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Homemade Sunscreen Lotion Bars

Affiliate Disclosure | in DIY Beauty | by | with 100 Comments


Seven Hours And Thirteen Minutes

Give or take a few, that’s the distance from my front porch to sugar white sand beaches. Daddypotamus and I are hoping to take the potami to our favorite getaway spot sometime this summer, but we’ll probably have to work it in with just a teeny bit of notice. Though I’ve been making homemade sunscreen for years, I don’t usually make it in advance because the shelf life of the base –  my homemade lotion – is shorter than those preserved with chemicals. Most days we skip sunscreen altogether and use antioxidants instead, but on days we are going to be out much longer than usual we do use sunscreen.

Inspired by a conversation with a friend, I decided to re-work the lotion bar from DIY Organic Beauty Recipes into something we could use as sunscreen. This recipe should last about one year, so we’re ready to go anytime. Crossing my fingers – it’s been way too long!


IMG_3060a IMG_3181a


Why These Ingredients?

These sunscreen lotion bars use ingredients that are considered uniquely beneficial for nourishing and protecting sun-exposed skin.

Coconut Oil – According to this study, coconut oil has an SPF of around 8. Though it is unclear from the summary whether refined or extra virgin coconut oil was used, other studies I’ve read suggest that it was probably the antioxidant-rich extra virgin variety.

Shea Butter – This decadent moisturizer contains cinnamic acid, which absorbs UVB rays. It is generally thought to have an SPF of around 6, but that can vary depending on how refined it is and whether or not it has been sitting on the shelf a long time.

Beeswax – Though it’s main purpose in this bar is to hold everything together, it is considered by some skin care companies to have antioxidant and moisturizing properties

Zinc Oxide – Many of the new generation of sunscreens – and this includes almost all “healthy” mineral sunscreens listed by the Environmental Working Group – contain titanium and/or zinc nano particles. Unlike chemical sunscreens which absorb rays, zinc oxide provides a physical barrier between us and the sun. These minerals are considered non-toxic in their natural forms, and it was assumed the mini-sized versions would be equally safe. Unfortunately, new research links them to accelerated skin aging, cancer and environmental toxicity.

What Does SPF Really Mean?

Huge differences in SPF numbers are actually pretty insignificant when it comes to differences in protection. SPF 100 blocks 99 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. SPF 30 blocks 96.7 percent, SPF 15 blocks 93%.

When deciding how much zinc oxide to add, anywhere from 5-20% of the total solution is often used. Though it will vary a little from batch to batch, the bars I made with this recipe are about 12% zinc oxide by weight. I have not tested it in a lab for SPF value.


Sunscreen Lotion Bar Recipe

Makes approximately two 2.75 oz bars

Ingredients (By Weight)

Special Equipment

silicone mold, muffin tin or other mold


  1. Gently melt coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter in a double boiler.
  2. Stir ingredients until smooth and melted.
  3. Remove from heat. Add zinc oxide. If you’re adding optional essential oils/Vitamin E, add them, too.
  4. Stir until blended, then pour into molds. Silicon muffin tins work well.
  5. Allow to cool before removing from tin. If you’d like to speed things along, pop the in the freezer for 10-20 minutes.

Cleanup Tip

Clean your pot, stirring utensils, etc. before the mixture cools. Start by wiping everything with paper towels and then scrub in hot, soapy water.

To Apply

Rub on skin and massage in. I apply generously and frequently on days that we are going to be out for a long time.

Important Note

These bars will melt in the hot sun. Store indoors and apply before going out.

Looking For More Recipes?


My ebook, DIY Organic Beauty Recipes, is a 198 page guide that will show you how ridiculously easy it is to make your own beauty products, like:

  • Quick yet luxurious gifts for friends and baby showers
  • Fabulous shampoos and conditioners
  • Tooth whitener
  • Lotion
  • Body sprays
  • Deodorants and more.

Check it out here



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100 Responses to Homemade Sunscreen Lotion Bars

  1. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    Nicole Abboud – Yes, the bars will melt if left outside. I recommend storing them indoors and applying before you go outside.

    Regarding SPF: When deciding how much zinc oxide to add, anywhere from 5-20% of the total solution is often used. Though it will vary a little from batch to batch, the bars I made with this recipe are about 12% zinc oxide by weight. I have not tested it in a lab for SPF value.

    • Aly says:

      You could store the sun screen bar in a watertight container in the cooler if you are far from home and using. I would probably do the same with the sun screen lotion to keep it from spoiling.

      • Tammy says:

        That’s what my fiance and I were just saying … my first thought was, make it in a tin and don’t remove it from the tin. Then he said, just store it in our drink cooler.

        I have carrot seed oil … will adding a few drops of it really up the SPF? Because I can totally do that!

