You’ve seen the recipes on Pinterest, and elsewhere on social media. Make your own sunscreen! It’s easy, and safe, and natural! And completely too good to be true. The sun does damage your skin. Some sun is needed to produce essential Vitamin D, but sun exposure causes premature signs of aging, wrinkles, and worst of all: skin cancer. Protecting your skin is necessary in order to maintain your health. Here’s why you should not make your own sunscreen, and what you should do instead.
Poor (or No) UV Filter Ingredients
As I’ve previously mentioned, there are two kinds of sunscreen filter types. These are chemical and physical. Physical sunscreen filters block the sun’s UVA and UVB rays from getting to your skin. think of it like a barrier. Chemical sunscreen filters on the other hand, absorb the UVA and UVB rays, which in turn prevents them from hitting your skin. Some antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E can enhance protection from the sun. These antioxidants are usually included in DIY sunscreen recipes. They do have benefits to your skin, but they should not be relied upon for complete sun protection.
Essential oils, and natural oils including coconut oil provide very little protection from UVA or UVB rays. Studies have shown that coconut oil provides only 1 spf. Essential oils ranged from between 1 and 8 spf. These numbers fall far below the recommended minimum of 30 spf by the American Academy of Dermatology.
No Independent Testing or Quality Control
Many of these DIY sunscreen recipes make claims that have not been independently verified. There is no proof or verification of the claims being made by those who have created these recipes. Commercial sunscreen is produced with vigorous testing, and uses ingredients that have been approved by the FDA to have specific UV protective properties. Studies have shown many of the ingredients being used offer little protection from the sun, even when combined these filters can still be ineffective or offer protection far below recommended minimums.
How do you know your DIY sunscreen ingredients are thoroughly mixed? Does every ounce of your DIY mixture contain the same amount of protective UV filters? Do you know how to text to see if it does? Do you have the equipment to do that? No. You don’t. You do not have a quality control process or test to see if your sunscreen is actually doing what it’s supposed to do. Unlike a recipe for food or even cosmetics, your test is risking potential skin damage due to an ineffective sunscreen. Commercial sunscreen follows a specific testing process before it ever heads to market. This means by the time sunscreen is put on the market, it is tested in controlled conditions, both in vivo and in human trials that it provides the level of coverage and protection that it says it does.
Making Your Own Sunscreen Put Your Skin At Risk
Your skin is your largest organ, and it’s one that’s all to easy to overlook. Taking care of your skin is essential for your own health and well being. DIY cosmetics and personal care items can be a fun, and useful hobby. In this case leave it to the professionals. DIY sunscreen can leave you with damaging, and lasting effects. Protect your skin. There are many affordable, organic, reef safe, and biodegradable sunscreens on the market right now. There is no reason to risk your skin or your family’s on DIY recipes that have no science behind them.
What to do instead:
Select safe, commercial sunscreens. There are many brands that use natural ingredients, organic ingredients, and are safe for you and the environment. Look for sunscreens that contain both UVA and UVB protection (aka full spectrum protection), and include physical filters like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. If you will be hitting the beach, make sure your sunscreen is reef safe and biodegradable, to protect your skin, the ocean, and coral reefs.
Bonus Tips to Keep Your Skin Safe from the Sun:
- Wear sunscreen daily (even indoors and on cloudy days), make it part of your daily routine.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats, and other UV protective clothing, like UV protecting sleeves and gloves.
- Add UV protecting filters to your car or home windows.
- Reapply sunscreen during the day as recommended by your sunscreen manufacturer.
- Use a UV protecting parasol or sunbrella.
- Avoid the sun at it’s strongest around mid-day and early afternoon.
- Stay in the shade when you can.
- Wear sunglasses with UV filters to protect your eyes.
Darr D, D. S. (1996). Effectiveness of antioxidants (vitamin C and E) with and without sunscreens as topical photoprotectants. Acta Derm Venereol. , 76(4):264-8.
Deep, C. K., & Saraf, S. (2010. Jan-Feb). In vitro sun protection factor determination of herbal oils used in cosmetics. Pharmacology Research, 2(1): 22–25.
Formula Botanica. (n.d.). Why you should not use Coconut Oil as a Sunscreen. Retrieved from Formula Botanica: https://formulabotanica.com/not-use-coconut-oil-sunscreen/
Gause S, C. A. (2016). UV-blocking potential of oils and juices. Int J Cosmet Sci. , 38(4):354-63.
John H. Epstein, M., & Wang, MD, S. (2013, May 24). UV & UVB. Retrieved from Skin Cancer Foundation: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb