DIY: All-Natural Sunscreen You Can Make at Home

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all managing to stay safe from the sun this summer without putting anything on your skin that could damage your body. Earlier today I found this video that offers an easy way to make natural sunscreen, with a recipe that you can tweak depending on how much protection you need.  While I’ve shared a number of skin-safe ways to prevent sun damage, it’s hard to beat the all-over protection you can get from natural sunscreen.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, here’s the recipe for natural sunscreen:

84 gr / 6 tbsp of Coconut Oil

28 gr / 2 tbsp of other base oil of your choice (I recommend Jojoba)

28 gr / 2 tbsp of Zinc Oxide (oil-soluble powder form)

14 gr / 3 tsp of Shea Butter

8 gr / 2 tsp of Beeswax

Put all of the ingredients in a double boiler (a mason jar in a pot of water works nicely too) until completely melted, then use a stick blender until all the ingredients combine together and you’re ready to rub it on. Warning: the finished product will make your skin look a little white and pasty but the woman in the video swears by the stuff and uses it on her kids, so there must be something to it!

The FDA’s New Sunscreen Guidelines: Will They Really Help?

Whether you’re headed to the beach or just playing in the sun, you should always use some form of sun protection such as protective clothing or sunscreen. But the way you shop for sunscreen is changing; the Food and Drug Administration has rolled out new guidelines for the labels you find on sunscreens. While sunscreen manufacturers have until the winter to comply with these guidelines, some have already begun to offer products with new labels.

The new labeling is intended to make it easier for consumers to choose the right sunscreen by creating standards for sunscreen labels as well as encourage manufacturers to move in the direction of making more Broad Spectrum products. Under the new guidelines:

  • Only products that protect against both types of UV radiation (UVA and UVB) and have an SPF 15 or higher can be labeled as “Broad Spectrum” sunscreen. Broad spectrum products offer the best protection from UVB-induced sunburn as well as premature aging and skin cancer believed to be caused by UVA exposure.
  • Products that claim to be “water resistant” must clearly indicate on the front of the bottle how long a user can expect to receive the declared SPF level of protection while sweating or swimming. Only one of two times are permitted on the labels: either 40 or 80 minutes.
  • Manufacturers can no longer make claims that their sunscreens are “sweatproof” or “waterproof,” nor can they identify their products as “sunblocks.” They also cannot claim that their products offer “instant protection” or protection for more than two hours without being re-applied.


Click to view the FDA's video on new sunscreen regulations


You can learn more about UVA and UVB radiation here.

You can find the full FDA guidelines and more here .

What Men Want…Perfect Holiday Gifts for Him

Here’s the holiday season, and once again we find ourselves faced with the challenge of what to get the men in our lives to show them we care. Instead of going the cliché route this year and getting the standard silk ties, power tools, barbecue sets, or accessories for his car, why not consider another alternative: all-natural grooming products.

We all know that most men tend to look at skin care as the exclusive domain of women and just don’t seem equipped to decipher the array of product choices to understand how they can benefit from a skin care routine. However, men have skincare challenges too that can often be addressed with some guidance and a little push in the right direction. So, this season, give the gift of an enjoyable collection of all natural plant-based skin and body products along with a few grooming tools and help the men in your life embark on the path to smoother, softer, healthier skin. Below are some great ideas for products to gift alone or to combine into a wonderful gift basket for him:

1. Cleansing is essential to controlling oily skin. For a minty fresh and clean feeling that men love, try any of our Refresh blend products. If bar soaps are his preference, give one that is glycerin-based or a super-fatted soap made with shea or cocoa butter.

2. Regular exfoliation helps unclog pores, which is key to fighting acne in addition to allowing for a closer shave and fewer ingrown hairs. The combination of our Gentle Cleansing Body Wash and Nourishing Hand & Body Lotion works great for this especially in the Revitalize blend. Add a set of Loofah Facial Disc Sponges to provide gentle exfoliating action that won’t cause irritation.

3. A good toner should soothe and calm irritated or inflamed skin, re-balance the pH of his skin, and tighten pores without drying out his skin (which is what alcohol does). Your best bet is a toner that includes witch hazel (a natural astringent), vegetable glycerin (a humectant), aloe (to normalize skin), and essential oils of lavender, chamomile, and cedarwood. A spritz of our purified water and hydrosol based Aromatherapy Mister Spray will do the job too.

