homemade sunscreen in mason jar

All Natural Sunscreen and Bug Spray

We have been working on some new, summer time essential, DIY products for our home and are excited to share them with you! It is always so rewarding when we are able to successfully replace a product in our homes that we previously purchased in packaging.




I shudder to think about the damage I have done to my skin over the years, which began when I was a teenager. My friends and I spent countless hours in the summer sun slathered in baby oil, trying to achieve that perfect golden tan.  Vanity won at an early age.  Such silliness.  All I can do now is look after my skin as I should have years ago and teach my children to do the same.


It wasn’t until I was an adult and having children of my own that I started to wear sunscreen on a regular basis in the sun and every day on my face. A few months ago, a friend of mine shared an article about sunscreens and how 80% of them are actually extremely harmful and completely ineffective. 80%!?  That’s a scary number. For years sunscreen was never something I questioned applying to my skin or onto the skin of my children.  I felt I was doing my job as a mother and protecting us from the harmful UV rays of the sun. What was the alternative?


Well, it turns out, there are many alternatives out there.


We had already began doing research into natural sunscreens, but this article produced a sense of urgency to find an alternative to prevent exposure to the toxic chemicals in the sunscreens we had been using to “protect” our skin for so many years. I was aware that there were quite a few natural alternatives on the market and had tried a few, but this journey to Zero Waste has been as much about simplifying our lives and producing less trash as it has been about finding natural, healthy, effective, Zero Waste alternatives to replace these products and to be able to make them ourselves and make them safe for our families.


I wanted to see if I could make sunscreen on my own–create something that I could feel confident my whole family could use, safely. I wanted a product where I knew every single ingredient that went into it. I wanted a product that also worked to protect us.  I know that this is not for everyone, and when it comes to the health of our skin and that of our children, I completely understand the desire to choose a well-sourced company with a reputable background.  Perhaps one day I will forgo making my own and go with a natural alternative created by a well sourced company, but for now, this is the path I choose.  If I can make it and have the advantage of knowing and feeling good about the ingredients I am using and we are avoiding unnecessary packaging, I have achieved my ultimate goal.



This was my first run through and my goal was to achieve an SPF of at least 30.  After a few tests with each of our families (on adults only), it appears we may have accomplished this.  Each product used in the making of this sunscreen has its own natural SPF.  Based on the natural SPF contained in the ingredients used, the zinc oxide ratio of 25%, research with a few local sources, and the results after use, the SPF should be very close to 30, if not a little more. As this sunscreen has not been scientifically tested in a lab, if you decide to make it, please keep in mind that the SPF may vary and always test your product before spending an entire day in the sun.  This sunscreen should be applied like any other sunscreen on the market- re-applied every 2 hours and after time spent in the water or excessive sweating.  The important point with sunscreen is to always remember to re-apply!!


Zinc oxide is the key ingredient in this natural sunscreen; it works to significantly bump up the overall SPF. Zinc oxide protects from the full spectrum of UVA and UVB rays very effectively.  It sits on the surface of the skin forming a barrier between the sun and your skin, rather than soaking into your skin like a lot of the chemical sunscreens out there.


Listed below are the ingredients included in this sunscreen that have their own natural SPF.  As you can see, most have a slight range to them.  This will depend on the quality of the ingredients used.


The natural SPF of each ingredient in this sunscreen is:


Olive Oil SPF 2-8


Coconut Oil – SPF 4-8


Zinc Oxide – SPF of between 2-24 – this depends on how much you use in your recipe.  If your recipe is made with 20% zinc oxide, and no other natural ingredients with SPF, it will yield an SPF of 20.


Carrot Seed Oil – SPF 35-40


Raspberry Seed Oil – SPF 30-50



Recipes yields 2 cups or 2-250 ml mason jars.




1 cup olive oil


1/2 cup coconut oil


1/2 cup beeswax


8 tbsp. Zinc Oxide


10 ml Carrot Seed Oil


10 ml Red Raspberry Seed Oil


20 drops of Vanilla Essential Oil (for scent) – you can add any favourite essential oil in here.  Whatever scent you would prefer for your sunscreen.


ingredients for homemade natural sunscreen being heated to mix together




Using a pot or shallow pan, fill the bottom up with 2-3 inches of water and place on stove top.  Turn the temperature up to just above medium. You have two options for making the sunscreen, put all ingredients (except zinc oxide) into a heat safe bowl and use a whisk to incorporate all ingredients or place all ingredients into a heat safe jar and (after replacing lid) shake jar to incorporate all ingredients.

Place all ingredients except the zinc oxide into your chosen incorporation method.  The beeswax will take a little time to melt and mix into the rest of your ingredients.  Periodically stir with a whisk or wooden spoon, until beeswax has melted.  After beeswax has melted and all ingredients are combined, turn off the heat.  Add the zinc oxide.  Careful not to breathe this in.  Once the zinc oxide has been added, you will now need to whisk it in thoroughly or if using a jar, place lid on top and shake thoroughly until zinc oxide has thoroughly mixed into the rest of the ingredients and has dissolved.  Once this process is complete, pour into your chosen container for storage.  This will take some time to cool and “set up”.  Once it has cooled, you may start to use!



