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Sunscreens: Buy Healthy Or Make Your Own

Updated on June 19, 2011

With the reduction of our ozone layer, more of the sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays are reaching our planet's surface. As a result, most health professionals recommend taking precautions to better protect our skin.

Key to a balanced skin protection regimen is the use of sunscreen. However, sunscreen has its downfalls. Not the least of these is that we do need some sun on our skin to produce vitamin D, so we can't stay covered up all the time. In addition, commercial sunscreens have come to depend on a host of questionable chemicals in order to provide sun protection.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), you could be at more risk from your sun protection than the sun! EWG has been alerting consumers that many sunscreens are not only laced with toxic chemicals that can disrupt your endocrine system, they may not even be effective!

The trick is to use a healthy sunscreen that actually works - and use it only as much as necessary.

This isn't as hard as you might imagine. You can either buy a sunscreen with more natural ingredients or make your own. Combining a safe sunscreen with getting the right amount of sunlight on bare skin should allow you to keep your skin healthy and get some vital vitamin D without suffering a skin-damaging sunburn.

How Much Sun?

Current research shows that you can get your vitamin D in as little as 10-15 minutes of sun exposure at midday on 40 per cent of your bare skin. (Think arms, lower legs, neck and face). The key issue is your natural skin tone when figuring out how much sunlight you require on bare skin. For the darkest skin types, it could be as much as 1-2 hours!

The reason for this is the variable amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin is what gives your skin a darker tone. For the palest skin colors (think of the folks with the very light skin who burn very easily), you may even need to be careful of a full 10 minutes without protection. Evaluate your own skin carefully when deciding to get some good sun exposure.

This is one reason why people tend to avoid midday sunning. However, when the sun is at the highest point in the sky, you actually get the best proportion of rays that produce vitamin D. Later in the day you will also make much less vitamin D and will need a much longer exposure, which leaves you open to burning risk again. Once your shadow is as tall as you are, your risk of burning approaches zero - but you will also no longer get your vitamin D benefits.

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Buying Healthy Sunscreens

How do you know a good sunscreen from a bad sunscreen? Well, one of the easiest ways to tell is that you shouldn't need a chemical dictionary to understand what's in your product. If you do, you likely have a bad one.

In fact, there are so many dangerous chemicals added to sunscreen these days that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has put out a report on the best "sport" sunscreens for the summer. This report lists 134 options that have good ratings for safety and effectiveness. However, your best bet for sun protection is still the "old fashioned" hat and long sleeved shirt!

The problem is that it's not always practical to wear extra clothes when you are out in the sun. So if it's too hot to wear more and you've had enough sun exposure to get your vitamin D, how do you stay outdoors and still protect your skin? Well, you can buy one of the EWG recommended sunscreens - or you can make your own (and save money)!

Making Monique's Healthy Sunscreen

You can't get much better than sunscreen where you can eat the ingredients! Here's one that you can adjust to the level of protection that you want - and make in as little as 1/2 hour at home. Most of the ingredients can be purchased at your local health food store or bulk food store. Amazon carries many of the more challenging ingredients, like titanium dioxide, beeswax pellets or catnip oil.


3 ounces coconut oil

1 ounce jojoba or grapeseed oil

½ tsp vitamin e

6 drops grapefruit seed extract

about 1 ounce beeswax pellets (by weight)

4 tablespoons aloe vera

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp vitamin c powder (optional)

10 drops carrot seed essential oil

10 drops lavender essential oil

For SPF:

¾ tsp titanium dioxide gives approximately SPF30

2 tsp titanium dioxide gives approximately SPF45

For sunscreen plus mosquito repellant:

40 drops catnip oil (and omit other essential oils)


Combine beeswax and carrier oils, vitamin E and grapefruit seed extract. Warm very gently in a double boiler (or a cooking pan with a oven-safe glass bowl on top) at low heat until the beeswax pellets are melted. Then add titanium dioxide for the spf factor desired. Stir to dissolve.

In another double boiler on minimum, combine aloe vera and baking soda (with vitamin C, if desired). Warm gently.

Whisk the warmed oil mixture into the warmed aloe vera mixture and allow to cool somewhat.

As the cream begins to solidify a bit, add essential oils and stir well to mix. Keep stirring occasionally until the cream has completely cooled and emulsified.

Does Homemade Sunscreen Work?

I can vouch for this sunscreen recipe. Not only can you read and understand the ingredients overall, it works as well as most store-bought sunscreens!

I am particularly pale and don't tan well: as long as I remember to re-apply and give my skin a break with some time in the shade periodically, this recipe works fine. In fact, it works as well as any store-bought sunscreen I've ever used! (No sunscreen provides me enough protection to be outside all day and not burn.)

I also use this on my children and they avoid sunburns with no problem - and I follow the same rules for them that I follow for me.

So, you don't need to fear the sun anymore! Use sunscreen judiciously. Either buy it or make it with safe ingredients. Do get some time in the sun without sunscreen to keep your vitamin D stores high. And I'll be seeing you at the beach.


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