DIY Sunscreen: 3 Reasons Why Making Homemade Sunscreen Isnt Safe

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Or a chemophobe who’s afraid the chemicals in sunscreen will kill you?

Are you tired of spending a fortune on sunscreen and want to save by making your own?

I’ve got news for you: DIY sunscreen is dangerous. It doesn’t work and it puts you at risk of skin cancer.

Heck, even skincare schools like Formula Botanica, which make their money by teaching people how to make your own organic skincare products, warn you against homemade sunscreen.

Here’s the deal: sunscreen ain’t like other skincare products. Get a moisturiser wrong and you may end up with pimples or an irritation. Not pleasant, but you’ll live to tell the tale.

Get sunscreen wrong and you may end up with skin cancer. That’s much more serious, isn’t it?

Truth is, making your own sunscreen is way more complicated than you think. It just can’t be done at home. Here why:

Is DYI Sunscreen Dangerous?

Sunscreen ain’t like other skincare products. It’s medicine. If it’s not made properly, it won’t help you.

Problem, it’s very hard to make homemade sunscreen properly – and even harder to test its effectiveness outside a proper lab.

Here are 3 reasons why you should NOT make your own DIY sunscreen:

1. Natural Oils Don’t Provide Adequate Sun Protection

The key ingredients in a lot of DIY sunscreen recipes are natural oils. Rumour has it, they provide natural sun protection.

BS. Natural oils CAN’T and DON’T provide enough sun protection. Their SPF levels are ridiculously low.

Don’t believe me? A 2010 study has calculated the SPF of some common natural oils. Here are the results:

  • Almond oil: 4.6
  • Castor oil: 5.6
  • Coconut oil: 7.1
  • Lavender oil: 5.6
  • Olive oil: 7.5
  • Rose oil: 0.2

Even the oil with the highest SPF, coconut oil, has an SPF of only 7! That’s way below SPF 15, the MINIMUM recommended by dermatologists.

Oh, in case you’re wondering… “But what about this other oil that’s not on the list? I’ve read it has a high SPF…”

Look, girlfriend, I don’t care what you’ve read over the internet. NO OIL provides adequate sun protection.

2. You Can’t Measure SPF Anyway

Let’s say you’ve found a DYI sunscreen recipe that uses zinc oxide instead. That’s a proper UV filter, right?

Yep. But that doesn’t mean it provides adequate sun protection. You can’t add a dollop of zinc oxide to a mixture and magically have SPF 50.

You have to test the DIY sunscreen to figure out if you’ve added enough zinc oxide to reach the desired SPF. Do you have the tools at home to do this?

“But Gio,” I hear ya say, “I’m testing my DIY sunscreen on myself. I slather it on my arm, go outside and don’t get burned.”

So, what? I’ve got news for you. Just because you didn’t get burned, it doesn’t mean your skin wasn’t damaged.

Think about it. How many times did you go out without sunscreen – come on, we all did it as kids before we knew how important sunscreen is – and didn’t get a sunburn? UV rays weren’t strong enough to give you one.

Instead, they damaged your cellular DNA, collagen, elastin etc. All that damage is showing up now in the forms of wrinkles and dark spots.

I’ll repeat it: just because you didn’t get a sunburn, it doesn’t mean your sunscreen is working. Unless you’re testing it in a lab, there’s no way of knowing how high the SPF is.

3. Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide Are Hard To Work Into Sunscreens At Home

Formulating a sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide is a bitch.

Excuse the strong language, but if you’ve ever tried to make a DIY sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (two natural UV filters), you’ll understand my frustration.

Here’s the deal: SPF isn’t determined just by the ingredients you use. The manufacturing technique matters a lot, too. If you can’t make your sunscreen in a way that disperses UV filters evenly, your sunscreen won’t work.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have the annoying tendency to clump in your formula. That means that some parts of the mixture will have higher SPF while others will have lower SPF.

If you use a home blender that can’t disperse zinc oxide properly, most of the zinc oxide will fall at the bottom of the tube/jar (or wherever it is you store the final mixture). The first few times you use it, you won’t have adequate sun protection.

Only with professional lab equipment you can formulate a sunscreen that disperses UV filters evenly. And even that takes professional formulators a lot of trial and error.

While we’re on the subject of formulation, you also have to make sure no other ingredients in the formula interacts with the UV filters and compromises their SPF. Yes, that can happen.

One more thing: the finished formula must be stable. If it oxidises or spoils too soon, you’re back at square one.

The Bottom Line

Making DIY sunscreen isn’t as easy as it seems. If you don’t get anything absolutely right, your sunscreen won’t work. And even then you have no way to measure its SPF. Without it, how can you know it’s keeping you safe? Don’t risk it.

What are your thoughts on DIY sunscreen? Share them in the comments below.

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