You get it. Summer is synonymous with SUN. Here in Luxembourg, we have been quite lucky so far (let’s pray it stays that way, right?). So many things to be grateful about, sun is definitely one of them and we should enjoy it as much as we can. The sun makes us feel happy and blissful psychologically and physically. You probably have noticed that you feel a little more energized when the sun is shining, that your body feels strong. Of course! The rays of the sun generate vitamin D into our bodies. This “sunshine vitamin” regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, making up for healthy bones & teeth, and boosts the immune system, making you feel strong and fighting diseases. So after a winter where most of us have actually been deficient of it, we start to feel alive again!
However, in these dangerous days, we have quite a toxic love/hate relationship with the sun. We hear a lot about “skin cancer”, so we’re getting frightened as hell. Sunscreen is the new essential to any beach bag. But we also know the sun is beneficial. So we put another bottle of sunscreen into our beach bag, head out in the sun. We spread it on and work on our tan. We think it keeps us protected, like a sort of “out with the bad, in with the good” formula. It’s certainly going to spare us a sunburn! The mere “scent” of sunscreen makes us think of summer. But here’s a fact: In the years since sunscreen use began, skin cancer rates have actually risen, and a 2007 document from the FDA stated that: “The FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer” In fact, many reports show that most sunscreens actually raise skin cancer risk. Why is that?
Three basic reasons:
1) In order for our bodies to generate vitamin D, which actually fortifies the body, we need to be able to absorb UVB light. In fact, it is estimated that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows the body the ability to produce sufficient vitamin D. But wearing sunscreen all the time doesn’t help with that. Sunscreen use can reduce the body’s ability to synthesize the vitamin by 95%
2) Today, most sunscreens, even “natural” contain toxic ingredients or endocrine disrupting chemicals (read: stuff that messes up with your hormones) that actually promote skin cancer growth: how can your body defend itself when the ingredients it absorbs create a chaos?
3) To top it all off: it also doesn’t help that our relationship with the sun is a little on the weird side. A lot of us see sunscreen as an excuse to go all out and get into a tanning frenzy. It’s completely counter-productive. We need to respect our bodies and know their natural limits. That doesn’t mean we can’t get a little bit of a golden glow, but just like with anything, we need to balance out this relationship.
As a society, we’ve literally cut off our nose to spite our face when it comes to sun exposure. To avoid skin cancer, we’ve shunned the sun and the Vitamin D our bodies produce with sun exposure. So what to do?
Here’s a healthy approach:
It’s all about the balance. When it comes to the sun, you have to know how to play around “getting a little healthy light” and “saving your ass”! Get adequate daily exposure, without getting close to the point of burning. Since most of us don’t work outside these days, it actually takes effort to get daily sun, rather than to avoid it. If you’re going to be out in the sun for much longer than your skin is used to, it is often easy enough to just put on a hat or shirt to shield your skin. Take it easy. If none of these options are available, for instance, on a day at the beach, you can occasionally use a natural sunscreen.
If you are in the sun for extended periods of time this summer, it is definitely better to go for a natural option than a store bought one. It will protect your skin in a much healthier way, you will lower your risk or absorbing ingredients that can harm your health, and…of course… since the “green factor” also interests us: it’s far less polluting to the environment. No plastic bottles to be wasted and less damage for sea creatures that generally have to deal with toxic substances (it’s funny how I never used to think of that before, but it actually breaks my heart).
So, like me, you can try experimenting with making your own sunscreen! Here are the naturally sun-protecting ingredients you can use in it:
- Almond Oil- SPF around 5
- Coconut Oil- SPF 4-6
- Zinc Oxide SPF 2-20 depending on how much used
- Red Raspberry Seed Oil SPF 25-50
- Carrot Seed Oil – SPF 35-40
- Shea Butter – SPF 4-6
The final version will have a varied sun protective ability depending on the amount of each ingredient used. For a simple version, even just coconut oil and shea butter with a little Raspberry Seed and Carrot Seed Oil or some Zinc oxide will work for moderate exposure. And because I can sense some “advanced” fellows ranting about zinc oxide, here’s what you need to know about it:
– Zinc Oxide (found in the Earth’s crust as natural mineral zincite) is a natural mineral which does an excellent job at blocking harmful sun rays and therefore protecting the skin. In its unprocessed form, it is harmless to our bodies, as it won’t penetrate the skin. However, in commercial sunscreens, it has been used as a nano version (refined in tiny, tiny particles). This helps to create a more homogenous formula that distributes perfectly, although since it can be absorbed so easily, this processed version can create a lot of damage, entering the bloodstream. Using “non nano”, natural zinc oxide in your sunscreen will ensure it doesn’t get absorbed, just “blocking” the sun rays, and so it won’t alter any chemical or hormone in the body, making it completely, 100% safe.
All right! Let me show you how you can make this!
DIY SUNSCREEN (Adapted from Wellness Mama)
- ½ cup almond or olive oil (can infuse with herbs first if desired)
- ¼ cup coconut oil (natural SPF 4)
- ¼ cup beeswax
- 2 Tablespoons Zinc Oxide (non nano)
- Optional: up to 1 teaspoon Red Raspberry Seed Oil
- Optional: up to 1 teaspoon Carrot Seed Oil
- Optional: up to 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
- Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter (natural SPF 4-5)
- Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference. If using essential oils, make sure use very small dosages (1-5 drops depending on essential oil)
- Combine ingredients except zinc oxide in a medium large glass jar.
- Fill a medium saucepan with about 5 cm of water and place over medium heat.
- Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
- As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, add the zinc oxide, stir in well and pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage.
- Small jars are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
- Stir a few times as it cools to make sure zinc oxide is incorporated.
- Use as you would regular sunscreen. Best if used within six months.
Some tips & notes:
- It’s also great for young children and those who burn easily! This recipe has an SPF of about 15, though adding more Zinc Oxide will increase the SPF.
- This sunscreen is somewhat, but not completely, waterproof and will need to be reapplied after sweating or swimming
- You can get the ingredients at aromazone!
- Make sure not to inhale the Zinc Oxide- use a mask if necessary!
- Add more beeswax to make thicker sunscreen, less to make smooth sunscreen
- I recommend coconut or vanilla extract or lavender essential oils for fragrance
- Store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge
- I prefer to store in a small canning jar and apply like a body butter. It will be thicker, especially if you use coconut oil in the recipe.
- Just to clarify, even though this natural sunscreen smells great and is naturally moisturizing, I don’t recommend using it daily since the Vitamin D you get from the sun will be more beneficial in the long run!
Can’t bother? Here’s an even faster way to make your DIY sunscreen!
- Get a bottle of your favorite lotion (that doesn’t contain citrus oils!)
- Add a couple Tablespoons of non-nano Zinc Oxide
- Mix well
- Use as Sunscreen
Have a lovely sunny summer and LOVE YOURSELVES (yup, that’s me on the photo!)
Credits: Photos by Linda Dieschbourg. Except for the last one, haha!