4. After cleansing and shaving, men should apply moisturizer. Give him a plant-based lotion or cream made with light hydrating anti-oxidant rich oils like Jojoba, Grapeseed, or Coconut oil. For more on this read our ezine article Inside-Out: Heal Dry Skin with Natural Skin Care Oils Good Enough to Eat! Our Simply Naked unscented hand and body lotion is a great choice for your guy if he’s not a fan of scented moisturizers It’s gentle enough to use on the face and neck and won’t leave a lingering scent.

5. For occasional breakouts or blemishes, give him our Boo Boo Blend, an essential oil-based blend of Lavender, Tea Tree, Geranium, and Chamomile essential oils that can be applied directly to affected areas. It’s like a natural liquid bandaid that soothes and treats minor cuts, scrapes, and breakouts.

The most neglected parts of a man’s body are his lips, cuticles, elbows, knees and feet, so include some of these items in your gift set:

  • Petroleum-free lip balms to keep lips hydrated and soft –especially when exposed to the elements. Try are yummy Organic Lip Balms, available in 4 blends
  • A protective and emollient balm for dry or cracked elbows, knees, and heels made with herbal extracts, olive oil, and/or shea butter will work
  • Exfoliating salt or sugar body scrubs can help slough off dead skin cells and soften tough skin

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Show Dad Some Love: 7 Skin Care Tips to Save His Skin

Ask any woman you know and she will tell you about the phenomenon of being in a car with her husband, father, brother, or other male driving, when it has become clear they were lost. Her first instinct was to roll down the window or pull into the nearest gas station and ask someone for directions. But whichever man was driving the car insisted he knew the way or could figure it out on his own and refused to stop and ask anyone for directions.

No one can explain this seemingly irrational behavior. You can call it vanity, sheer stubbornness, or maybe even cluelessness. Whatever it is, it does seem to be a uniquely male trait. So if you look at a person’s face as the outer roadmap to his or her inner health and well being, then its probably no surprise that this behavior or trait can often be reflected in the state of a man’s skin.

Most men tend to look at skin care or body care as the exclusive domain of women –at least until signs of aging or distress start to rear their ugly head. Waiting until there’s an obvious problem before acknowledging it, let alone taking proper action to address it, may be standard operating procedure when one is driving a car but when it comes to one’s health it can be downright reckless!

While it’s true that men face a different set of skin care challenges than women do, we all need to hydrate, moisturize, exfoliate, and protect our skin from the elements, and pay attention to the impact of our lifestyle choices on our skin and outer appearance.

If you want to give your dad some love this Father’s Day, show him how much you care by sharing these simple tips for maintaining a healthy and youthful appearance from the inside out.

  1. Maintain a good daily grooming regimen. Follow the four pillars of good skin care: cleanse, exfoliate, tone, and moisturize. Pay close attention to how you shave as this is the source of most male skin trouble. For a smooth, close shave, always use hot water, a lubricating shave cream or plant-based oil, a razor with 3 blades and a swivel head, and finish up with a gentle, anti-inflammatory essential oil based moisturizer.

  2. Stop smoking. Aside from all the obvious reasons for not smoking, nothing adds wrinkles to your face faster than constant exposure to cigarette smoke. Smoking causes blood vessels in the top layers of the skin to constrict, which reduces oxygen levels in the blood and reduces collagen in the skin.

  3. Stay hydrated. Drinking fluids is one of the keys to retaining moisture and maintaining the elasticity of your skin. It’s easy to get dehydrated without knowing it –especially in the heat of summer. Be sure to consume plenty of distilled or purified water, and herbal teas. Avoid carbonated beverages with added sweeteners and go easy on the salt, alcohol and caffeine, all of which can affect your appearance.

  4. Increase your intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Found in flaxseed, almonds, walnuts, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocados, these play a critical role in skin health (not to mention your hair and nails) by helping your body form healthy cell membranes that can hold more water inside the cells. The more water held in your cells, the better hydrated your skin is.

  5. Increase your intake of antioxidants through food and supplements. Eat more tomatoes or tomato sauce for the Lycopene; eggs for Lutein (which is found in the yolk), and blueberries for other valuable phyto-nutrients. Supplement with Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), which neutralizes free radicals in the body and promotes healthy cell function, and Beta Carotene whose regular consumption can help protect skin from sun damage.