I would like to thank the lovely ladies at Nezza Naturals for helping us figure out what we required for zinc oxide, in order to achieve the SPF we desired and for answering all of our questions about natural sunscreens and essential oils!  The beeswax, zinc oxide, and essential oils can all be purchased at Nezza Naturals. Lastly, we must mention that the staff at Nezza Naturals is happy to fill home containers if they have the product you desire in bulk, we recommend calling ahead to make sure what you seek is available.





This is the other summer-time outdoor essential we have tackled. Traditional repellants, like sunscreens, are loaded with toxic chemicals such as: DEET, IR3535 and Picaridin, and while they do prove successful in their primary objective – I am not convinced that any ingredient capable of melting plastic should ever come in contact with skin.  The most common active ingredient in store-bought bug spray/repellant is DEET. It was originally designed as a pesticide to be used by farmers in the 1940’s and while it(along with it’s chemical friends) is approved by: Health Canada, The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as well as The Environmental Protection Agency, it has strict usage guidelines and cautions.

Selection of Amber glass bottles


Homemade insect repellent requires a few phone calls to natural beauty/health stores to inquire about ingredients, (Nezza Naturals in Victoria carries everything you need including refillable glass tinctures) and about two minutes to mix it up. It is really quite simple.


There are many essential oils that work to repel insects: Lemon Eucalyptus, Citronella, Clove, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Cedar, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Thyme, Pine, Lemongrass.

Lavender Oil And Lavender Flowers On White Background




Using a 4 ounce spray bottle add:

1.5 ounces boiled or distilled water

1.5 ounces Witch Hazel

60 drops of essential oils – the more drops you use the stronger your repellant will be. My recent batch consisted of 45 drops of lavender and 15 drops of clove.

60 drops of vegetable solubilizer (this ingredient prevents the essential oils from separating from the water)


* As essential oils are highly concentrated and can irritate the skin, make sure the total percentage of oil is less than 15 percent of the total liquid.



We used this as our sole bug repellent on our two week camping trip to Yellowstone National Park. I was amazed at how well it worked. Over the course of the trip I would say I received less than a dozen bites (which is VERY low for me). I noticed on evenings when I forgot to apply the spray I was bitten more… it only took a bite or two each night to remind me to apply the repellent!


Happy healthy skin makes for happy moms!






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  • Lise September 28, 2015   Reply →

    So how did the insect repellent work out?

  • Anika September 28, 2015   Reply →

    You mention in the article that you did some research for the ingredients for the sunscreen. Can you please post these sources? Considering that sunscreen can be a matter of health and safety, it’s your duty to prove those SPFs if you are going to post this recipe online.

    • Tara September 28, 2015   Reply →

      Hello Anika!

      We did do research on the SPFs in the ingredients of the sunscreen. I did some online research but I also spoke to a local eco friendly company in our city, Nezza Naturals. They sell natural ingredients for people to make their own products and make a lot of products themselves. I do not recall all of the sources online but I did make sure to source a few for each ingredient. As you may have seen in the recipe, the spf varies in all of the ingredients. This is why we made sure to test it on ourselves before putting on our children or before spending a prolonged amount of time in the sun. As mentioned in the recipe, SPF levels may vary and it really is the zinc oxide that works to increase the overall SPF in the sunscreeen and the carrot seed and raspberry seed oil will help as well.. I purchased the zinc oxide, carrot seed and raspberry seed oil at Nezza Naturals. I deem them to be experts on these products and did ask many questions before putting this recipe together. http://www.nezzanaturals.com/?s=zinc+oxide&x=0&y=0 I have attached a link to their website if you’d like to have a look. Thank you!

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  • hannahransom October 1, 2015   Reply →

    Is “vegetable stabilizer” the same thing as glycerine? Thanks!

    • Katelin October 2, 2015   Reply →

      Hi Hannah – To be honest, I am not completely certain. I am popping into the little shop I frequent, Nezza Naturals, later today to fill up a couple of my essential oils. I buy my vegetable stabilizer from them and I will ask and respond with their answer! Thanks!

      • hannahransom October 3, 2015   Reply →


        • Katelin October 3, 2015   Reply →

          OK Hannah so here’s the deal! I should have written vegetable solubilizer in the recipe (typo!) I have just updated it – sorry for the confusion. Glycerine can act as a stabilizer as well but when speaking to the staff at Nezza Naturals they informed me that for a recipe like bug spray it will likely be too thick to move through the sprayer. They recommend vegetable solubilizer for liquid recipes such as this. Also, of note – you can forgo this ingredient altogether – it is added to simply prevent the essential oils from separating from the water and witch hazel. If you choose not to add it you will need to shake the bottle vigorously before each application. Hope this helps

  • Ngawang October 2, 2015   Reply →

    Thank you for this recipe ! I have a question because Im vegan,, Is it possible to leave out the beeswax or replace it with something else? I would love to make this sunscreen : )

    • Tara October 2, 2015   Reply →

      Thank you for your question! Yes, you can use carnauba wax or candelilla wax. Either can be used as a substitute to beeswax. Candelilla wax is derived from the leaves of the candelilla plant and carnauba wax comes from the leaves of the palm tree. I hope you enjoy the recipe! :)

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