The following information is for guidance only. None of the following recipes or tips have not been tested on anyone other than me. I strongly advise you do your own research and proceed very carefully. Sunburn is painful, ages the skin and potentially very dangerous.
Be aware of the risks of listening to someone who
a) doesn’t have any training in this field,
b) most of what they know comes from Google,
That’s me I mean.
If you want a better informed opinion I suggest you head on over to the Aromantics website. They will sell you everything you need to make sun tan lotion including recipes you can download as a PDF. They have been in this game for years and are far more qualified then I am.
The following is an account of my own experiences which may help you in your own research.
There is lots more information about sun protection here. Do read up before you decide to make your own.
A Tannning History
Fist you need to know I have no melanin at all. Which makes me well skilled in the art of tanning without burning and even more so in the art of hiding from the sun. But this knowledge was not easily won.
Growing up as I did I in the 70s in the north of England sun tan lotion was something of a mystery. If it was mentioned at all it was as an expensive and rather pointless luxury talked about in the more expensive women’s magazines. My Granddad was a window cleaner, a man out in all weathers, and he never used anything more than a flat cap for protection from the elements. Even my mother who had been to Spain and had a French pen friend scoffed at such nonsense. Vegetable oil she claimed was all any one needed for tanning. On the few occasions we did see the sun we would lie like chips frizzeling in the heat – till the oil ran out. This usually happened within the first few days as we never had much of anything in our pantry. My mothers housekeeping skills were not of the best. But even in the short time it was available, I soon came to realise that oil offered absolutely no protection from the sun.
Having run out of oil mother now claimed that even that was unnecessary. Her latest theory was that you had to burn blistering hard once. Then, when you finally emerged from your darkened room having painfully sloughed the destroyed outer layer skin, you would be immune to the destructive power of the sun. For ever after at the first hint of summer, you would tan a beautiful golden brown. Needless to say this didn’t work either. I burnt and shed but never actually tanned. Lucky we lived in Manchester where Summer, at least one with sunshine, was a rare beast and I only had to suffer this infrequently. But I have come to realise that even if you do build up an immunity to the sun you can still burn – Even people with tans.
I was 15 before I saw real sun. We went to France and a tube of sun tan lotion was bought to celebrate. However it was so expensive that it was severely rationed and we all ended up blistered and peeling and my faith in suntan lotion rather compromised. Most people it seems do not apply enough lotion. You need to be liberal which can be difficult if you are on a budget. And sun tan lotion used to be very expensive and though there are more budget options now, cost can be a consideration.
So I went over to the pale and interesting school. Which involved a lot of covering up. Again fairly easy in Manchester where we hardly ever disrobe.
But then I started backpacking. Maintaining a pallid complexion is hard work when you spend a lot of time outside, snorkelling or mountaineering. I minimise the risk with sensible hats and long sleeve shirts but beaches demand less clothes and swimming of course is always more dangerous with the risk of forgetting the time. Somehow because I am cool in the water I think I am safe to stay out just a little bit longer. And even a short walk up that blazing beach can leave me red and painful. But also and this seems
Really unfair, even cloudy days can lead to burning.
I realised that I needed sun tan / block lotion and lots of it. And it needs to be applied regularly. Even in cloudy weather. I came to this conclusion just as I was giving up plastic. So not only did I have to learn to use sunblock and had to learn how to make it. I have been using zinc based, home-made sun block lotion for about 5 years now. I know it stops me from burning because I burn when I don’t use it. Obviously it has not been tested in a lab and I cannot guarantee results. I still try to limit my exposure to the sun but I feel this cream definitely helps me. I offer this personal account for discussion only. If you do decide to make your own lotion please do more research.
Sunscreens help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin.
There are two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB
UVB is the chief cause of sunburn and linked to sun cancer. UVA rays, penetrate the skin more deeply, and contribute to photoaging.
You need a cream that protects from both.
