The Scary Reason You Shouldn't Trust Those DIY Sunscreen Ideas on Pinterest

Pinterest can be the driving force behind our healthiest habits. Need an abs workout, a sugar-free recipe, or tips on Marie Kondo-ing your home? This time-sucking app has you covered.

But unfortunately, not every colorful infographic on Pinterest is factually accurate. Most of the homemade sunscreen recipes shared by others on the social site lack the SPF level to properly protect skin from UV rays, according to a recent study.

The study, published in Health Communication, found that 95% of homemade sunscreen recipes on Pinterest claim to contain effective levels of SPF. However, 68% of those recipes actually contained insufficient SPF protection, researchers concluded. 

“This is concerning because the ingredients recommended in homemade sunscreen pins offer minimal scientifically proven broad-spectrum protection from UV radiation yet are widely shared and promoted as safe alternatives to commercial sunscreens on Pinterest,” the study reads. 

The study didn’t specify which recipes contain dangerously low levels of SPF, but ingredients like castor oil, coconut oil, and almond oil are repeatedly used in various Pinterest recipes. While natural oils sound like a wellness goldmine for skin, a 2010 study in Pharmacognosy Journal discovered that each ingredients contains very low SPF levels. Olive oil is 7.5 SPF, coconut oil is 7.1, and almond oil is a paltry 4.6.

That’s not to say every DIY sunscreen recipe is ineffective. Mary Gail Mercurio, MD, a professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, previously told Health that you can technically create an effective sunscreen—depending on the ingredients you put in it.

Zinc oxide, another common ingredient in homemade sunscreen recipes, is the main compound in many store-bought sunscreens and sunblocks; adding it into a homemade recipe can reduce the risk of sunburn.

But why take chances with your skin and increase your odds of a sunburn or skin cancer? Stick to store-bought brands, and use the study's recommendations as a guide for which ones to invest in: Go with FDA-approved sunscreens that are water-resistant, have an SPF of at least 30, and are broad spectrum (in other words, they protect against both UVA and UVB rays). 

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