Are Do-it-Yourself Sunscreens Safe?

Are Do-it-Yourself Sunscreens Safe? - Sun50

It is very important to put self-care into your daily routine, especially when it comes to using sunscreen. While homemade sunscreen recipes may seem like a healthy option for those trying to avoid toxic chemicals, doctors warn it’s a dangerous substitute for commercial sunscreen brands. Dr. Shirley Chi, a board-certified dermatologist at the Center for Advanced Dermatology in Arcadia, California, shares her medical expertise and advice on what to look for in sunscreens.

Sun50:  Why is DIY sunscreen dangerous? 

Dr. Chi: “The short answer is the FDA (U.S Food & Drug Administration) tests and regulates commercial sunscreen brands to ensure they meet safety and effectiveness standards. If you make sunscreen at home, there is no way to test the effectiveness of your sunscreen for broad-spectrum UVA and UVB coverage, water resistance, or stability. It is very risky to rely on sun protection that has not been lab tested for effectiveness of use.

Aside from the lack of proper lab testing for effectiveness, chances are you will not be making your homemade sunscreen in a sterile lab environment. Commercial brand sunscreens are made in a sterile lab, free of airborne nanoparticles, in a controlled temperature, by scientists wearing hazmat suits. A sterile lab environment is super clean, preserving the quality of the product and shelf-life accuracy. This is nearly impossible to create at home.”

Sun50:  With so many brands on the market, what should I look for when buying my sunscreen?

Dr. Chi: “For total coverage you need a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a SPF 30. I personally prefer mineral based sunscreens and recommend the same for my patients with sensitive skin. Mineral based sunscreens generally use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which create a physical barrier for your skin, reflecting and scattering sunlight away from your body. They tend to feel smooth and elegant, with a less chalky appearance on your skin. La Roche-Posay is the most solid sunscreen company in the world in my opinion. They provide a great blend of chemical and mineral sunscreen options. And I am not a paid spokesperson for them!”

Sun50: As a dermatologist, what is your personal sunscreen routine?

Dr. Chi: “My skin is so sensitive, but I do use SPF 30 mineral based sunscreen on my face and exposed skin daily. The most important thing to remember is to apply enough. People forget you need one shot glass full of sunscreen for your entire face and body for proper application. Depending on water or outdoor activity, you need to reapply frequently.    

My kids have had a sunburn and believe me, I felt like such a failure for this, but we are all humans and we make mistakes. It is never too late to apply sunscreen. If you forget one day, then do it the next. Find a sunscreen that suits you and make it a daily habit.”