Herbal Apothecary: SPF Lotion

Now that the sun is out, it's time to add some sunscreen to my homemade lotion. To do this, I ordered some zinc oxide from soapgoods.com


This could well be a lifetime supply — I have a pound, and I only used 1/4 cup. (This in a lotion batch that usually takes me about three months to get through.)

The 1/4 cup amount of zinc oxide is to get to roughly a 30 SPF. This obviously isn't lab tested, but there's a chart that gives amounts to help approximate. I went with 20 percent of the total added in, which is 1/4 cup. 

I made the lotion as before (you can check out details in the first link above), but when I measured out the aloe gel, I added 1/4 cup of zinc oxide and stirred it up to make a paste:


This is way easier than trying to get the powder mixed evenly with what ends up being a cup of water, once you add it to the gel. Hold off on the water until the last minute, stirring it into the aloe and zinc paste right before you are about to emulsify it in with your (melted and cooled) oils:


Once you add the water, it is thin, and the zinc is likely to settle to the bottom. This happened to me somewhat, because I didn't wait to add the water (as I am now recommending — live and learn!). Because of that, not all of my zinc ended up in my lotion — maybe this is more like an SPF 15? That's a total guess. I am not a doctor or pharmacist, so don't listen to me if science is important to you.

Also, this lotion ended up much thicker than previous versions:


I'm not sure if it's clear in the photo, but the texture of this is more like a body butter than a cream or lotion. I'm not sure if that's due to my half-assed measuring of the cocoa butter (as in, I used more than I should have), or if the zinc powder makes it thicker. Either way, I had to stop mixing with the hand blender before I quite used all the water/zinc mix, because it got (very suddenly) too thick.

And because of that, not quite all of the zinc mixture was emulsified:


As you can see, there's a little separation in the bottom of the jar. The whiteness is from the zinc. It goes on a little white (much like my favorite regular sunscreen), but it's not bad. I do like the buttery texture of this, even though I clearly have some tweaking to do with the process. I will continue to use my regular sunscreen for the beach and long days in the sun, but this is my daily lotion with an extra boost. I'll probably make it this way from now on, since it's always good to have a little SPF, even in the winter!

Best of all, it smells really good. I used a combination of essential oils that I am loving: rose, rosemary, bergamot, and lovage. A little flowery, a little herby, and a little chocolatey from the cocoa butter. A new favorite!

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