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Homemade sunscreen: A dangerous trend

This weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer. While we encourage you to turn to Pinterest for delicious picnic recipes, fun poolside activities, and cute home decor ideas, we also urge you to scroll past the DIY sunscreen directions.

The desire to take the "kitchen sink" approach to sun protection is understandable. You want to know what is going onto your skin. It appears to be a fun activity. With gorgeous graphics and compelling blog posts, some of these recipes do look legitimate. Unfortunately, these home remedies can be incredibly unsafe, and some can leave you more susceptible to the sun's harmful rays.

You cannot know for sure how effective your coverage will be without laboratory testing.

The FDA requires rigorous testing of our sun protection products because it is so difficult to achieve consistent results. Sunscreens are tested multiple times during the formulation process to ensure additional ingredients have not diluted the effectiveness of active ingredients, therefore lowering the product's SPF. Sunscreen formulas are then tested on human volunteers in a controlled environment. A lab again compares these results to ensure the SPF desired is the SPF achieved. And, merely looking at your skin after applying homemade sunscreen is not a substitute for these tests. Redness – or lack thereof – is only a loose indicator of how UVB rays were absorbed or deflected by your skin. A visual inspection offers no insight as to how well any product has protected the user from UVA rays, which more deeply penetrate the skin.

When it comes to protecting your skin, stick with a store-bought product with an SPF of 30 or higher.

And remember, your sunscreen is only effective if you follow the instructions on the package. As a general rule, you should:

  • Apply your sunscreen before you go into the sun.
  • Put your sunscreen on first, moisturizer and other products go on afterward.
  • Be sure to apply the proper amount of to your skin. (A tablespoon for your face and two ounces for your body is ideal. If you do not use enough, the effectiveness of your product could be up to 66% less than indicated on your product's label.)
  • Reapply every 2 hours or whenever you are exposed to water.
  • Use sunscreen consistently. You should be wearing your coverage daily, even when it's overcast.

Find a suspicious spot or mole while applying your sunscreen? Get it checked online immediately with DermatologistOnCall.

Our board-certified dermatologists are available 24/7/365 to help you address suspicious spots and moles or any condition of the hair, skin, or nails. It's easy, too! Log in to DermatologistOnCall. Answer a few questions about your health. Submit photos of the affected area. That's it! Within 72 hours, you'll have a diagnosis, treatment plan, and any prescriptions you may need. If further in-office treatment is necessary, your provider will be able to help you set that up as well.