Scientists say you really, really shouldn’t use homemade sunscreen from a recipe on Pinterest

20th May 19 | Beauty

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t necessarily give the best protection against sunburn.

Girl applying sun lotion on the beach

There’s an increasing number of people wanting to make their own health and beauty products, from homemade soap to body butter, all with organic ingredients.

In theory it sounds good – it’s greener and possibly cheaper. However, one thing you shouldn’t try is cooking up your own version of sunscreen from a recipe you got on Pinterest. Homemade sunblock has become such an online trend that actual scientists felt the need to conduct research into how safe these Pinterest recipes really are.

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Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Brooks College of Health at University of North Florida have published their findings in Health Communication and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s not good news for DIY sunscreen.

On Pinterest, users can ‘pin’ pictures and recipes they like, which is essentially the same as bookmarking them. The study found that 68% of the recipes for homemade sunscreen they looked at “offered insufficient UV radiation protection” – despite nearly all of them claiming effectiveness.

It’s hard to know how many people have actually been making and using these recipes as sunscreen, but they’re undoubtedly popular on the site: the average number of saves for DIY sun protection pin was 808, with the number going up as high as 21,700 on one.

If you take a look at some of these recipes, they very much look like a delightful moisturiser with ingredients like almond oil, beeswax and shea butter. Most include zinc oxide, which claims to protect your skin against the sun’s harmful rays. A lot of the bloggers who make these recipes say they’re doing so because regular, shop-bought sun creams have too many chemicals and they think they can interfere with your hormone system – but these claims are all unsubstantiated.

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Co-author of the study, Dr Lara McKenzie, has a pretty bleak view of these recipes. She says: “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.”

Needless to say, you should absolutely be wearing sunscreen as much as possible – if not every day, at least when the sun’s out. It protects your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, reducing your chance of developing skin cancer. According to the NHS, skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, and the risks can be reduced by wearing sunscreen and limiting your time in the sun when it’s at full strength.

Instead of trying to make your own cream and risking sunburn, Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommends you use properly vetted products which protect against both UVA and UVB rays, are water resistant and have an SPF of 30 or more.

It also suggests you regularly apply sunscreen on children from an early age, apply early and often on a sunny day and throw out expired products.

© Press Association 2019