DIY Sunscreen: 3 Reasons Why Making Homemade Sunscreen Isn’t Safe

by Gio
why you shouldn't make diy sunscreen

So, you’re a DIYer who loves making her skincare products and wants to try her hand at homemade sunscreen?

Or a chemophobe who’s afraid the chemicals in sunscreen will kill you?

Are you tired of spending a fortune on sunscreen and want to save by making your own?

I’ve got news for you: DIY is dangerous. It doesn’t work and it puts you at risk of skin cancer.

Heck, even skincare schools like Formula Botanica, who make their money by teaching people how to make organic skincare products, warn you against making your own sunscreen.

Sunscreen ain’t like other skincare products. Get a moisturiser wrong and you may end up with pimples or an irritation. Not pleasant, but you’ll live to tell the tale.

Get sunscreen wrong and you may end up with skin cancer. That’s much more serious, isn’t it?

Truth is, making your own sunscreen is way more complicated than you think. It just can’t be done at home. Here why:

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Make DIY Sunscreen

1. Natural Oils Don’t Provide Adequate Sun Protection

The key ingredients in a lot of DIY sunscreen recipes are natural oils. Rumour has it, they provide natural sun protection.

BS. Natural oils CAN’T and DON’T provide enough sun protection. Their SPF levels are ridiculously low.

Don’t believe me? A 2010 study has calculated the SPF of some common natural oils. Here are the results:

  • Almond oil: 4.6
  • Castor oil: 5.6
  • Coconut oil: 7.1
  • Lavender oil: 5.6
  • Olive oil: 7.5
  • Rose oil: 0.2

Even the oil with the highest SPF, coconut oil, has an SPF of only 7! That’s way below SPF 15, the MINIMUM recommended by dermatologists.

Oh, in case you’re wondering… “But what about this other oil that’s not on the list? I’ve read it has a high SPF…”

Look, girlfriend, I don’t care what you’ve read over the internet. NO OIL provides adequate sun protection.

Don’t you think that if coconut oil or something provided adequate sun protection, skincare brands wouldn’t ditch chemical UV filters and use those instead? Just image how much money they’d make with this move.

But they can’t. Because they DON’T WORK!!

P.S. To add insult to injury, some oils can increase your risk of sunburns. Citrus oils are the worst culprits!

Related: Why You CAN’T Use Coconut Oil As Sunscreen

2. You Can’t Measure SPF Anyway

Let’s say you’ve found a DYI sunscreen recipe that uses zinc oxide instead. That’s a proper UV filter, right?

Yep. But that doesn’t mean it provides adequate sun protection. You can’t add a dollop of zinc oxide to a mixture and magically have SPF 50.

You have to test the DIY sunscreen to figure out if you’ve added enough zinc oxide to reach the desired SPF. Do you have the tools at home to do this? Thought so.

“But Gio,” I hear ya say, “I’m testing my DIY sunscreen on myself. I slather it on my arm, go outside and don’t get burned.”

So, what? I’ve got news for you. Just because you didn’t get burn, it doesn’t mean your skin wasn’t damaged.

Think about it. How many times did you go out without sunscreen – come on, we all did it as kids before we knew how important sunscreen is – and didn’t get a sunburn? UV rays weren’t strong enough to give you one.

Instead, they damaged your cellular DNA, collagen, elastin etc. All that damage is showing up now in the forms of wrinkles and dark spots.

I’ll repeat it: just because you didn’t get a sunburn, it doesn’t mean your sunscreen is working. Unless you’re testing it in a lab, there’s no way of knowing how high the SPF is.

And if you don’t know the SPF, how do you know how long you can safely stay outside?! For the love of your skin, don’t risk it.

3. Formulating With Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide Is A Bitch

Excuse the strong language, but if you’ve ever tried to make a DIY sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (two natural UV filters), you’ll understand my frustration.

Here’s the deal: SPF isn’t determined just by the ingredients you use. The manufacturing technique matters a lot, too. If you can’t make your sunscreen in a way that disperses UV filters evenly, your sunscreen won’t work.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have the annoying tendency to clump in your formula. That means that some parts of the mixture will have higher SPF while others will have lower SPF.

If you use a home blender that can’t disperse zinc oxide properly, most of the zinc oxide will fall at the bottom of the tube/jar (or wherever it is you store the final mixture). The first few times you use it, you won’t have adequate sun protection.

Only with professional lab equipment you can formulate a sunscreen that disperses UV filters evenly. And even that takes professional formulators a lot of trial and error.

While we’re on the subject of formulation, you also have to make sure no other ingredients in the formula interacts with the UV filters and compromises their SPF. Yes, that can happen.

One more thing: the finished formula must be stable. If it oxidises or spoils too soon, you’re back at square one.

The Bottom Line

Making DIY sunscreen isn’t as easy as it seems. If you don’t get anything absolutely right, your sunscreen won’t work. And even then you have no way to measure its SPF. Without it, how can you know it’s keeping you safe? Don’t risk it.

What are your thoughts on DIY sunscreen? Share them in the comments below.

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10 comments

Trisha March 11, 2014 - 5:12 pm

Wow, I had no idea people were making their own sunscreen. I’ll follow your advice and stick with store-bought.

Reply
Gio March 11, 2014 - 8:40 pm

Trisha, there are lots of recipes online that teach you how to make your own sunscreen and, unfortunately, many people use them to avoid chemicals or to save money. Sadly, these recipes don’t work and they do more damage than good. I’m all for DIY, but sometimes it’s best to stick with well-formulated and tested, bought in stores, products.

Reply
Celina March 11, 2014 - 11:20 pm

Wow definitely learning new things everyday, I had no idea people tried to make their own sunscreen! I’d be much too terrified to 🙁

Reply
Gio March 12, 2014 - 9:29 pm

Celina, me too! There’s no way of knowing how well it works. It’s just too dangerous.

Reply
MonicaP March 11, 2014 - 11:25 pm

Um, no I wouldn’t make my own sunscreen .. lol…with my luck it wouldn’t work and I’d get fried!

Monica, http://www.pear-shaped-gal.com

Reply
Gio March 12, 2014 - 9:30 pm

Monica, smart girl! It’s just too difficult to make one at home, and you don’t want to end up with a bad sunburn or worse!

Reply
audrey March 8, 2017 - 5:35 am

Wow maybe i’m too deep into natural and organic skincare world that seeing people make their own sunscreen is not a strange or eyebrow-raising at all. I was tempted to try it but never got to it because i’m just too lazy. And you’re right, zinc oxide is such a bitch to mix with. And i applaud companies that are trying their best to make the white cast disappear for us so we can enjoy the sun safely without looking like a white ghost.

Reply
Gio March 17, 2017 - 7:33 pm

Audrey, DIY can be great but when it comes to sunscreen, it only gives you a headache. And there’s no way to measure how well it works. Just because your skin isn’t getting a sunburn, it doesn’t mean there’s no sun damage.

Reply
audrey March 18, 2017 - 3:00 pm

Well said! Yesterday I almost forgot to wear sunscreen because it’s raining heavily outside that it looks super dark. Luckily I remembered your article and used sunscreen anyways. Rain or shine 🙂

Reply
Gio March 18, 2017 - 6:59 pm

Glad to be of help Audrey! 🙂

Reply

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