DIY Homemade Natural Roll-on Sunscreen |

Homemade Roll-on Sunscreen Stick

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DIY Homemade Natural Roll-on Sunscreen |

It's summer, and if your family is anything like mine, your days are spent outside. Whether it's work, play, or just lounging in the pleasant weather, we are in the sun, shade, or water pretty much constantly.

So needless to say, our skin gets a lot of sun exposure and of course, sunscreen always feels like a contentious issue: how do we balance protecting our children's skin from long-term effects of sun damage without blocking out Vitamin D and without slathering products laden with toxic chemicals on their skin?

I wrote last week about my recommendations for sunscreens to purchase, but today I want to share my recipe for DIY homemade sunscreen.

This is a homemade roll-on sunscreen stick, and I choose to make our homemade sunscreen this way because it's easier to slather on, it's not as messy (or greasy) as the homemade sunscreen lotions I used to make, and it's easier to toss in a bag when you're headed out.

But before we get to the very simple recipe, let's talk about two very important aspects of sunscreen: SPF and zinc oxide.

And of course I must pause here to remind you all: I am not a dermatologist, I have not had this sunscreen tested for SPF in a lab, and my favorite food to eat in the sun is watermelon. All cool? Fabulous.


First up: Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

Everyone's skin has a particular amount of natural protection against the sun and its rays. That's why lighter-colored bodies tan as the body's natural pigment, melanin, tries to protect the skin against sun damage.  Of particular note is that everyone's skin is different. You've likely noticed that some fair-skinned people tan easily while others turn pink and burn before a tan even appears, while very dark-skinned people can, in fact, burn as well.

Thus, SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measurement of how much a certain chemical or mineral increases your natural sun tolerance. Many believe this determines how long they can stay in the sun according to how high an SPF they use.

For example, if I don't wear any sunscreen, I typically start to burn in the sun after about 20 minutes. So, 20 is my natural tolerance to ultraviolet light. If I apply a sunscreen with a SPF of 25, by that measure that sunscreen will give me approximately 20 x 25 minutes, or 500 minutes, of protection – that is, my natural tolerance multiplied by a factor of 25.

Yet we all know that I'll never get 500 minutes of protection from one application of an SPF 25 sunscreen. This is because it's not just a simple mathematical equation. Despite the calculation I just showed, SPF is not meant to help you determine duration of exposure, because the previous calculation doesn't factor in (ha, no pun intended):

  • skin type
  • the intensity of the different types of sun's rays (UVA and UVB, for example),
  • atmospheric protection (e.g. altitude, air quality),
  • the different ways we can wear sunscreen off (sweating, swimming, etc),
  • our individual body's interaction with the chemicals added to provide SPF – some chemicals may degrade more quickly in one person's body than in another's.

So instead of helping you determine how long you can stay in the sun with sunscreen, SPF actually helps you determine how much UVB to which you will be exposed with sunscreen, regardless of length of exposure. An SPF of 100 blocks about 99% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. SPF 30 blocks 96.7 percent, SPF 15 blocks 93%. Many dermatologists say that a 15 or 30 SPF sunscreen is sufficient in most cases for most individuals, since you can see that an SPF 100 sunscreen protects only about 6% more than an SPF 15.

(In my opinion, the only time the extra protection would be needed is when you are dealing with prolonged exposure at high altitudes when you have no other protection available – say, you're going to be hiking in the mountains above timberline over a reflective snow-pack and will be wearing a thin shirt).


The Two Types of SPF & Important Facts about Zinc Oxide

Manufacturers create SPF in two different ways: by adding chemicals or by adding minerals.

Chemical-based sunscreens work by adding chemical compounds to the sunscreen base which absorb ultraviolet light, such as oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, and octisalate. These chemicals must be absorbed into the skin in order to be effective, which is why many sunscreens instruct you to apply them at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.

Mineral-based sunscreens work by adding inorganic material that reflects, scatters, and absorbs UV light, such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These types of sunscreens sit on top of the skin, so can be applied at the time of sun exposure.

