Summer is coming. For many, that means more time spent outside in the sunshine. And with the growing popularly of natural skin and beauty products, you may be tempted to try out that homemade sunscreen recipe you found on social media to prevent sunburn and reduce skin cancer risk. But here’s a piece of advice from the experts: Just don’t.
Although almost all the recipes for homemade sunscreen found on Pinterest claim to be effective, more than two-thirds don’t offer enough protection from harmful UV rays, according to a new study published in the journal Health Communication. As for the other third? DIYing a product that’s intended to protect your skin against cancer is simply unwise.
Most ingredients in the recipes, which often include things like beeswax and shea butter, tend to offer little in the way of scientifically proven sun protection, according to the study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Brooks College of Health at University of North Florida.
"The Internet is a great place for families to go to for recipe inspiration and arts and crafts projects, but not necessarily for making their own safety-related things," said study co-author Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy. "Homemade sunscreen products are risky because they are not regulated or tested for efficacy like commercial sunscreens. When you make it yourself, you don't know if it's safe or effective.”
What to Look for in an Effective Sunscreen
Rates of skin cancer, like melanoma, which can be deadly, are on the rise, according to the National Cancer Institute—so it’s especially important that you use an effective form of sunscreen and take other steps to prevent sunburn.
Everyone 6 months and older should slather it on, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). But in a shopping aisle full of choices, how do you know which brand of sunblock to put in your cart? Per the American Academy of Dermatology, the sunscreen you use should be:
- Approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Broad spectrum, which means it protects against harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun.
- Water-resistant (effective for up to 40 minutes in water) or very water resistant (effective for up to 80 minutes in water). These sunscreens will stay put even on wet or sweaty skin.
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
- Unexpired—if your sunscreen is past its expiration date, it may not be effective. If you can’t find a use-by date, throw it out after you’ve had it for three years or if it looks like it’s changed color or thickness.
If you want to avoid ingredients like found in chemical sunscreens, like oxybenzone, there are mineral sunscreens on the market made with zinc oxide that are effective, too—you don’t have to try to make them yourself.
And don’t forget the summer sunscreen mantra: Reapply, reapply, reapply. Put on your first layer of sunblock in a thick layer about half an hour before you head outside, and then make sure to reapply it every two hours. That means no napping in the sun for hours without setting an alarm!
Last, but not least, it’s wise to get your body checked yearly for signs of skin cancer or precancerous moles at your doctor or dermatologist’s office. Catching skin cancers early is key.