Urgent warnings over home-made sunscreens

home-made sunscreenCC: Barni1 at Pixabay

With sunnier weather fast upon us, the Pinterest natural health brigade is out in force. One of the latest fads to hit social media is home-made sunscreen recipes. According to their creators, they offer protection reaching up to SPF 50. Unfortunately, their claims are untrue. We’re here to explain why home-made sunscreens are dangerous and how you can protect yourself.

Home-made sunscreens don’t contain protective ingredients

Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at the University of North Florida have found that 68% of the recipes that are popular on social media offer no SPF protection. The team appraised 189 images shared on Pinterest. Each one claimed to feature an effective recipe for a home-made sunscreen.

One of the commonest ingredients in the home-made sunscreens was coconut oil. Although the oil does provide SPF protection, it only reaches 7. At a minimum, you need an SPF of 30 for adequate sun protection. Additionally, many of the images contained ingredients that provide no broad SPF protection. None of them was able to block both UVA and UVB rays.

The harms of inadequate SPF protection

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it only takes one episode of blistering sunburn to double your skin cancer risk. It also states that around 20 Americans die of melanoma every day and 9,500 receive a skin cancer diagnosis.

Your best protection against sunburn and an increased skin cancer risk is to stay out of the sun. However, this isn’t practical for a couple of reasons. First, you need the sun to produce Vitamin D. Second, many people enjoy spending time outdoors or they work in an indoor environment.

With that in mind, your next line of defence is to use a sunscreen with adequate SPF protection. Home-made sunscreens don’t offer this, as any SPF protection they provide is woefully weak. Before you consider using one, reflect on how your skin behaves when you use an SPF of less than 10. A home-made sunscreen won’t perform much better.

In a worst-case acute scenario, using a home-made sunscreen may result in severe fluid loss. Admittedly, that sounds melodramatic. But, if you acquire a single blister that’s the size of your hand and it bursts, you’re at risk of hypovolemic shock.

What to look for in a good sunscreen

Although the idea of whipping up your own natural home-made sunscreen seems alluring, it’s obvious it’s unwise to do so. Instead, you need to look for a sunscreen that has the following features:

  • Protection against UVA and UVB rays.
  • An SPF of at least 30. The SPF multiples the number of minutes it takes you to burn. For example, if it takes 10 minutes for you to burn without SPF protection, an SPF of 30 increases that to 300.
  • Water-resistant properties, especially if you’re working or exercising in the sun.

If you usually wear makeup, try switching your normal moisturizer and foundation for ones with SPF properties. One of the commonest areas for basal cell carcinoma is the nose, which suggests many people suffer from poor protection there. Additionally, use an SPF factor of at least 50 for children and don’t rely on them to apply the sunscreen themselves.

Although home-made sunscreens sound whimsical, they’re unlikely to deliver much protection. For the sake of your health now and in the future, aim for a genuine product instead.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.