Some sunscreens have both chemical and minerals, so read your labels carefully to know exactly what you're getting.

Now, the important thing to note is that mineral-based sunscreens automatically sound like a better way to go for naturally-minded families, and they often are, but you do need to be aware that not all minerals are created equal. (Why, oh why aren't these decisions ever just simple and straight-forward???)

The one thing of which you need to be aware when it comes to minerals is particle size. If the particles are small enough to fit into your pores, they will be absorbed – and zinc oxide has been linked to organ damage if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed into the bloodstream. These nanoparticles are created by a micronization process (merely “the process of making something tiny”), and many brands will label their products with “nano” or “micro” in the ingredient list.

The upside side, however, is that sunscreens that use nanoparticles don't leave the same white sheen behind and thus it's more attractive to some consumers. (There are a few exceptions to this as technology advances, but by and large this simplification stands.)

So, it's your choice – you can either have a whiter, more obvious sunscreen or a less obvious sunscreen that may be absorbed into your system.

But that brings us very conveniently to this homemade version, as one way I deal with the white sheen of non-nano zinc oxide is by tinting the sunscreen.  It tames the white glare and provides a natural, sun-kissed glow all at the same time. It also works well on darker skin to help offset the purple tint that can happen with white powders on very dark skin. πŸ™‚

 So, with all that, what are we waiting for? Let's make homemade sunscreen – roll-on style!

DIY Homemade Natural Roll-on Sunscreen |
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Homemade Roll-on Sunscreen Stick

Prep Time20 minutes
Cooling Time6 hours
Total Time6 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 2 deodorant push-ups (2.5-oz size)


  • 25 grams beeswax, about 1 Β½ tablespoons beeswax pastilles
  • 40 grams shea or mango butter, about 3 tablespoons
  • 50 grams coconut oil, about 3 ΒΎ tablespoons
  • 20 grams cocoa butter, about 1 Β½ tablespoons
  • 30 grams zinc oxide, about 1 Β½ tablespoons (see where to buy non-nano zinc oxide)
  • cocoa powder, 1-7 tablespoons (optional) - the tinted sunscreen in the picture above used 5 tablespoons


  • Melt all ingredients except zinc oxide and cocoa powder together in a double-boiler (or in a small saucepan set inside a slightly larger saucepan with simmering water). If you must heat the ingredients on direct heat, be sure to use the absolute lowest setting your stove will allow.
  • When all ingredients are melted, remove from the heat and stir in the zinc oxide and cocoa powder, if using. Be careful not to breathe in the zinc oxide powder.
  • Make sure the mixture is well mixed, especially if you're using large amounts of cocoa powder, then pour the mixture into your deodorant tubes.
  • Let stand until completely cool and very firm, 6-12 hours.
  • Store in the refrigerator for 6-12 months. Carry in any bag, but word to the wise: if you will be in a warm location, keep the sunscreen in your cooler or store in a zipper-top plastic bag out of the sun, as the sunscreen will soften as it warms.
  • Apply liberally and reapply anytime water no longer beads on top.


Makes 2 deodorant push-ups (2.5-oz size) - see where to buy deodorant tubes
General rule of thumb to determine amount of zinc oxide:
  • For SPF 2-5: Use 5% zinc oxide
  • SPF 6-11: Use 10% zinc oxide
  • For SPF 12-19: Use 15% zinc oxide
  • SPF 20+: Use 20% zinc oxide



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  1. Hi Kresha,
    Sunscreen is always on my mind especially at this time of the year. Of course I am leary of using most commercial brands so I am delighted to find your recipe for homemade sunscreen along with helpful supportive information. Thanks for this valuable DIY natural remedy. I appreciate it.

  2. I am excited ti start mKing my own sunscrean and deoderant. Ive been told that I have cancer and I’m trying to change my lifestyle. No cancer treatment for me!!!!

