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Can You Make Your Own Sunscreen?


D.I.Y. beauty is having a major moment. If you want to make your own gel eyeliner or concoct a yummy body scrub, there’s an Internet how-to for that—no chemistry degree required. But are there some cosmetic products—like sunscreen—that you should never attempt yourself?

We came across this video from esthetician Jessica Bartley, host of EstheKitchen, whipping up her own natural sunscreen. Here’s the gist of it: The recipe includes beeswax, shea butter, extra virgin coconut oil (which she says has a natural SPF of 4), vitamin E oil, carrot seed oil (said to have SPF of 38 to 40), lavender essential oil, raspberry seed oil (with an SPF of 28 to 50), and grapefruit seed extract. The process required nothing more than a cook top and an immersion blender.

It sounds pretty harmless (and delicious), but is it safe? Experts say probably not. “Sunscreens go through rigorous testing to ensure that they provide adequate protection against sunburn-causing UVB and skin cancer-causing UVA rays,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He says it’s unlikely that at-home versions can compare to store-bought, FDA-monitored formulas. While Zeichner agrees that natural foods and botanicals can provide some degree of sun protection, proper formulation is key. “Even if they do block specific UV rays, you may not have adequate concentrations to give meaningful protection.” Translation: You may have a false sense of security while basking in the sunlight.

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We also ran the idea by someone who formulates skin care products for a living, cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. She points out that studies done on the SPF of natural “crude” oils (not the refined versions available on shelves) were performed on machines—not people. “No country allows SPF products to be sold to consumers without being tested on humans because the machine only gives a theoretical value,” Wilson says. And there aren’t any studies to show what actually happens when these natural oils are combined with other ingredients. They can actually lose their effectiveness.

The bottom line: Making your own sunscreen is a recipe for a bad sunburn. Play it safe and stick to the store-bought kind.

Have you ever tried to make your own sunscreen? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!


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