  6. Improve circulation and blood flow to the skin. Get a massage, facial, or do 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. Use a loofah or a gentle natural fiber brush to brush your skin while showering. Sprinkle a couple of drops of Rosemary or Eucalyptus essential oils (EOs) onto the bottom of your tub or shower stall before turning on the hot water, then inhale deeply as you shower.

  7. Manage your stress and get a good night’s sleep. Stress is one of the major causes of illness and one of the first places it shows is in our appearance. If left unchecked it can lead to a boomerang effect of insomnia and the inability to properly metabolize nutrients. All of these things take a toll on the skin and lead to dark circles under the eyes, dry skin or worse.

You only have one skin so take good care of it!

Copyright 2011 Dropwise Essentials

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials’ spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.

The Precautionary Principle Run Amok: Walking a Fine Line …

As a member of the Safe Cosmetics Campaign and a participant in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database, I support and applaud these organizations efforts to bring some reform to the way cosmetics and personal care products are formulated -especially in the case where products are still being made with known toxins. With the recent introduction of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, they are clearly making some significant strides in moving their agenda forward.

This is important work because of the potential benefits and protection it could provide consumers who are at present like experimental subjects in the giant petri dish that comprises the $35 billion a year beauty and personal care industry (often ironically referred to as HABA or HBA which is shorthand for Health and Beauty).

However as a small manufacturer who is working hard and diligently to make safe and effective products I sometimes wonder if, in spite of their best intentions, they are on a course that will soon run amok. What I mean is as they continue to gain credibility as an independent authority on the subject (and right now they are pretty much the ONLY independent authority on the subject) they will begin to wield real power or market clout that can have an impact on consumers perceptions of what’s safe and what’s not. And that is not something to be taken lightly.

While these are the “good guys” looking out for your health and safety, at the end of the day they are NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that have neither the scientific backing nor the funding to legitimately substantiate all the red flags they are continually raising. They are walking a fine line now between fear-mongering and agitating for meaningful change.

The latest red flag is the finding from a 2009 FDA study that the ingredient Retinyl Palmitate, which is a synthetic form of Vitamin A found in many skin care products and apparently widely used in sunscreens as well, may actually speed the development of cancer, even when present in low doses. The industry puts Vitamin A in its formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that slows skin aging. It seems that if you use these products at night or indoors you’re ok but if you go out into the sun after applying them you may be in big trouble.

This is not an insignificant finding, however I have to wonder what must be going on in the average consumer’s head when they hear this. In its 2010 Sunscreen Guide, the EWG recommends that consumers avoid all sunscreen products with this ingredient. If more than 40% of sun products contain it then that doesn’t leave a lot of options to choose from. Basically, out of 1400 products with sunscreen that were assessed, the EWG identified only 39 products that were worthy of their coveted “green” rating and all of those products used zinc or titanium oxide (sun blocks) as their primary ingredients.

It reminds me of the story of the boy who cried wolf. If day in and day out, all we hear is more bad news about cancer-causing ingredients and products and little or no useful or better alternatives we can trust, then we might as well all slit our wrists and jump off a cliff now and get it over with! I’m being facetious of course. But my point is if this is all that’s presented to us, eventually fatigue will set in and we will stop listening and that’s not good for anyone. This is one of my fears about what might happen if the EWG continues to lead us down this rabbit hole.

What We Still Don’t Know About Sunscreens: A Running Debate

As I mentioned in my last post, about the only thing that seems to have changed with respect to the state of sunscreens and sun safety products is that the mainstream media is starting to pay more attention to this issue and take a frank look at what needs to be done.

The New York Times appears to have taken the lead here with its recent Room for Debate blog: What We Still Don’t Know About Sunscreens. In Room for Debate, The Times invites knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss news events and other timely issues. For this conversation, the Times convened the following contributors:

  • Darrell S. Rigel, Clinical Professor of Dermatology
  • Sonya Lunder, Environmental Working Group
  • Michael K. Hansen, Consumers Union
  • Kerry Hanson, Chemist, University of California, Riverside
  • Lenora Felderman, Dermatologist

Darrell Rigel tackles the subject of better labeling and better ingredients. Apparently in the U.S. there are only 17 approved sunscreen agents, while Europe has 28, and Japan has more than 40. He blames the FDA for lagging in formally approving regulations and feels that rather than wait until they can come up with their own standards for testing UVA that we simply adopt the same standards as Europe has.