  3. This post is very informative! I have been always believing in the myth of SPF–the higher SPF the better. Now I have learned something about SPF and zinc oxide. On top of that, now I would love to make my own sunscreen stick too (for I find most of the commercial sunscreen products rather greasy). Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  4. Hi Kresha,
    I’ve all the ingredients for the sunscreen now and I can’t wait to make it! Do you have a favorite kind of cocoa powder that you use? Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Yay! I hope you like it! πŸ™‚

      In the case of body care recipes, I don’t have any preference for type of cocoa powder, as natural, Dutch processed, and raw cocoa powders all work well. Personally, I tend to use natural cocoa powder as that’s what I usually have on hand and it tends to be a bit darker than the alkalized version, but again, they all work.

      That said, I do certainly favor fair-trade cocoa, as chocolate is one of the most crops most known for human rights abuses, so I most certainly urge you to use ethical brands as much as possible.

      Does that help?

    1. If you live in a warm area, it’s possible for any homemade cosmetics to melt, so storing this sunscreen in the refrigerator just keeps everything cool, smooth, and homogenized over a long period of time. You certain CAN leave it out, but it’s just likely to soften a bit depending on your climate.

      Also, storing it in the refrigerator keeps the oils from going rancid over time and helps slow bacterial growth from bacteria from your skin that remains on the product as you use it over the course of several months.

      1. Would storing this in a small jar be ok? I just worry that if it softens or melts while out and about, it will make a mess in a plastic bag. Is it not soft enough to spread on body with your hands like a lotion? If not, do you have a recipe which would be more
        like a lotion? Thanks!

        1. Well, yes and no. This specific recipe is a bit firmer specifically so it can be smeared on like deodorant, so a small jar might make it difficult to get it out. However, yes, it would still melt if it’s left in the heat!

          I do have a lotion-type recipe, which I’ve got scheduled to share next month – I’ll definitely make a point of linking to it from this article when it’s live.

  5. Could anyone possibly please help me convert this to tablespoons? After failing at one recipe I am determined to make a firm sunscreen stick! πŸ™‚

    1. Well….. these ingredients are notorious for varying GREATLY when measured by volume, which is why everything is listed by weight. So, unfortunately I don’t have any volume measurements to share with you, as they’ve been different each time I’ve made a batch. πŸ™

      If anyone else has had more consistent results using a volume measure, PLEASE feel free to share! πŸ™‚

  6. How important is the cocoa? I am extremely sensitive to scents and hugely not fond of the smell of chocolate. Is there something else that can be used in lou of cocoa? Thanks!

    1. The cocoa *powder* is totally optional – that’s just to tint the sunscreen.

      However, the cocoa *butter* is far more vital to the recipe, as that’s what gives it its firm-yet-spreadable consistency. If you absolutely don’t want to use cocoa, you’ll need to use another brittle oil (one that is solid and very hard at room temperature), such as palm kernel oil, kokum butter, or illipe butter. Those are rather obscure, so it may be difficult to find them, but I believe Mountain Rose Herbs currently carries kokum butter, if nothing else.

      I hope that helps!

  7. Love this idea!


    I am wondering if you noticed if the sun screen was melting in the heat? I am curious if it was if you know a way for it to stay firm even in hot weather?

    Thanks for sharing,


    1. The best way to keep the sunscreen from softening or melting in the heat is to store it in a cooler (like if you’ve brought drinks or food to the beach) or set it next to something else cold (like a bottle in a diaper bag). A good idea is to always keep it wrapped in a towel so that if melting DOES happen, it’s easily contained!

      I hope that helps! πŸ™‚

  8. Hi, a friend recommended this recipe and I am eager to try it! But I was wondering, since I do not have a scale that will help me with grams, do you know the conversion of each item into Tablespoons or cups? I need to order supplies, and it would be so helpful! Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi, Beverly.

      I’ve updated the recipe with volume conversions, so I hope that helps! πŸ™‚

      A note to anyone else reading this, however: use a scale whenever possible, as the ONLY way to have consistent results is via the weight measurements. However, if a scale isn’t available, it’s not available, so the volume is definitely a decent back-up.

