How to make your own natural, reef safe sunscreen

How to make your own natural reef safe sunscreen 

Why I tried to make my own sunscreen with zinc oxide?
I already wrote about that conventional sunscreen is dangerous for our ocean and coral reefs and ocean wild life. (Click here to get to the article

But conventional sunscreen is also in the critics of being unhealthy for us. I am not working in a laboratory, I am not a chemist and I read a lot of different articles about sunscreens.
Like with everything else some people say we should avoid them some other say they are not harmful at all…..  What we all know: we need to protect our skin from the sun, because the risk of getting skin cancer is real.

For what I know by now, my intention tells me we should be careful with a lot of synthetic, inorganic ingredients. 
Our skin is our biggest organ, and since I know that our skin absorbs nano particles of whatever we put on it in a very short time, and then these ingredients get into our blood and spread out in our body, I try to be more careful with what I put on my skin.

I even don’t wear flip flops anymore since I know we have big pores on our feet that could absorb chemicals from cheap colors on plastic flip flops. Have you realized how quick some color prints on flip flops disappear? I found that a little scary and didn’t buy any plastic flip flops anymore. I actually read/hear about this issue of flip flops every summer: made out of cheap plastic (BPA), latex, allergies, toxins like metal in the materials, etc….

(Some Links on this site are affiliate links. This means if you buy from one of those links I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you)

But back to sunscreens.

The ingredients harming our ocean could be potentially harmful for our bodies too. The most common ingredients in conventional sunscreens are hormone disrupter ( Oxybenzone, Octinoxate) like BPA. They interrupt your bodily functions. They are known to cause fertility problems, blood pressure problems, insomnia, low sex drive, etc. and they even say they even could cause a higher chance of getting cancer.

I also hear more and more about that people are suffering from skin cancer. And that more and more are affected. Even though more and more people are using (conventional) sunscreen on a regular basis…. but aren’t we actually exposing our skin way too long to the sun because of sunscreen? Because we feel safe? Or just safer? I know this has been the reason for me to stay for hours in the sun when I was in my twenties. I wanted to get a nice summer tanned skin. And sunscreen helped me to lay around in the sun for hours….

Now I do thats not so much anymore. I recently turned 38 and I see a few sunspots on my skin already. They look like freckles but are none… Apparently they are coming from these sunbathing beach days….

I like to catch a little bit of sun every day in the morning or evening (Vitamin D is very important for us humans and a lack of Vitamin D can cause diseases) but the rest of the day I sit in the shade, I wear a scarf around my shoulders, I wear a hat and a UV sun protection shirt when I am kayaking or beach cleaning….
Like with everything else (food, alcohol, etc.), sometimes less is more 😉 

Since I am not a doctor or scientist myself (and even those who are have different opinions), I don’t really know what I can trust, but I trust natural/organic products more than inorganic/synthetics. You can check your sunscreen for good or bad ingredients here:

So I bought/used different natural sunscreen in the last months after I found out how dangerous sunscreens are for our oceans and when I finally found some non nano zinc oxide in bulk in Montreal, I thought I really wanted to try to make my own sunscreen. So I did……

And I tested it last week when I was camping for a few days. There was shade but only from trees and I normally even get burned when I sit in the shade of trees in summer. So I was very curious how my home made sunscreen will protect and I am happy to tell you: I had no red skin, no sunburn, no nothing 🙂 I went swimming, I sat in the shade of trees for the whole day and I went for a walk in the direct sun for about 20 minutes. No problems at all.
But no, I didn’t lay in the direct sun for hours, thats just something I don’t do anymore. 
I also went swimming in the baltic sea and stayed for an hour at the beach with no shade but a few clouds. We drove there by bike, so another hour on the bike and I refreshed the sun screen after I went swimming and no red skin either!

The sunscreen just made me a tiny little bit of a whitening teint, maybe because I made a SPF30 one. I know other people that only uses SPF20 said there is no whitening at all. When I sweat I can see a few white stripes in my arm bend, thats all. 
If you put the sunscreen on your skin at first it looks all white, but then if you rub it on your skin properly there is no real white left.

Why non nano Zinc Oxyde?