Sun protective factor provided by cream is measured in SPF
SPF factors only measure protection against UVB. You will need a cream that also protect from other kinds of rays.
SPF4 filters out 75% of UVB
SPF10 filters out 90% –
SPF15 filters out 93%
SPF25 filters out 96%
SPF30 filters out 97%
SPF50 filters out 98%
I have settled on zinc oxide as the active ingredient in my sun block.
This is a fine white powder easily available on line.
It coats the skins and so reflects the damaging and burning rays of the sun.
It protects the skin from UVA, UVB and UVC. According to www.aromantic.co.uk website (where you can buy zinc and get advice on how to use it), It is one the oldest and most effective sunblock and
It can be easily added to base lotions and oils.
No to Nano Zinc
So zinc is great BUT it is a white powder and stronger mixes can sit on the skin like a pasty mask. Make your lotion too strong and you look like Marcel Marceau. You don’t burn but you look freaky. To counter this some suggest using nano zinc.
Nano or micronized zinc oxide is zinc oxide that has been ground to a very fine powder to reduce the size of its particles. Anything with a particle size smaller than 100nm is considered a nano particle. This means it spreads more easily and does not leave a white sheen on the skin.The worry is that particles this size may be able to enter the body.
Because of that I use normal zinc. In stronger concentrations it does leave a slight white sheen. It can also leave white marks on dark clothes. Wear white linen is the obvious answer to this. Or work on your locked in a glass box mime.
Using Zinc In Homemade Sun Block
There are claims that certain oils like coconut oil have a natural SPF. This may well be true but I strongly advise not to rely on this.
None of the below have been tested in lab and you have no accurate way of knowing what SPF your lotion has. Proceed sensibly!
If in doubt Make your lotion stronger then dilute as you tan.
Too much zinc and you end up with white clown makeup. In this case you may have been overcautious.
You can add zinc to
home made creams and lotions (if you want to make a lotion there are some recipes here)
ready bought lotions
a base oil such as coconut oil.
20% zinc oxide will give an approximate SPF of 30. That is by weight. So you weigh your base say 100g of cream then you add 20% or 1/5th of zinc. Which is 20g of zinc.You can see from the ratios below that SPF 15 is not half of SPF 30 so you cannot use that scale to work out your SPF factors.
For SPF 2-5: Use 5% zinc oxide
For SPF 6-11: Use 10% zinc oxide
For SPF 12-19: Use 15% zinc oxide
For SPF >20: Use 20% zinc oxide
These ratios were taken from DIY Natural. They have not been tested in a lab proceed with caution
Very strong and thick. To be used on vulnerable areas that burn easily.
First I make my own rather thick cream and then add the zinc at 20% ratio. This makes a super thick cream which is difficult to rub on large areas but great for masking specified areas. I use it to protect my great big nose and around my eyes.
For general application it is too tough and sticky.
Find out how to make cream here
You can thin the above thick cream down by adding oil. N.B. You cant use water for this. Add water and your cream starts to separate when you try to rub it on.
Oily cream goes on way more easily but obviously the more you dilute is lower the SPF factor.
The advantage of this cream is that it is thicker than oil so easier to apply – less dribbling.
It does not separate.
Sun Block Oils
Oil – I have used both coconut and rice bran oil
More recently I have cut out the middle man or rather the cream and started adding zinc directly to oil. It would seem that my mother was half right!
I guess you could do this with any oil but I prefer a lighter oil less gloopy than say olive oil.
I have usually used coconut oil as a base because it is light and easily obtained in glass jars. Some claim that coconut oils has an ability to deflect burning rays but the claims made for coconut oil are prodigious. Do not rely on coconut oil alone.
The problem with coconut oil in the UK at least, it solidifies below a certain temperature. This sun tan lotion needs to be liquid and well shaken before use because the ingredients separate. So if you use coconut oil, warm and shake it before applying.
