Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Sun Protection

Summer is officially here. With temperatures nearing 100 degrees it seems as if there is no escape from the sun's burning rays. Unfortunately, I am very fair, I spend a large portion of my day in the sun, and have sensitive skin. Commercial sunscreen burns my skin as bad as the sun. I can smell them a mile away and the smell drives me crazy. I have read that the chemicals in sunscreens have been linked to cancer and while I am not an expert on the matter, I don't believe in taking unnecessary risks. The"all natural" brands are often prohibitively expensive and the "chemical free" varieties ha, the sunscreen component might be, but the inactive ingredients?

So what's a farm girl to do? Figure out how to make it for herself!

One of the main ingredients in natural sunscreens is zinc oxide. It works by absorbing UV radiation and converting it to infrared heat which is harmlessly evaporated from the skin. It is very effective and a little goes a long way. When I was young my friends and I used colored zinc or diaper rash cream for sunscreen.As an adult I don't find "war paint" as cool as I did when I was eight. Fortunately, micronized zinc can be purchased from a few online sources. I found mine at I purchased a pound about two years ago and have made sunscreen probably a dozen times.

Sunscreen is very easy and cost effective to make at home. you need only 4 ingredients, oil, beeswax,zinc oxide and water. An immersion blender is a helpful tool but not 100% necessary.

 I like to add green tea instead of water because green tea is supposed to be good for your skin and have anti-cancer compounds, again, I am no doctor but it can't hurt. Green tea turns lotion a strange color that may be less than appealing however,it is completely transparent when it is applied to skin.
Most recipes call for a combination of olive,coconut, and a few other oils.. I have found that I like the feel of avocado,or olive and coconut oil.

To make about one quart of sunscreen you will need-

1 cup olive(or almond,grapeseed,or avocado)
1 cup coconut oil
4 tbs beeswax shredded
1 cup slightly warm water or green tea
2-4 tbs zinc oxide powder
Fill a large pan with water and place on burner.
place a saucepan inside the larger pan.

To the saucepan add the oils and wax.

Warm the oil and wax until the wax is fully melted.

If you are using an immersion blender,
place it into the wax/oil mixture and turn it on low.

If you don't have an immersion blender you can pour the mixture into a standard blender(be forewarned however, that standard blenders are very effective albeit very difficult to clean.)

You can also use a whisk and hand mix the sunscreen. I find that often times the water is hard to incorporate by hand so my method of choice is definitely immersion blenders.

Add the water or tea in a steady trickle to the wax/oil mixture. when the lotion base is well incorporated add the zinc. More zinc will give a greater spf.( Two tablespoons provides about spf 15.)

When all the ingredients are incorporated, pour the mixture into clean jelly size mason jars.

To clean the cookware, wipe out as much of the residue with a rag or paper towel. then pour boiling water on everything and wipe again. Repeat the rinsing and wiping until all residue is gone.

The sunscreen is best stored at cool temperatures or refrigerated if it is not to be used immediately. It can be stored unopened in the fridge for at least 6 months but once it is opened it should be used or discarded after 2 weeks.

This recipe is best reapplied after swimming or sweating. I usually reapply it every hour.

Remember that sunscreen is only one defense against sunburn and potential skin cancer.

Here are some additional precautions to take-

Wear white, longsleeve clothing, and a wide brim hat.
Avoid the midday sun if possible.

And eat a diet rich in antioxidants.Green tea has been reported to help prevent skin cancer so sipping a nice glass of iced green tea can't hurt.