Researchers warn of the dangers of homemade sunscreen
Suzanna Myers, of Chalfont Pa., applies sunscreen on her daughter, Kiley Plenderleith, 12, in Ocean City, N.J., on June 19, 2012. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)
Published Monday, May 20, 2019 6:30AM EDT
Consumer interest in natural, organic personal care products has led to a surge in recipes for homemade sunscreen found on social media sites like Pinterest, but researchers warn these herbal alternatives fail to protect skin from UV rays.
A recent study examining the growing popularity of homemade sunscreen recipes on Pinterest found that 95 per cent of those posts described the alleged effectiveness of do-it-yourself sunscreens.
More alarmingly, researchers say, 68 per cent of those posts recommended recipes for homemade sunscreens that offered insufficient UV radiation protection.
"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," Lara McKenzie, PhD, co-author and principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio.
"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."
According to researchers, the ingredients recommended in many homemade sunscreen recipes offer “minimal scientifically proven broad-spectrum protection” from UV radiation, yet they are widely promoted as safe alternatives to commercial sunscreen products.
Recipes found on Pinterest often include ingredients such as shea butter, coconut oil, almond oil, zinc oxide, and beeswax. Many of the posts raise concerns about the chemical content of commercial sunscreens, or speak of the benefits of “all-natural” SPF protection.
Most recipes were saved an average of 808 times on Pinterest. One pin was saved more than 21,700 times by users, according to researchers.
“Just because you make it yourself or something is labeled as natural or has fewer ingredients doesn't necessarily mean it's safer,” read the study.
In Canada, sunscreens are subject to the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and its regulations.
Following several reports of skin reactions associated with the use of Banana Boat sunscreen in 2017, Health Canada tested 27 sunscreen products from various companies to verify whether they were within an acceptable pH range, and contained the proper ingredients listed on the label.
Health Canada found no issues with the 27 products tested. The government agency also reported that none of the sunscreens contained preservatives known to cause skin reactions.
Sunscreen safety tips
According to Health Canada, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher should be used at least 15 minutes before sun exposure.
It’s recommended that you reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, more often if you are sweating or swimming.
To get the full benefit from your sunscreen, be sure to check the bottle for the recommended amount. Health Canada says an adult should use about 7 teaspoons, or 35 ml, of sunscreen to cover all areas of exposed skin—that works out to about a teaspoon per body part.
For those with sensitive skin, it’s recommended that you test your sunscreen on a small patch of skin and wait 48 hours for a reaction.
Additionally, avoid leaving your sunscreen in direct sunlight, or in a hot car. Exposure to heat can cause sunscreen to be less effective.