Do It Yourself Sunscreen: A Recipe For Disaster

Photo by Antonio Gabola on Unsplash

Quarantine and lockdown have given us a lot of time to explore new creative outlets that we didn’t have the time to dive into pre-pandemic. You may have been scrolling through Pinterest or Tik Tok to find new DIY projects and may have stumbled upon a recipe for DIY sunscreen.


Before you start collecting your ingredients, read this to understand why you should not partake in these crafts.

Sunscreen is a protective factor against skin cancer, as well as to reduce the risks of ageing and wrinkling[1]. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect the skin against two types of UV radiation: UVA and UVB. High-quality sunscreens have shown effectiveness in reducing the development of squamous cell and malignant melanoma skin cancers by 40-50% [1]. Ingredients in sunscreens also play an important role in protection. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are physical ingredients that act as a barrier to deflect UV rays [2]. Chemical ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone can absorb UV radiation, making it disappear [1]. According to the United States FDA, one must choose a sunscreen with at least SPF 15, but if someone has a fairer complexion, a higher SPF of 30 or 50 should be chosen [3]Sunscreen products are widely and easily available, although their product classification may differ. In some countries such as the USA, they are considered over-the-counter drugs, but in others, they are considered cosmetics.

Websites such as Pinterest have been posting recipes for homemade sunscreens, using natural oils and ingredients usually mixed with shea butter (SPF 6) or beeswax as they have highly moisturising properties [1]. Oils such as coconut (SPF 1-7) or raspberry have also been widely cited on Pinterest. Raspberry oil was claimed to have a similar UV protection range to titanium dioxide, which is around 28-60. The problem with these ingredients is that using them alone does not provide sufficient UV protection [1]. Yes, some oils do have some UVB blocking capabilities, however, it is still too low to be considered protective. Photoprotection and water resistance are two main requirements of an effective sunscreen, both of which are not met using only natural ingredients. These recipes also included zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Although these are very effective ingredients, using them at home reduces their effectiveness, especially if they are not used in the correct distribution of formula [1]. Many of these pins include positive advertising, promoting health benefits and SPF claims after making it yourself, which is concerning [1].

DIY sunscreens have not been properly tested to ensure their safety and effectiveness. In this instance, social media has a negative light as incorrect information is being circulated. Very few recipes highlighted the concerns against using homemade sunscreens alone or did not mention the risks at all [1]. The perceived benefits to the average consumer, such as being a non-toxic, healthier alternative are appealing. However, more pins should advocate for natural, commercially available sunscreens that offer broad-spectrum protection, highlighting the risks of homemade sunscreens and the consequent hazards that may occur [1].

For more information about the importance of sunscreens, have a look at Nawaf Estifan’s article here:


[1] J. W. Merten, K. J. Roberts, J. L. King, and L. B. McKenzie, “Pinterest Homemade Sunscreens: A Recipe for Sunburn,” Health Communication, vol. 35, no. 9, pp. 1123–1128, Jul. 2020, doi: 10.1080/10410236.2019.1616442.

[2] M. Pandika, “Looking to Nature for New Sunscreens,” ACS Central Science, vol. 4, no. 7, pp. 788–790, Jul. 2018, doi: 10.1021/acscentsci.8b00433.

[3] “Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun | FDA.” (accessed Mar. 17, 2021).

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