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Don’t Get Burned by DIY Sunscreen

If you are tempted by the homemade sunblock recipes on the internet, think again.

We’re all getting more aware of the chemicals in personal-care products—as was well documented in a recent NextTribe article. And the fact that recent research found that sunscreen ingredients get into our bloodstream raised alarm, as did the FDA saying it needed to look into such ingredients as avobenzone and oxybenzone more closely.

That has led some people to believe they may be better off with some “clean,” homemade versions of sunscreen rather than the chemical-laden ones on the store shelves. The internet is rife with recipes—so many, in fact, that researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and the Brooks College of Health at University of North Florida took a closer look at what was being shared on Pinterest.  

“Many people are concerned about using chemicals on their skin,” said Lara McKenzie, PhD, the principal investigator at Nationwide’s Center for Injury Research and Policy and a co-author of the study, “but the prevalence of these DIY recipes online gives them a false sense of security that making sunscreen themselves means making it better.”

Read More: The Ugly Plastic Story Behind Your Beauty Products

When Homemade Isn’t Best

But when the researchers looked at what was being shared online, they found that common ingredients included coconut oil (in two-thirds of the recipes); essential oils, like raspberry and lavender (in almost half of all recipes); and shea butter and zinc in over a third of the do-it-yourself potions. One-third of these recipes on Pinterest purported to have a specific SPF. When analyzed, however, research found that these ingredients, as mixed at home, offer only minimal UV protection—nowhere near what a store-bought sunscreen would provide. Plus, these concoctions don’t have to perform to the stringent standards that commercial products must meet.

The prevalence of these DIY sunscreen recipes online gives people a false sense of security.

The prevailing wisdom is that you are still much safer with store-bought sunscreen to protect yourself at a time when skin cancer rates are rising. If you are concerned about chemical ingredients, experts say that avoiding products with oxybenzone (the ingredient that has raised concern but has not been deemed a danger as of this writing) is your wisest move. Plus, there are many types of clothes now that can provide high SPF coverage without a drop of chemicals.

By Janet Siroto


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