Sonya Lunder looks at an alarming new finding: the use of Vitamin A (in the synthetic form of Retinyl Palmitate) in sun care products may be accelerating the development of skin lesions and tumors when applied in the presence of sunlight! According to Lunder, this ingredient can be found in a whopping 40% (almost half!) of sunscreens used in the U.S.

Michael Hansen takes the FDA to task for not being more aggressive in demanding and enforcing the use of warnings on product labels that would clarify which products provide actual protect against UVA. A product may have a high SPF which means it protects against UVB radiation but that doesn’t mean it protects against UVA. He also feels that the FDA should more thoroughly investigate the health concerns that have been raised about various sunscreen ingredients.

Kerry Hanson questions whether our current concept of sun care protection needs to be redefined given what we’ve learned about the difference between UVB and UVA exposures and their respective roles in causing or promoting skin cancer. Since companies don’t have the substantial resources needed to fund the research (or the proper impartiality), there’s an opportunity for government agencies like the FDA, National Science Foundation, and the NIH to jump in and take the lead.

Lenora Felderman laments the false sense of security that sunscreens provide and echoes the other contributors’ call for better and more responsible action by the FDA.

Since it was posted on July 5th, this has generated over 200 comments. You can read the full discussions here and add your comments as well.

What do you think the FDA’s top priorities in this area should be?

Update on the State of Sunscreens: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same!

Every year around this time of the year, I scan industry trade rags and do some searching on the Internet in an attempt to find out what’s new in the market for sunscreens. And every year I marvel at how some things never seem to change! In fact they appear to be getting worse!

In spite of a growing body of increasingly credible evidence that turns everything we’ve been led to believe about sunscreens over the years on its head, companies are still producing essentially the same products, and packaging and marketing them in increasingly deceptive ways. Caveat emptor (buyer beware!) …

The FDA still hasn’t formally issued its new rules and guidelines for sunscreens with respect to UVA testing and labeling, which were informally adopted back in 2007 after an exhaustive 9-year review. This was supposed to happen in May and now the word is that it will happen later this year, probably in October. And in spite of the fact that there’s no consensus on whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer, and the discovery that some sunscreen ingredients might actually increase our risk of getting melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer), women’s magazines, sun product manufacturers, and dermatologists still relentlessly and religiously repeat the mantra to wear sunscreen whenever we go outside, or avoid any exposure to the sun. Are they really that blind to their hypocrisy or are they waiting for a larger force (i.e. the FDA) to force them to sit up and fly straight?

Most experts agree that people should use sunscreens to protect their skin from the sun, but they disagree widely on how well they actually work. There’s so much conflicting information and outright disinformation on the subject how can anyone make a reasonable decision about what products to use? The simple fact is that sunscreens were never developed to prevent skin cancer. They were (and continue to be) designed primarily to prevent sunburn. And even though SPF ratings are notoriously unreliable people continue to mistakenly believe that using higher SPFs buys them a lot more time in the sun without risk, so sun care companies keep coming out with higher and higher SPFs. We’ve hit a new high (or new low depending on how you look at it) with SPF 100!

Almost in defiance of the FDA’s proposed regulation, these companies substantially increased their high-SPF offerings this year. According to the Environmental Working Group’s analysis of nearly 500 beach and sport sunscreens, nearly one in six products now lists SPF values higher than 50, compared to only one in the prior eight years. Neutrogena has six products labeled “SPF 100,” and Banana Boat has four.

About the only thing I can see that has changed is that more mainstream media are finally starting to question the safety of sun care products.

Father’s Day Gifts: Skin & Body Products to Treat a Man’s Oft-Neglected Spots

feetLet’s face it. If you were to keep tally how much time you spent tending to the various parts of your body (i.e. cleansing, toning, moisturizing, etc.), you’d probably find that you mainly focus on the parts that are most visible to others (i.e. your face and hands). Women of course are more inclined to pay attention to the condition and presentation of the skin on their arms, legs and even their feet –especially during the spring and summer months when they are more likely to wear sandals, sling-backs, or open-toed shoes. Women are also far more likely to tend to their lips and their cuticles.

