By Sarah Garcia
A do-it-yourself project can be a fun way to spend an afternoon and save a buck, but when it comes to sun protection, experts warn you should skip the DIY homemade sunscreen. While the simple, all-natural sunscreen recipes found on sites like Pinterest might seem legitimate, a study published this summer in Health Communication proves otherwise. The study found that nearly all pins or bookmarks positively touted the effectiveness of homemade sunscreen, but most recipes actually provided insufficient UV protection.
The creation of homemade sunscreen presents several flaws that could leave you at risk for sunburn, and ultimately, skin cancer.
No Way to Test Effectiveness
Store-bought sunscreens go through rigorous testing to prove they work as directed. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreen manufacturers must test their products according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines in order to prove their claims on labeling, from sun protection factor (SPF) to level of water resistance. Unfortunately, there is little way to know how effective a product you whipped up at home will be.
Essential Oil Claims
Many of the online recipes for homemade sunscreen tout the SPF benefits of essential oils, such as almond, lavender or coconut oil. However, a 2010 study in Pharmacognosy Research found that many of these oils actually contain very low SPF levels, well below what is recommended for proper protection in the sun.
Although some recipes on the web contain ingredients known to protect against the sun, like zinc oxide, there is no way to ensure active ingredients are properly and evenly dispersed throughout the mixture you’ve concocted. There is only so much mixing you can do by hand — the commercial manufacturing of sunscreen uses high-tech equipment and processes to form a true emulsion.
Sunscreens manufactured in the U.S. are required to carry an expiration date, and are proven effective up until that date. It may be difficult to determine the shelf life of many of the products used to create a homemade sunscreen, as well as the shelf life of the end product once these ingredients are combined.
Rather than take the risk on DIY sunscreen, stick to store-bought brands, which are tested, regulated and proven to be effective. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.