        In other products I have made, I find that coconut oil and beeswax do not completely sink in to my skin – especially not my face. Plus, zinc oxide has been used for decades as a sunscreen – think of the lifeguards with white noses and white lines on their upper cheeks. So, conjecturally, I would think that this sunscreen bar has at least some water-resistance.

        • Aly says:

          not sure, I was considering sea buckthorn oil since it does report a natural spf, Maybe adding some rose hip oil and tallow. I find the tallow is like the beezwax in staying on my skin for a longer period of time and water beads up, but have not found out if it has a natural SPF? I wonder if the smell would attract wasps in the later summer? I have had some interesting experiences with bees and wasps attracted to beeswax when it was stored in a cabinet in my studio and I had all the doors and windows open to catch the breeze (I don’t live in buggy parts of the US- Seattle is pretty mellow on everything but bees are encouraged in our garden flowers and wasps are becoming more tolerated since they are pollinators and needed as well. I just have not tried tallow for outdoor use and sure as heck don’t want to waste it if I am going to become wasp bait ;*)

  2. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    Nikki Pellman – Regarding SPF: When deciding how much zinc oxide to add, anywhere from 5-20% of the total solution is often used. Though it will vary a little from batch to batch, the bars I made with this recipe are about 12% zinc oxide by weight. I have not tested it in a lab for SPF value.

  3. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    June Cotter – I’m sorry to hear that! Some people use titanium dioxide, but one expert (a cancer researcher named Elizabeth Plourde) says that it photodegrades rapidly and is not a good idea.

  4. Mommypotamus via FB says:

    Carrie Price Kunkel – Ingredients that are measured by weight can vary in terms of how they come out in teaspoons, so I can’t say for sure.

  5. Anya says:

    I’ve been looking for a good recipe! I usually use just coconut oil but this sounds like a great natural recipe!

  6. Gail Greene via FB says:

    Kathleen Tims

  7. Penny says:

    Would like to know where you got your mold from. Like it 😉 Always love your stuff. Thanks Penny

    • Alyssa says:

      I second that, Penny. I too would love a link to get this mold. It would work awesome for mini soaps too. Thanks, Heather. LOVE you for all this great stuff. And I hope all goes as planned with your vacation planning. :)

  8. bre says:

    Do you know anything about using carrot seed oil as sunscreen? It’s supposed to have a SPF of 30 I believe? Thanks

  9. Erin Alexander via FB says:
  10. Aly says:

    I am def going to make this and your sun screen lotion. As I read through both recipes, I was struck by the comment that some essential oils cause photosensitivity. So I did a google to learn more and found a list at this blogger’s site (along with her recipe to compare and consider- ;*) Though I’m a total Potomai fan!
    From the listed essential oils that can cause an issue, the citrus ones and bregamot since some people really like that one, or don’t. It seems to have the intense love-hate spectrum.
    Along with this list for photosensitivity I was wondering if you could also list essential oils that pregnant and nursing moms should avoid?
    Here’s the link in case anyone wants to explore this

  11. Michelle @ Crunchyinthesuburbs says:

    I made sunscreen lotion bars similar to this last year (same main ingredients with bug repelling essential oils added, plus a little vitamin E to help preserve the bars), and while they were fantastic at the pool, at the beach sand stuck to our skin like glue! It was IMPOSSIBLE to scrub the stuck-on sand off our skin! I mean, it was awful. Any ideas? Did I do something wrong? Did you have the same experience?

    • Heather says:

      Hi Michelle, I haven’t tried these at the beach yet but that sounds, er, uncomfortable. I’ll have to update after I do.

  12. Faye says:

    I have a kid that is unfortunately allergic to coconut. What would you sub for the coconut oil?

    • Amanda @ Mommypotamus Support says:

      Faye, Heather hasn’t tested it, but it might work with sustainably harvested palm oil. She’s not sure how a substitution would compare in terms of natural SPF, though.

  13. Denise says:

    Some of the reviews on the shea butter you linked are not good. In fact they are very bad. Have you used this type?

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  15. Erin says:

    I tried making a batch of these but the zinc oxide just stayed in clumps in the bottom of the bowl and never fully incorporated into the melted oils. Any suggestions or tricks to incorporating it better?

    • Heather says:

      You might try mashing the clumps out before adding it to the mixture (if there are any) and then stirring until the liquid thickens slightly.

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  27. jnl says:

    I hear mango butter is good as a sun blocker. And its the most wonderful butter. Much less greasy than shea!

  28. Eunbi says:

    Is there one I can use for face?

  29. Sarah says:

    Do you buy a full pound of zinc or a couple of oz? Do you know the shelf life of the zinc. Trying to figure out if the money saved is worth the pound.

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