstein-y look becomes fashionable in the future lol, and if not, well, hey, alive is always more stylish than dead, right?…so I’ll be thankful for every scar if that means I’m still around to slather the sunscreen on my son year after year!). I think that alot of people associate melanoma with tanning bed use or only with much older people who have had years of sun exposure, but more and more that’s not the case. The scariest statistic that I’ve heard since all this started is that one blistering sunburn in childhood doubles the chance for melanoma, as does 5 or more sunburns of any degree at any age in life! yikes, right? Geesh, I can’t even count how many I’ve had, especially when I was a teenager… so anyway, If I don’t stop I’ll go on forever about this and start spitting out lots more stats and rising death rates, and so on and so on… (seriously.. I will… ask my family… the last time my sister mentioned she got burned, I asked her if I needed to drive to her house and actually put the sunscreen on her! lol)… ok, so back to the actual topic here… sunscreen = good…. sunscreen without scary chemicals = even better! (just use alot and make sure its provides a high enough spf!) :)

  7. says

    I have zinc oxide powder and am wondering if I could use that instead of the Desitin? Any idea what the amount to use?

    • Denise says

      From what I understand you have to be very careful with zinc oxide powder. You should wear a mask when mixing so you don’t inhale it.

  8. Ayshela says

    I haven’t had kids of age to need diaper cream in decades, so I can’t just look at a label… what’s IN Desitin? Does it have any of the parabens that cause problems for those of us with chronic health issues?

    • says

      It does have petrolatum in it. It is very difficult to find a diaper cream that is not petrolatum or paraben free without it being very expensive.

      • Ayshela says

        mmm. may be more expensive than Desitin, but cheaper than a trip to the doctor. I wonder if a paraben free diaper cream would work, as long as it had the zinc oxide in it?

      • Kathleen says

        I made a sunscreen similar to this, and it is fabulous, my only gripe is that for the amount you get and the cost of good carrot seed and red raspberry seed oil plus the other goodies, it’s not exactly what I would call frugal. Still a lovely mixture though. :)

  9. Tamsyn says

    I’m curious about the SPF of this recipe, as currently my family (DH, 2 DS’s and myself) all require SPF50+ due to fair and sensitive skin (my youngest DS has Ichthyosis and needs lots of creams and lotions for his dry skin). I would like to be able to compare.