I have always sun burned instantly; read ghost white. That is, until I began making my own body lotion last winter. After doing a bit of research, I determined that I could use some butters and oils that are natural sunscreens as my lotion to ensure I wouldn’t burn while gardening or hiking. Since we live in a high desert where it is hot, dry and sunny most of the summer season I decided to add zinc oxide to my lotion for some additional protection June through September.
The best test: we spent three days in late June in the southern Utah heat, specifically, hiking Snow Canyon State Park trails. I was great until we spent five hours hiking in the scorching heat. My skin did turn red and I could tell I had over done the sun, but I didn’t burn so badly that I began peeling the next day and my skin turned a nut-brown in a couple of days. Have to say I am impressed, it worked better than I thought it would!
Unrefined shea and cocoa butters with almond oil seem to be a good blend for me. During the winter months I used coconut oil as well, but I noticed the lotion didn’t absorb as rapidly into my skin. Using a scale, I weigh the same amount of each ingredient (i.e. 2 oz shea butter, 2 oz cocoa butter, 2 oz almond oil). The solid butters go into a wide-mouth quart canning jar, which in turn sits in a water bath. I prefer to boil the water in the pot prior to putting the butters in to melt and removing the whole thing from the heat before everything it liquified. Adding the room temperature almond oil (and 0.5 oz zinc oxide if I am using it) helps to begin the cooling process.
I watch for the edges of the oils to begin looking cloudy, which indicates they are solidifying again. Since I have had the luxury of doing this slowly, I use my stick blender at intervals during the day to keep the mixture evenly blended as it cools. When it is semi-solid (which you can tell by looking at it) I blend more frequently to whip air into the mixture otherwise the butters become a solid block that is difficult to use. When whipped, use a silicone or rubber spatula to move the lotion to your container(s). In short order the mixture will harden, despite being whipped, which will make it slightly more difficult to put into your container, so do this immediately.
We are used to commercial lotions remaining soft and pliable, but this mixture, especially with the particular butters I choose to use, doesn’t do this. Your body heat helps to melt small portions of the lotion so you can easily remove it to use.
Recently, I spent quite a bit of time in the college vineyards. As I ran out of the zinc oxide sunscreen, I used the ‘plain’ lotion and have the best tan ever with no sunburn!
I plan to add lanolin and unrefined beeswax to this mixture to make it a lotion bar the next time I make some.