Okay—it has come to my attention that people are making their own sunscreen. Let me clear something up: While DIY-ing your own beauty products, like face oils or body creams or body scrubs, is totally A-OK, SPF is not something to drum up in your kitchen.
But despite this, it’s happening. Why, though? “We’re not sure either,” says Gloria Lu, cosmetic chemist and co-founder of Chemist Confessions. “We’re guessing it stems from wanting to use ‘chemical-free’ or ‘all-natural’ products, since a lot of sunscreen filters on the market are synthetic ingredients.” Dermatologist Forum Patel, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology, echoes this sentiment: “A lot of people think DIY sunscreens are purer and less harmful to their skin and the environment,” she tells me. But…they don’t work.
Homemade sunscreens typically rely on plant oils like raspberry seed oil, or zinc or titanium dioxide for the sun protecting factor. “There are some oils such as raspberry seed that have been marketed as SPF boosters,” says Lu. “These are supporting ingredients and significantly lack in providing true sun protection in real life situations. Slightly more responsible DIY formulations will include something that blends titanium dioxide powder with coconut oil.” But no matter what intel on the internet tells you, they won’t keep you protected in the right way, according to the pros. After all, sunscreen is literally an over-the-counter drug, and that’s not something you should be attempting to make for yourself.
“Plant oils aren’t regulated as sun filters, and testing is questionable at best,” says Victoria Fu, cosmetic chemist and other co-founder of Chemist Confessions. “DIY formulas using titanium dioxide don’t factor in some of the most important qualities of a good sunscreen: even coverage and long-lasting film. Home formulas also cannot test for shelf life, so you can never be sure if your filters have settled over time.”
Professionally-manufactured sunscreens have ingredients that help properly disperse, suspend, and spread sun filters in a robust formula with a certain shelf life, she adds. And these are all rigorously tested in professional facilities. But with the DIY lot…not so much.
“While most of the ingredients found in most DIY sunscreens are not harmful, and are often very moisturizing and soothing, they’re not tested to determine their sun protection factor,” says Dr. Patel. “Traditionally, sunscreens go through rigorous testing by the FDA to ensure what their sun protection factor is and their resistance to water. DIY options aren’t, and so even though conceptually they might sound good, they might not actually be protecting you,” she says.
If there is any doubt at all still lingering, just remember that being properly protected from the sun is the most important thing. “Skin cancer is no joke—you need tried and true sunscreen formulas that have actually gone through regulated UVB and UVA testing to ensure you’re getting proper protection that lasts for two hours,” Fu adds. And, please: Keep the sunscreen out of your DIY beauty game.
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