DIY Sunscreen may seem like a good idea because (in theory) it reduces exposure to toxic chemicals and is fairly economical.
Despite good intentions, DIY sunblock and sunscreens are volatile, unreliable and can actually increase your risk of sunburn!
Since more and more people are going to their kitchens (rather than stores) for their skincare needs, this trend has sparked an endless array of DIY skincare recipes online.
Some are good, but some are bad and downright dangerous—and homemade, DIY sunscreens definitely fall into the latter category.
4 Reasons People Think DIY Sunscreen is Good Idea
#1 Avoiding Horrible chemicals
Chemical sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate are very controversial. The FDA doesn’t yet admit that they’re toxic or harmful in any way; though websites like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Natural News, and the EWG have seemingly never-ending citations expressing otherwise.
#2 Natural DIY Sunscreen Ingredients Are Easy To Buy
Both Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are powerful, mineral sunblocks that are readily available in some health food stores and from cosmetic ingredient suppliers online.
#3 Plants and Vitamins Are So Good for Skin
Certain plant emollients like raspberry seed oil and coconut oil have naturally occurring levels of SPF.
Many sunscreen formulas also contain antioxidants like Vitamin E and green tea, which help neutralize the free radical damage that occurs from prolonged sun exposure.
#4 It’s fun and easy to mix stuff together
It seems like a no-brainer to take some coconut oil, add a bit raspberry seed oil, toss in a touch of zinc oxide and Vitamin E oil, and then shake it all up to make an effective, non-toxic, natural sunscreen, right?
In theory, yes.
In reality, not so much.
Real Reason #1
There’s no way to know what the actual level of SPF is.
Plant-based emollients are known to have inherent levels of Sun Protection Factor (SPF), such as:
- Coconut oil argan oil
- Red raspberry seed oil
- Carrot seed oil
- Almond oil
- Shea butter
However, none of those emollients have SPF that’s consistently measurable or quantifiable, especially when added to other ingredients in a formulation.
The actual SPF in these ingredients varies depending on their:
- Other factors that occur behind the scenes.
Did you know your very own skin also has a natural amount of SPF based on its levels of melanin pigment? This too factors into the equation of overall sun protection.
Real Reason #2
You’ll get burned because your at-home blender won’t get the job done.
Whether you’re making an oil, butter, or lotion, the solubility of the ingredients plays an important part in the overall texture and consistency of the product, as well as the efficacy of the product and at home blenders and hand mixers just don’t get that job done.
Insoluble particles (that don’t dissolve), such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, typically wind up sinking to the bottom of the tube or jar, leading to uneven distribution and uneven coverage.
That is, unless they’re formulated using professional equipment to assure an even suspension.
You might end up with high coverage one day, and then get burned the next day due to uneven sunscreen distribution.
Real Reason #3
Formulation of sunblock is complicated and regulated.
Since zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both regulated by the FDA in the U.S. as drugs, their true SPF rating has to be verified through the FDA’s testing and approval process.
Making sunblock with a certain SPF isn’t as simple as:
x amount of zinc oxide = an SPF of y
Other ingredients in the formulation, plus the formulation technique affect may also affect that number.
Real Reason #4
Certain natural oils will increase your risk of sunburn!
One of the frequent questions I get as a teacher of DIY skincare, is about adding Vitamin C into recipes for sun damage protection, which makes sense because it’s an antioxidant known to help counteract sun damage.
What they don’t realize is that Vitamin C is phototoxic—meaning it increases the skin’s vulnerability to the sun’s damaging rays and risk of sunburn.
The exact opposite thing that should be in a sunscreen!
Many DIY skincare makers love to put their unique spins on recipes they find online – changing up the carrier oils, or adding essential oils.
However, Vitamin C-rich rosehip seed oil and most essential oils from the citrus or mint families are also phototoxic.
What to use instead
Do yourself a favor and use a natural sunscreen product that’s already gone through the FDA’s testing process and is known to provide effective, even, and reliable coverage when applied as directed.
There are so many great choices now, and the Environmental Working Group does such a fantastic job with ranking them in their annual safe sunscreen guides.[Also read: Non-Toxic, Water Resistant Sun Protection That Works]
If you want to use plant emollients with naturally occurring SPF (such as the serum shown in Best Natural Sunscreens for Face and Body) underneath your sunscreen or as part of your post-sun skincare regimen, it can only help—but please don’t rely on DIY sunscreen as your first line of defense in the sun.
Have you ever gotten burned by a DIY sunscreen? Or have you only had great results from making your own? Let us know what happened in the comments below!
Mixing photo from flikr.