Homemade sunscreen could be recipe for sunburns

Denise Dador Image
Saturday, June 1, 2019
Homemade sunscreen could be recipe for sunburns
Researchers are concerned about a popular do it yourself trend: homemade sunscreen. Recipes and videos for DIY sunscreens are all over YouTube and social media. Doctors want to raise awareness about the potential dangers.

Medical Assistant Cynthia Medina works in a dermatology office, so when a mole started to change on the back of her thigh, she knew it was a red flag.

"It looked like a shape of an 8 but it was very small" Medina said. "And on one of the little circles, there was more pigment."

It turned out to be a form of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

And it was caught early, so she didn't need to have surgery.

She's become more vigilant about sunscreen, so when Medina saw that people were sharing homemade sunscreen recipes online, she became curious.

She asked her boss, dermatologist Dr. Shirley Chi to take a look at some of the DIY sunscreen videos posted online.

DIY or "do it yourself" sunscreen recipes and video are everywhere. Chi says many of her patients, weary of chemical ingredients, often ask about trying them out.

"I think people like do-it-yourself stuff because they like to know where their stuff is sourced," said Chi.

But she says when you test the SPF claims of many of these coconut oil and other natural ingredient concoctions, they're absolutely untrue.

"One of the recipes that said the SPF was supposed to be 30 came out as SPF 8 when they made it themselves in the lab," Chi said.

New research from Nationwide Children's Hospital on DIY sunscreen recipes posted on Pinterest found nearly all the pins claimed some level of sun protection, some up to SPF 50.

But those claims weren't backed by testing.

"You're exposing yourself and your family to the risk of skin cancer if you do so. There's a reason why the FDA goes out and monitors sunscreens for efficacy and safety," Chi said.

Medina feels that people should stick with what is proven, because your life could depend on it.

She said, "Just go out and buy something that's medically approved."

Researchers are calling for more healthcare professionals to be aware and get involved online and in social media, to fight the misinformation.

Chi adds: "There's no safe way to make do it yourself sunscreen. #Don't do it!"