Recently, in the comments to my DIY 20% Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Tutorial I linked to a blog called Point of Interest, which provides excellent advice on oils and bath and body formulation. However, when I visited there recently I was surprised to find this note at the top of the page I had recommended. The note reads:
If you’re reading this article from the link at Dempeaux, please do not make your own sunscreen! It is a dangerous thing to try because you have no guarantee that it will protect your skin, and this can lead to badness in the future. I will write more on this topic in the next few days, but I really want to discourage you from this process. Please do not make your own sunscreen!
You can also read the blogger’s ideas on why you shouldn’t make your own sunscreen here.
Now, as much as I like that blog and support freedom of speech, I do not support the spreading of misinformation, particularly when there is little to no clear evidence to back it up. So I wanted to share my thoughts with you on the matter.
Firstly, using Zinc Oxide in sunscreen provides the best sun protection you can get. Chemical sunscreen contain things like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate and so on, which absorb UV light, but the problem is that they also:
a) generate a whole lot of free radicals when sunlight hits them (which may cause skin damage and irritation, increase the risk of cancer as well as contribute to skin aging),
b) degrade when sunlight hits them, giving you about an hour of actual sun protection, and
c) are absorbed into the bloodstream leading to hormone disruption (oxybenzone is well known for doing this).
To read more on the issue of chemical sunscreens, read this or look up your favourite chemical sunscreen at EWG. However, as the chemicals needed for chemical sunscreen are so cheap, chemical sunscreens are generally much less expensive than good quality sunscreens containing Zinc Oxide.
Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, provide a physical barrier for the skin (hence the problem with the ‘white cast’) but last for longer, are much safer, and much more effective at actually blocking out the sun’s rays. Many have Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide as the actual ‘sun blocker’. Infact, some studies are even unimpressed with Titanium Dioxide, like this one, and overall Titanium Dioxide does not protect as well from UVA rays as Zinc Oxide (see this study and this one for further information). Zinc Oxide has been shown to be the most effective at protecting your skin from the sun, so my preference is always for Zinc Oxide. Zinc Oxide has also been shown to be anti-bacterial and anti-microbial in nature, so it’s fantastic for keeping acne under control too.
However, I believe the blogger’s problem was with the fact that I made the sunscreen myself.
When formulating, I work around active ingredients, or ingredients that are going to do most of the ‘heavy lifting’. For example, in a vitamin c serum, the vitamin c is the most important ingredient – the rest just adds ‘elegance’ to the serum. The same applies to the 20% Zinc Oxide sunscreen. The Zinc Oxide is the most important part, and the rest just binds it together and makes it comfortable and long lasting on the skin. To illustrate the point, I have read that some girls actually just powder their face with the Zinc Oxide in the morning (which I would NOT recommend, as breathing in the powder is a terrible health hazard) as it is the Zinc Oxide aspect of sunscreen that actually protects from the sun. Thus, increasing the amount of Zinc Oxide increases the SPF of the product.
Now, onto the effectiveness of the DIY sunscreen, as opposed to store-bought products.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve weeded out all the chemical sunscreens, and you’ve happened on a wonderful array of physical sunscreens that contain Zinc Oxide (if you find this magical place, let me know).
Let’s say you pick up a tube of Badger 30+ Lightly Scented Sunscreen, which gets a great rating from EWG. What’s in it?
Well, it contains 18.75% Zinc Oxide as the active ingredient, and the rest is as follows:
*Olea Europaea (Extra Virgin Olive) Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, *Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter, *Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Essential Oil of *Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender), Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), and CO2 Extract of *Hippophae Rhamnoides (Seabuckthorn).
As I said before, everything else in the sunscreen is for the ‘elegance’ and the suitablity/ feel for your skin. There are some nice ingredients here, and I’m guessing they’ve added the Beeswax to give longevity to the product. Overall, very nice, and kind to the skin.
So let’s compare to mine:
20% Zinc Oxide
Apricot Kernel Oil, Sea Emollient, Distilled H2O, Vitamin E Acetate Powder, Glycerin, Lecithin Powder, Polysorbate 80, Grape Seed Extract.
Like the Badger, the focus is on natural ingredients, but mine contains 20% Zinc Oxide, and doesn’t leave the white cast on the skin that the Badger can.
Now let’s look at Marie Veronique Face Screen SPF 30+:
Active ingredient: 20% Zinc Oxide
Camellia sinensis (green& white tea), Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba oil), Prunus armeniaca (apricot kernel oil), Limnanthes alba (meadowfoam seed oil), Helianthus annuus (sunflower oil), emu oil, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), vegetable glycerin, Elaesis guineensis (red palm oil), Rubus idaeus (red raspberry seed oil), lecithin, potassium sorbate, allantoin, Cosmocil CQ*, xanthan gum, mica, Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn oil), Calodendrum Capense (yangu oil), Rosemarinus officinalis (rosemary oleoresin), pearl powder, Daucus carota (carrot seed) essential oil, Cistus incanus (cistus) essential oil, Lonicera japonica (honeysuckle), Helichrysum italicum (helichrysum) essential oil.
So the idea is the same. Marie Veronique uses 20% Zinc Oxide, and uses a variety of oils and thickners for the ‘elegance’ of the formulation. The main difference with this is that it’s more obvious on the skin than the DIY formulation and harder to reapply.
So, in answer to the question at the start of this post of “Making Your Own Sunscreen: How Do You Know That It Works?”, I have listed two examples here of sunscreen formulations that mimic my own. The amount of Zinc Oxide is more or less the same, and the rest of the ingredients are mixed according to how the company wants the sunscreen to feel on the skin. The crucial part of this formulation is the 20% Zinc Oxide, which has be proven to be the best sun protection ingredient we have. I favour my recipe because it disappears into the skin and doesn’t leave a white cast, but this is to do with the ‘elegance’ not with the sun protection. However, I am very confident that in wearing my DIY 20% Zinc Oxide sunscreen and reapplying every two hours, I will not get sunburnt.
Make sure you are equally confident in your sunscreen.