  9. Hi I have made this and when I apply it it goes really bitty when I apply it. Is there a trick to putting in the zinc oxide a certain way? As it also wasn’t very smooth when I poured the zinc oxide in? Thanks in advance πŸ™‚

    1. Hmmmm….. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “bitty.” Do you mean it kind of pills up or falls of the skin as you try to smear it on? If so, it almost sounds too dry, so perhaps too much cocoa powder or zinc oxide or perhaps try adding just a bit more beeswax or cocoa butter?

      And no, there’s no real trick to adding the zinc – just pouring it in and then stirring is just right.

      I don’t know if any of that helps, but those are my initial thoughts!

      1. Hello thanks for the reply I will maybe try next time with less cocoa powder! It’s just turned into a coarse texture rather than smooth!
        Also do you think this would work as a lotion if I made it with no wax?

        thanks πŸ™‚

        1. Hmmm….. that’s a great question! I’ve never tried it, but that might be rather nice – like a lotion bar rather than a pump-style lotion, I suppose. I don’t know, though, I’d have to try it! Let us know if you do try it that way – I’d love to hear the results. πŸ™‚

  10. hello thanks for sharing this great recipe… been making this quiet a bit as a surfer im in the sun all the time and this last forever… you think if I add more zinc oxide I need to add more of the other ingredients just to balance ? or is fine just adding the zinc oxide ?

  11. I love this sunscreen product I will like to lean more of it thank you .and why is it necessary to stored in the fridge

  12. Hey

    I would like to know the shelf life of the stick.

    As you have mentioned 6 – 12 months, but how to understand whether your product is working or not.

    Thanks in advance.


    1. Well, you’ll be able to tell it’s working if you’re applying as directed and you’re not getting burned. πŸ™‚ The only thing that will happen after 6-12 months is that the mixture may separate a bit, making it slightly grainy, as well as some of the oils may go a bit rancid (depending on how it’s stored), which may make a difference at a cellular level, but you’ll be able to tell by the smell that it’s not quite “fresh.”

      I hope that helps!

  13. For very dark skin, there may be need to use a darker agent than cocoa powder.
    This is also the case if sunscreen helps to protect hyper/other pigmentation and sun spots.
    Is there anything that you can recommend for very olive to dark skinned ladies such as us please?

    1. Great question! Cocoa powder comes in many, many, many shades. The Dutched variety tends to be quite light brown, whereas black cocoa powder – like the type we use in homemade Oreos – is nearly obsidian. So yes, cocoa powder is still the best option, but find a kind that matches your skin tone.

      And if that still doesn’t work – for example, if you want something with a bit more yellow undertone – various clays may be a good option.

      I hope that helps!

  14. When you say β€œ5%” for determining how much zinc to put in for a certain SPF, are you measuring percentage of volume or percentage of weight?

  15. Hi! I am excited to try a homemade sunscreen stick? I feel like it will easier than lotion to apply. Do you know how I could incorporate Red Raspberry seed oil?

    1. Sure! You can either just add it in *addition* to the ingredients listed OR substitute it in for PART of the coconut oil. There aren’t any other liquid fats in the recipe, so you’ll just need to watch your ratios and decide how soft you want the final sunscreen stick to be. Either way, measure all your ingredients by weight, including the red raspberry seed oil, so that you can add the proper percentage of zinc oxide for the SPF you want, as you should consider the red raspberry seed oil a *BONUS* in whatever skin & sun benefits it provides, but not as part of the SPF calculation.

      I hope that helps! Or did I only muddy the waters?

      Either way, I hope this sunscreen stick works really well for you! I definitely prefer it to lotion too. πŸ™‚

  16. I tried to find this in the article and recipe- did you mention what spf you have in the completed recipe (for the 30 grams zinc oxide you call for)? Is it 25% spf, since that is what is written on your bottles? It might be nice if, in your recipe, you were to list how much to add for each level of spf: 15, 30, 50, 100.

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