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New Study Shows DIY Sunscreen is a DON’T

by kelly / June, 5 2019 01:30

Picture of homemade sunscreenImage © thedabblist

Homemade sunscreens are not safe. You might be thinking that’s convenient, you own a sunscreen company and of course you want us to buy your sunscreen. But that’s not why – DIY sunscreens are not tested (commercial sunscreens are tested) so claims about their level of protection cannot be validated. You can get burned badly. Still don’t believe me? A recent study of over 180 Pinterest DIY sunscreen pins found that a vast majority of them offered insufficient sun protection.

Pinterest Homemade Sunscreen Study

Research recently published in Health Communications analyzed 189 pins focused on homemade sunscreens. The pins were further categorized by their popularity, recipes, and imagery.

Over 95% of the pins portrayed DIY sunscreens in a positive light and many of the pins with recipes made unsubstantiated claims about their SPF (sun protection factor) level. The researchers found that almost 70% of the recipe pins offered insufficient sun protection.

As a reminder SPF is a measure of how well a sunblock protects you from UVB rays. But remember sun damage and skin cancer can also come from UVA rays. A sunblock needs to provide broad spectrum protection in order to prevent damage from UVA rays – something that commercial sunscreens are tested for in addition to SPF protection. More on that below…

Dangers of Unsubstantiated SPF Claims

That’s a problem - none of the recipes provided verifiable proof of their SPF level. The danger is if you use that homemade product outside believing you are getting a certain level of protection and you don’t get it. It could mean sun damage, sunburn, and ultimately skin cancer. That’s not good.

Worse imagine if you used that product on sensitive baby skin?

Plus, getting a specific SPF level is not as simple as adding a certain amount of zinc, titanium, or other UV filter. The entire formula matters: the type of equipment used to make the formula matters (you need very high end equipment to get a proper mix and even spread), the order in which the ingredients are mixed, the temperature at which they are mixed, and the specific inactive (non-UV filter) ingredients used. All these affect a sunscreen’s SPF level and broad spectrum ability.

Validated Commercial Sunscreens Claims

Unlike homemade sunscreens, commercial sunscreens are regulated by the US Food & Drug Administration and considered over-the-counter drugs. As a result commercial sunscreens MUST past mandatory FDA regulated tested to prove their SPF level.

In addition to validating their SPF level – commercial sunscreens MUST also prove they provide broad spectrum protection through another FDA regulated test.

I have a feeling many of the homemade sunscreens don’t make claims about broad spectrum protection. So you’re not getting the full sun protection you need.

Problematic Homemade Sunscreen Recipes

Many of the Pinterest DIY recipes included ingredients with supposed sun protection efficacy like coconut oil, raspberry oil, and vitamin E. However, there are significant issues with these ingredients. The number one issue is these ingredients are not validated to actually provide SPF or broad spectrum protection. The FDA currently approves 17 ingredients for UV protection and these are not them. Additionally, the amount of these ingredients used is often very low or varies wildly from batch to batch.

Many of the homemade recipes also used zinc oxide and titanium oxide for UV protection – two ingredients the on the FDA’s list of approved UV filters - but as the researchers stated:

“Commercial sunscreens are carefully mixed then tested on human subjects to verify dispersion throughout the product and the sun protection claims. Homemade sunscreens have not had the benefit of extensive testing to measure true sun protection, water resistance, or photo stability.”

Incorporating zinc and titanium evenly into a sunscreen mixture is very difficult – that’s a challenge when using these two ingredients. And commercial sunscreens are mixed by very expensive high end machines so they don’t have this issue.

Furthermore the FDA requires that all commercial sunscreens be made in FDA regulated and complaint manufacturing facilities.

Another problem is when zinc and titanium are not dispersed properly in a sunscreen you do not getting even coverage. Without even coverage you’ll get splotchy protection at best and no protection at worst.

Block Island Suncare Recommendation

So bottom line even if you don’t want to buy our sunscreen, we always recommend a commercial sunscreen over a homemade sunscreen - hands down. Don’t play sunburn chance with your skin!

For even more information sunscreen, SPF, and sun protection check out our Suncare Smarts blog series.

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