Don't Be Fooled: Why DIY Sunscreens Are a Recipe for Disaster (And What to Look for Instead)

29. Jun 2024


The Rise of DIY and the Risks of Homemade Sunscreen

DIY projects have taken social media by storm, and skincare is no exception. However, when it comes to sun protection, replicating a product in your kitchen can be a risky proposition. Take, for instance, a recent TikTok video by Nara Smith, where she and her husband attempt to create their own sunscreen. While the video might have garnered attention, it highlights a crucial concern: the dangers of relying on DIY sunscreen for adequate sun protection.

But has she pushed it a little too far with her latest TikTok video?

Nara and her husband, model Lucky Blue Smith, share their recipe for DIY sunscreen with her 8 million TikTok followers. “We've been spending a lot of time outside by the pool, and I realized we ran out of sunscreen,” Nara narrates. This time, it's Lucky behind the kitchen counter; according to Nara, he's a baker, so he makes sure everything is "very precisely" measured. 

He is using a measuring spoon from the kitchen to whip up a sunscreen like it's baking a chocolate cake. He then continues to mixing up coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil in a bowl then liquifies it on the stove. Once the ingredients are melted, he adds a sprinkle of zinc oxide powder - from an unknown source so not sure if this is even zinc oxide powder as it could anything - and mixes it with a whisk before transferring it to a jar to solidify in the fridge. 

“We all burn pretty easily, so we went with something with a little bit more SPF,” Nara explains in the video.

And I am sure you will continue to burn using this as your go-to sun protection. They are not sharing the recipe in the video but the danger, that million of their followers might be inspired to do it themselves for their family and young kids and starting to google "how to make my own sunscreen at home" - as there is frightenedly plenty of DIY sunscreen recipes to be found on the internet. 

Yes, Zinc Oxide is in sunscreen but there is a difference between Zinc Oxide. You can learn more about this topic in my latest YouTube video "Is your Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide your friends or foes?"

Questions that should go through your head right now, instead of being bedazzled by those two models looks would be:

  • Does adding a dash of zinc powder randomly purchased or used from another household cabinet at home sufficient to provide me with enough protection?
  • The powder available on Amazon, is this a high-grade powder?
  • Do I have the equipment to actually mix sunscreen properly?
  • And how do I determine the UVA and UVB ray in my sunscreen to see how effective it is? 

And the answer to all these question is a simple: No.

Of course, we can make everything at home. We can build our own pool, build our own home from scratch or try to make a rocket and fly to mars. But the question you should ask yourself if you actually should - would you have a clear conscious if you are applying this onto your child, that your child is well protected from the harmful rays. 

What Nara and Lucky Smiths are essentially serving is a body butter with a side of zinc powder. It is far from the real deal and a sunscreen that will protect you from UVA and UVB. 

And it is perfectly fine for you to make your own body butter, lip balm or even hydrating mist. As these things are not dangerous and won't have severe health consequences. Unless you continue to apply it when its moldy. But if you are making a DIY sunscreen - that will have severe health risks. 

The Importance of Proper Sun Protection

Sun damage is a leading cause of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in most countries globally. Effective sunscreen significantly reduces your risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Additionally, UV rays accelerate the signs of aging, leading to wrinkles, sunspots, and loss of skin elasticity. By prioritizing proper sun protection, you're not just safeguarding your health, you're also investing in the long-term beauty of your skin.

There are over 19,000 melanoma cases reported in UK and over 20,000 melanoma cases in Germany every year. It is expected that we will have a 50% increase in melanoma by 2040 globally. And if you are not interested in your health then at least do it for your vanity's sake that you avoid premature aging. 

But what is so fundamentally wrong with the formulation that these two are mixing together? 

The Allure and the Peril of DIY Sunscreens

On the surface, a DIY sunscreen might seem like a fun, budget-friendly alternative. But when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays, safety should always be the top priority. Here's why those seemingly harmless kitchen concoctions can actually put your health at risk:

  • Uneven Protection: Kitchen tools simply aren't equipped to properly distribute key ingredients like zinc oxide. This leaves unprotected areas on your skin, essentially creating gaps in your sun defense.
  • Missing Crucial Ingredients: Formulated sunscreens contain essential components like stabilizers and polymers. These ensure a continuous film on your skin for long-lasting protection, something a DIY mixture simply can't replicate.
  • Mold Growth: Without preservatives, DIY sunscreens can quickly become breeding grounds for mold. Applying moldy concoctions to your skin can lead to irritation and even infection.
  • Unreliable SPF: DIY versions often lack the rigorous testing required to determine their actual SPF rating. This leaves you vulnerable to powerful UV rays, potentially leading to sunburn and increased skin cancer risk. And no, you cannot calculate at home using a calculator. Yes, unfortunately, I have found numerous articles on the internet about this as well. 
  • Heavy Metal Risk: Sourcing zinc oxide from nature can be risky, as it may contain harmful contaminants. Look for synthetic, lab-created zinc oxide for guaranteed safety.

And while it looks inviting to see this man with his shirt unbotton sprinkle some zinc into his DIY body butter, it won't do much to protect you from the sun UV rays. Your dopamine will certainly spike by the look of him a la Desperate Housewives moment.

Sunscreens are one of the most challenging formulations to develop.


Ditch the DIY Risk, Embrace Safe Protection

Sunscreen is a vital part of your daily skincare routine. Don't gamble with your health by relying on an unproven DIY concoction. Instead, choose a safety-assessed-recommended sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection and a comfortable feel. Explore options like NAYA's Everyday Sun Cream SPF 50+ for comprehensive sun defense that won't weigh down your skin.

At Naya, we believe in the power of science-backed formulas. Our sunscreens are carefully crafted with high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade ingredients to provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. They're also rigorously tested to ensure their SPF and UVA rating and safety.

Beyond the "Natural" Myth

I was shocked when looking into it more, only to realise how ignorant I was. DIY Sunscreen is fairly popular on TikTok with the 'All natural everything' community; considering that Zinc Oxide isn't even natural. Yes, we find it naturally in nature. However, the stuff we find in nature, you don't want to apply this on your skin. As the majority of zinc oxide is contaminated with heavy metals and instead suppliers produce zinc oxide synthetically in a lab. You can find out more on this and that Zinc Oxide isn't your all natural sun protection either on my latest YouTube Video. 

And if there are people that neither want to use inorganic nor organic, your natural oils are not protecting you. Yes, it might work for a plant but it doesn't work for our human skin. There is no such thing as a natural sunscreen active ingredient.  Despite what the name may suggest, even store-bought mineral (inorganic) sunscreen formulas are not “natural.” Their active ingredients—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—are technically naturally occurring minerals, but synthetic versions are used in sunscreen formulations. 

So you heard it here first. 

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