  • Zinc is a natural mineral that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. 
  • It protects immediately after you put it on your skin, not like most conventional sunscreens that needs to get absorbed to protect so it needs to get applied some time before you need the protection.
  • It is an active ingredient that won’t get decomposed by the sun quickly (like many other chemicals in sunscreens) so it protects longer.
  • Non nano Zinc** won’t get absorbed by the skin (nano zinc would get absorbed, so be careful to buy the right one), it will sit on top of the skin and forming a barrier against sun rays.
  • Zinc oxide does not cause skin irritation.
  • How much Zinc for how much SPF: you need to just do a little math to find out how much protection your lotion has. SPF 2-5: 5% zinc, SPF 6-11: 10% zinc, SPF 12-19: 15% zinc, SPF 20: 20% zinc, SPF 30: 30% zinc.
  • You can ask your pharmacy if they are selling zinc in bulk or in paper bags, ask in zero waste stores or stores where they sell stuff to make your own beauty products or order online. Some shops already sell Zinc in paper packaging**, only the delivery could include plastic bags if they sell from a third party marketplace (always ask before you order).

DIY recipe for mineral sunscreen

What you need:

  • 40g coconut oil (preferably organic and cold pressed) (SPF 4-6)
  • 60g shea butter (preferably organic) (SPF 4-6)
  • 30g non nano, uncoated zinc oxide 
  • a jar with a lid
  • a saucepan
  • a scarf to cover your mouth
  1. Get a glass jar whit a lid that is big enough to stir the amount of butter and oil and then add the coconut oil and shea butter into the jar.
  2. Put the glass into the saucepan and fill the saucepan with water until the jar stands like half in the water. Heat the water and if the oil und butter starts to melt stir in between. Make sure that the water won’t boil, you don’t want any water drops inside the jar. Oil and water are no friends! 
  3. When the coconut oil and the shea butter are both liquid, take the jar out of the water and dry. 
  4. Then cover your mouth with a scarf (you don’t want to inhale the zinc oxide! When inhaled it could damage lungs and get into your bloodstream.) and add the zinc slowly to the liquid oils. Whisk the mass for a little while until the zinc is dissolved properly. (you can now either fill it into a different jar that you like better, or just leave it inside the jar
  5. Then let the mass cool down and stir in between to whip it up like a body butter. 

(For a quicker and easier version: just mix your normal body lotion/body oil with non nano zinc oxide. Stir in thoroughly.)

(This sunscreen has roughly an SPF of 30)
***Note: the SPF for this lotion has not been tested in a lab or something, so it is not exact*** 
**Note: This sunscreen is not waterproof so you need to refresh it after your swim.**
**Note: Make sure to use non nano zinc oxide only!!**


  • Some people like to add some essential oils for a different smell like vanilla,… (but please no citrus, they act like acid when exposed to skin and sun)
  • add some beeswax pellets when you heat up the oil and butter to make thicker sunscreen.
  • Other oils with natural SPF: raspberry seed oil (25-50), carrot seed oil (35-40), almond oil (-5), avocado oil (4-15), 
  • You can use coconut oil plus shea butter as normal body lotion if you don’t mix in the zinc.

(When you use self made cosmetics it is always on your own risk.)

Don’t want to make it yourself?

No problems, there are great products (like reef-safe sunscreen from Rawelements) to buy in stores or online. If you like to refuse plastic like I do, take the ones in a glass or tin and reuse or recycle the empty ones when finished. Be careful though, some sunscreens claim to be reef friendly but are actually not. Make sure to check the ingredients always and avoid Oxybenzone, octinoxate, etc…

As always: if you buy online from a “normal” shop (or amazon) there might always be some sort of plastic packaging involved. Try to contact the shop beforehand and ask what kind of packing they use and if it would be possible to get no plastic involved.

If you order from shops like lifewithoutplastic (from Canada) or Avocadostore (from Germany) or other eco minded stores, there will be a plastic free delivery and no unnecessary packaging involved.

Special discount for “Happy Choices” reader:

Rawelements – a great natural sunscreen from the US.(Read my rawelements reef-safe sunscreen review here)

With the code HAPPY10 you can get 10% off your purchase from Rawelements.**

They have a plastic free shop section with a few plastic free products.

Here’s how to claim your 10% discount:
Step 1: Go to and chose your favorite product.
Step 2: When checking out enter the discount code HAPPY10
Step 3: That’s it! is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We are also affiliate partner for other programs/stores like shareasale,, etc. 

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