A quick perusal of Pinterest will reveal recipes for homemade sunscreen lotions as consumers embrace a cautious fear of chemical-ridden products — and rightfully so, as research has demonstrated the detrimental side effects of parabens, sulfates, phthalates and synthetic fragrances.
But some things are better left to the professionals, especially sunscreen.
Fighting off the risk of skin cancer is no joke, which is why in 2012, the Food and Drug Administration updated the industry regulations for testing the effectiveness of such products and set new requirements for labeling that accurately reflects those test results. Manufacturers can no longer make claims that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” nor can they classify their products as “sunblocks.” Data regarding the products’ SPF values and water resistance must be submitted to the FDA for approval. It’s a serious business full of legal hurdles — hurdles that DIY-ers don’t have to face in the blogosphere.
A typical DIY sunscreen recipe includes the likes of jojoba, grapeseed or coconut oils, as well as those familiar UV-blocking agents, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Sounds logical enough, right? And what’s not to like about having total control about what goes into your personal care products?
As Environmental Working Group analyst Sonya Lunder, via Mother Nature Network, explains, formulating sunscreens is a science, and “since homemade concoctions can go on unevenly, leaving portions of your skin vulnerable to the sun, and even since some essential oils can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, expert mixologists are really the best people to be crafting these sunscreens.”
Some DIY sunscreen recipes will include charts or formulas to help the consumer calculate the final SPF of their batch of sunscreen lotion, but even these seemingly scientific guides come with a disclaimer that the suggested ratios have not been tested in a lab for effectiveness. Dr. Justin Piasecki, a plastic surgeon and founder of the Skin Cancer Center, stated that there is no accurate way to test SPF levels of homemade sunscreen products at home. Mixing a few ingredients around with a spoon does not ensure the active ingredient will be evenly distributed throughout the finished product.
Allure magazine, in an attempt to keep readers from falling for the home-brewed sunscreens, explained that high-pressure homogenizers break up zinc and titanium dioxide particles to evenly distribute them throughout professionally manufactured sunscreens. Even your favorite smoothie-making blender can’t replicate those mechanics.
Citing similar concerns about the spotty application of protection on the skin, the FDA banned sunscreen powders and is questioning the efficacy of sunscreen sprays — and those products are made in factories, not home kitchens. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 2 million people diagnosed annually, reports the Skin Cancer Foundation. With that kind of alarming number, it’s best to play it safe when it comes to skin protection.
If you fear potentially toxic ingredients in mass-produced sunscreens, opt for a big, floppy sunhat and try out one of the natural sunscreens recommended by the Environmental Working Group. The organization recommends avoiding oxybenzone and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can act like estrogen in the body once absorbed into the bloodstream. It also warns against the ingredient retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may speed up the development of tumors and lesions in sun-exposed skin.
Check out a list of suggested SPF products from trusted brands like Badger and Purple Prairie Botanicals.