But how many men do you know pay attention to those vulnerable spots? For better or worse, lips, cuticles, elbows, knees, heels, and feet in general, are usually the most neglected parts of a man’s body. If you’re considering giving a Father’s Day gift of natural grooming products, then don’t forget to include some of these items in your gift set:

  1. Petroleum-free lip balms to keep lips hydrated and soft –especially when exposed to the elements. While men are very focused on shaving and the quality and appearance of the skin on their faces, remarkably, they somehow manage to ignore their lips –at least until they become a problem. Help your guy keep his lips in tip-top shape by encouraging him to apply a natural (preferably organic) hydrating lip balm as part of his daily grooming routine. Since these items are small and easy to misplace, you may want to get him a couple (one for his shaving kit and one to carry around in his pocket).
  2. A protective and emollient balm for elbows, knees, and heels (and even cuticles). One made with herbal extracts, olive oil, and/or shea butter will work wonders. For cracked skin include a small bottle (10 ML or 15 ML) of therapeutic grade (or organic) Tea tree essential oil which can be applied directly to the skin and is an excellent first aid assistant that disinfects and promotes the rapid healing of damaged skin.
  3. Exfoliating salt or sugar scrubs can help slough off dead skin cells and soften skin on cuticles, elbows, knees, heels, and feet. Sugar scrubs are especially effective because they’re made with sugar cane, which produces glycolic acid –one of the natural alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) commonly used in chemical peels (at much higher concentrations than you’ll find in an over the counter product). The primary purpose of AHAs is exfoliation but they also aid in the penetration of other substances. By facilitating removal of the outer layer of dry cells, additional skin care ingredients can treat the new skin more efficiently. For best results, look for a scrub that’s made primarily from sugar but also includes some salt and is in a base of antioxidant-rich plant-based oils like olive, coconut, sunflower, or grapeseed.

A Twist on the Traditional Fathers’ Day Gift: Give the Gift of Healthy Skin

Summer is almost officially here and I’m just back from a wonderful Memorial Day weekend music festival –my first of several summer outings to come. Outdoor events like these can really take a toll on one’s skin –from sun-kissed shoulders, noses and necks, to beat up feet from kicking around in sandals, to dirt under your fingernails and between your toes! It’s a good reminder of the importance of taking good care of our tender and sometimes neglected parts.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I’m reminded of how much this applies to men as well as women, especially those who spend a lot of time outdoors –whatever the occasion or attraction may be. Though they may be less inclined to think about it, they have skin challenges too. Most of men’s skin challenges revolve around their daily shaving routine, but they too have other similar issues including over-exposed or sun damaged skin, often neglected body parts from head to toe (i.e. scalp, lips, elbows, knees, heels, and feet in general), excessively oily skin and even bags or dark circles under the eyes.

Could some of the favorite men in your life use a little help in that department? If so then you’ll appreciate the tips and suggestions over the next few days on giving the gift of healthy skin for Father’s Day.

Olive Oil: One of Mother Nature’s Biggest Beauty Secrets

Among all the natural lipids, olive oil has the most similar chemical composition to sebum, which gives it a strong affinity to human skin. Completely safe and easily absorbed, it has exceptional penetrating ability, and is high in well-documented antioxidant properties including tocopherols (vitamin E), beta-carotene (vitamin A), phytosterols, flavonoids (including quercetin and squalene), and phenolic compounds.

There’s as much as 5 mg of antioxidant polyphenols in every 10 grams of olive oil, and 1.6 mg or 2.3 IU (International Units) of Vitamin E per tablespoon. This potent combination of antioxidants works to neutralize free radicals (unstable molecules created by exposure to things like cigarette smoke, pollution, alcohol, radiation, and oxidation of trans fats) and repair cell membranes – including sun damaged skin.

In addition, olive oil has the natural ability to target the skin cells in the top layer of your epidermis and can stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin – encouraging firmer and healthier skin. The rich emollients in olive oil allow just a little to go a long way.

Most commercial skin care products in the United States today are made from polyunsaturated oils, which oxidize and turn rancid very quickly causing free radical damage in the skin. So choose your oils wisely.

For optimal safety and efficacy, the oils you use on your skin, whether they are main ingredients in your products or applied alone, should be certified organic, raw, expeller-pressed and unprocessed, or subject to minimal processing as the latter can destroy much of the oil’s nutritive value and increase the likelihood of rancidity. This applies whether the oils are for internal consumption, topical application, or both.