More recently I used rice bran oil which is much cheaper and easily available. At least that is the case in Thailand. It is a light oil and does not solidify.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE
The ingredients separate so the lotion must be well shaken before use. If you are using an oil that solidifies like coconut you need to be sure it is liquid and well mixed before use.
Advantages Of Oil
Oily creams and oils are great for the beach because I feel they don’t wash off so easily in the sea as home made lotions do. And the oil itself seems to act as an added protection against the general drying effect of salt water and heat. My skin doesn’t feel as itchy. But then I am only using two ingredients no fragrances, no preservatives.
They give your skin a rather nice sheen.
And it is As Cheap As Chips
Adding zinc to rice bran oil is super cheap which means you can liberally apply this lotion. Very good if you are on a budget. Plus I get to use the oil for other things.
The disadvantages? – well it is rather… oily…
Non OIly Sun Block
This is a work in progress
But oily sun block is, well, oily. Anywhere near the hairline and it has the disastrous effect of making my locks all greasy. Not a problem on the beach where my hair is normally wet and again the coconut oil help protect it from going madly dry. But in town not such a good look.
Until now I have been adding zinc to a very thin, homemade lotion. It makes the lotion much thicker and I find it rather heavy to wear.
Since the oil zinc success I have tried adding zinc to neat vegetable glycerine. It seems to work fine but this is a work in progress.
The resulting lotion feels a bit sticky when you are applying it but that soon wears off.
It is much lighter than zinc creams.
The ingredients tend to separate so it needs shaking.
It is very very easy to make.
Store Bought Creams
Apparently you can add zinc to a store bought cream to make a suntan lotion. I have never tried this as I gave up shop bought years ago. But considering the success off adding it to oil I can see no reason why this wouldn’t work. Do remember that zinc makes your lotion thicker and much whiter. It might be a good idea to use a thin lotion as a base.
Apparently it helps if you warm them first.
Let me know how you get on!
Sunscreens are unlikely to be fully effective after 2 hours
According to the skin cancer organisation “you need to apply 1 oz – about a shot glass full. Studies show that most people apply only half to a quarter of that amount, which means the actual SPF they have on their body is lower than advertised. During a long day at the beach, one person should use around one half to one quarter of an 8 oz. bottle. Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so reapply the same amount every two hours. Sunscreens should also be reapplied immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a great deal.
There is lots more information about sun protection here. Do read up before you decide to make your own.
Travelling Plastic Free For Months
This discovery massively reduces your plastic when travelling. I carry all my own home made plastic free toiletries with me to avoid creating plastic waste which can present something of a problem. A years supply of sunblock is a lot to carry. So now I compromise. I take my own zinc and buy coconut oil (or rice bran oil) while travelling. I mix the zinc into the coconut oil to make a sun tan lotion great for the beach.
Microfine Titanium Dioxide
This is another product you can use to make your own sun block.
“Microfine Titanium Dioxide is accepted as a safe Sun Barrier all around the world. This is because it is inorganic and has a record of having no adverse reactions to it. This makes it ideal for products used on a daily basis.
It can be used in Sun Screens, Moisturisers, Powdered Make-up, Lip and Baby products and virtually any Skin Treatment product.
Adding 5% Microfine Titanium Dioxide to a product gives it a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of approximately 10 and protects against 90% UVA/UVB and UVC radiation. Adding 10% gives it a SPF of 15-20.
Add during the heating of the Vegetable Oil in the Fat Stage of making your product.”
The following information is from the www.aromantic.co.uk website.
< span style=”color: #ff0000;”>Fragrance
Many recipes on line suggest adding essentials oils. In my opinion there is no real benefit to be derived from this as
they may make your skin more sensitive to light;
essential oils are resource hungry, have a large environmental footprint and should only be used on special occasions.
You can read more here
You can buy zinc on line.
It will come in a plastic bag- booo.
The best you can do is ensure the bags are polythene and so can be more easily recycled.
As I get huge amounts cream out of one small bag of ingredients, I consider it a worthwhile compromise.