If you’re heading down to the beach this summer and want to avoid sunburn, don’t forget your avocado oil, beeswax, and carrot seed essential oil. That’s according to various Pinterest users who have been sharing their own recipes for DIY sunscreens online. However, scientists are warning us not to listen.
According to Pinterest user Pronounce Skincare, who sells “healthy deodorant” among other things, “the overwhelming majority of sunscreens on the market are, well… horrific” and “cancer causing”.
Ironically, the sunscreens we use actually defend us from cancer and do a pretty good job.
"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," Dr Lara McKenzie said in a statement.
"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."
McKenzie is part of a team of scientists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the University of North Florida who recently conducted a study published in the journal Health Communication. They examined the presence of DIY sunscreens on Pinterest, and looked at how they were portrayed.
The researchers found that 95 percent of pins or bookmarks for homemade sunscreens positively portrayed the products as effective alternatives to regular sunscreens. However, 68 percent of DIY sunscreen recipes produced sunscreens with insufficient UV protection.
UV refers to the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. Excessive exposure to UV radiation can damage DNA within skin cells, leading to cancer-causing mutations. About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are linked to sun exposure, and it is also thought to frequently play a role in the development of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, particularly in light-skinned people. To effectively protect our skin, we need to use sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
A third of the DIY sunscreens on Pinterest claimed to have sun protection factors (SPF) of between 2 and 50. However, the researchers caution that the sunscreens contain ingredients with insufficient evidence to suggest they protect against UVB and UVA. If you’re wondering what these ingredients might be, they include beeswax, myrrh essential oil, carrot seed essential oil, coconut oil, and shea butter.
On average, each online pin had been saved 808 times, with one being saved over 21,700 times – a worrying sign that many people are not effectively protecting themselves, and their children, from the Sun.
Thankfully, the researchers note some handy tips for how best to protect your skin from the Sun’s damaging rays. First, you should always use an FDA-approved sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. They also recommend using waterproof sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30.
Second, the researchers say that you should apply sunscreen about half an hour before heading out into the Sun and reapply it every two hours. It’s also important to encourage children to use sunscreen, so that they pick up the habit. Finally, always make sure your sunscreen is still in date. If it’s out of date or looks weird, then throw it out and get a new bottle.
Chemical sunscreens are totally safe, but if you really hate the idea of using them, you can always try a mineral alternative. Just don’t make your own one out of carrot oil and beeswax, it won’t protect your skin from the Sun’s harmful rays.