Natural Sunscreen: Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage without Harmful Chemicals

Turns out cooking sunscreen's chemicals into your skin can be as dangerous as too much sun exposure. Here's an alternate approach to sun protection

Credit: Flickr/Maggie Brauer

If you’re wary of wearing chemical-laden sunscreen (and you should be), here’s how to take a more natural approach to sun protection

Slip-slop-slap – it was the slogan that became known as the sun-protection trifecta in the ’80s, when protecting the skin from sun damage became serious business.

Slipping on a shirt and slapping on a hat are still sound advice when it comes to skin protection, but slopping on sunscreen has come under fire as skin cancer rates have soared despite shelves filled with sunscreen options and decades of expert advice on the importance of SPF.

Turns out that cooking a lethal mix of toxic chemicals into your skin can be as bad – if not worse – than the harmful effects of getting a sunburn. And although a little vitamin D is critical to good health, the reality remains that UVA and UVB rays contribute to aging the skin and can lead to various skin cancers.

Natural solutions to protecting yourself go beyond wearing a hat, avoiding mid-day rays and seeking shade whenever possible. Here’s how to concoct your own effective sunscreen and avoid the toxic chemicals that are doing your body more harm than good.

Credit: Flickr/Tim Cheng

Stock up on Natural Oils with SPF

Many oils naturally contain SPF, and can be applied for a minimal level of protection if you have to be in the sun.

  • Carrot seed oil: SPF 38-40
  • Wheatgerm oil: SPF 20
  • Coconut oil: SPF 2-8
  • Macadamia nut oil: SPF 6
  • Shea butter: SPF 3-6
  • Raspberry seed oil: SPF 28-50
  • Avacado oil: SPF 4-15
  • Olive oil: SPF 2-8
  • Almond oil: SPF 5
  • Jojoba oil: SPF 4

Credit: Flickr/thedabblist

Blend up a Batch of Homemade Sunscreen

It’s easy to make your own sunscreen for protection that’s healthy and safe. This recipe will give you an SPF of around 20; add more zinc oxide to increase the SPF if desired.


  • ½ cup almond or olive oil (both have a natural SPF)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil (natural SPF of 2-8)
  • ¼ cup beeswax
  • 2 tbsp shea butter (natural SPF of 3-6)
  • 2 tbsp zinc oxide (non-nano version)
  • 1 tsp vitamin E oil (optional)
  • Essential oils to suit your scent preference (optional)


  1. Combine all the ingredients, except the zinc oxide, into a large glass jar or mason jar.
  2. Fill a medium pot with a couple inches of water, placing it over medium heat.
  3. Loosely put a lid on the jar, and place in the pot of water.
  4. Shake or stir the ingredients in the jar occasionally as they start to melt.
  5. Add the zinc oxide when all the ingredients in the jar have completely melted, and stir in well.
  6. Place the liquid in whatever container you wish (but not a pump), and stir a few times as it cools.
  7. Use this as you would regular sunscreen, but best if used within six months.


  • Do not inhale the zinc oxide powder, so use a mask to be extra safe.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, or in the fridge.
  • Like any sunscreen, you should reapply often, and always after swimming or sweating.
  • Remove the zinc oxide for a great lotion. Or, add non-nano zinc oxide to your favourite natural body lotion to add sun protection.

Credit: Flickr/Hacklock

Purchase Safer Commercial Products

If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own sunscreen, there are a few products that are as natural as you can get off a shelf.

The most important thing when choosing sunscreens that are zinc based is to find ones that do not contain nano zinc oxide. Nano zinc oxide is composed of particles so small they can be absorbed into your skin, which isn’t healthy.

The Environmental Working Group provides a list of safe sunscreens every year.

Credit: Flickr/Joe Shlabotnik

Avoid These Toxic Chemicals

If you decide to purchase commercial-brand sunscreens, veer away from those that contain these harmful, no-good-for-you ingredients:

  • Retinyl Palmitate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Benzophenone-3 (B-3)
  • Amino Benzoic Acid
  • Homosalate
  • Paraben Preservatives
  • Octocrytene
  • Artificial Ingredients (scents, colour, preservatives)

For more info on skin safety and chemicals, take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Credit: Flickr/brx0

Eat an Antioxidant Rich Diet

It’s amazing how much diet can have an effect on your skin health. Not only will eating a diet rich in antioxidant superfoods improve the skin’s anti-aging qualities and acne, it can also help build a tolerance to the sun’s rays from the inside.

Ditch the processed food for raw foods to increase your natural protection.

Natural Sunscreen