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What Is Natural Sun Cream?

By Megan Shoop
Updated May 17, 2024
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Natural moisturizers and skin softeners, like shea butter and jojoba oil, don’t just keep the skin soft and supple, they may also be ingredients in natural sun cream mixtures. These substances help infuse the skin with essential nutrients, making it less susceptible to sunburn. Covering up with natural sun cream also adds a protective film to the surface of the skin that may reflect harmful rays of the sun. Most recipes for natural sun cream only include organic and naturally-derived ingredients, though some also include zinc oxide for extra protection.

Though reportedly better for overall skin health, most natural sun cream ingredients don’t provide the same degree of UV protection as commercial sunscreens. Jojoba oil and shea butter usually only provide a few degrees of SPF protection, while the other ingredients are simply there to soften the skin. Those that use a natural sun cream generally prevent sunburn by keeping the skin healthy. Typically, the more moisture and minerals the skin contains, the less damage the sun can do, though those using these sun creams should still avoid overexposure to direct sunlight.

Only a few natural ingredients, like red raspberry seed oil, reflect the sun’s rays as effectively commercial sunscreens. This oil contains natural protective enzymes that may mimic the properties of zinc oxide, the active ingredient in most sunscreens. Though effective, it can be expensive to purchase and difficult to distill from home grown plants. Those creating natural sun cream products for sale may want to use red raspberry seed oil to keep their creams completely natural. Individuals making this for personal use may want to replace red raspberry seed oil with zinc oxide to keep costs low.

Though not necessarily a natural product, zinc oxide may be mixed with natural ingredients to create a gentle alternative to commercial sunscreens. In fact, zinc oxide is often sold in grocery stores as a rash cream for infants. It is usually very thick and white, giving many commercial and natural sun cream products their signature thickness and color.

Most kinds of natural sun cream start with 1 part of each kind of oil, butter, and wax that the maker intends to use. Ingredient options range from the above-mentioned products to cocoa butter, olive oil, and beeswax. Recipes may also include one part each of rose hip oil or vitamin E extract. All of these ingredients are usually melted together in a double boiler.

Once melted, the maker usually removes the natural skin cream mixture from the heat and whips it with an electric hand blender or stand mixer until thick and smooth. Whipping the mixture as it cools distributes air through the cream and prevents it from becoming a hard brick. The maker may pour the mixed cream into an airtight plastic container or into small metal tins to set for about 12 hours. It should harden into a semi-solid that spreads easily onto the skin.

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