It's that time of year again: summer, my favorite of all the seasons. The weather is beautiful. The sun is shining and warm. We're out gardening or hitting the beach or exercising outdoors. If you are like me, you are religious about your sunblock application. Daily and multiples times throughout the day.
There are a lot of products, clearly, that I make and love to create. While I thoroughly love the scientific formulation process, I understand my limitations and what is beyond my scope of ability. Sun protectant is one of those products you will never find me making for personal use and especially not for sale. A sun protectant works by either blocking, scattering, reflecting, or absorbing the sun's rays to protect your skin cells from radiation. A sunscreen is a chemical sun protectant that absorbs the rays to protect your skin, whereas a sunblock forms a physical shield on your skin, thus blocking the rays. (While I have my own preference, the type used is up to the individual; frankly, I simply want everyone to use any kind of sun protectant.)
Proper sun protectant effectiveness requires rigorous lab testing to ensure efficacy. A product labeled sunscreen or sunblock must have an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating which is regulated by the FDA. There is so much research that goes into the process of developing a sun protectant that will block both UVA and UVB rays. It must be scrupulously tested in a lab to ensure it actually works and that is safe for your skin.
Sadly, there are numerous DIY homemade recipes on the internet that tout to be effective and safe. The base of these "recipes" is a generic lotion or body butter with some zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tossed in, as there are commercial sunblocks that use those in their formula. Unless it has been tested in a lab, there is zero evidence that a DIY sunblock is safe or will protect your skin. UVB rays are what primarily cause the painful red sunburns. While a DIY formula may prevent burns, you have no idea how effective it is against UVA rays, the ones that cause the invisible damage such as photoaging. UVA damages the collagen and elastin in the skin, leading to wrinkles, sun spots, and more. Both UVA and UVB can also lead to more dangerous issues, such as skin cancer.
The even scarier part is finding numerous indie brands selling their own sunblocks. Can an indie brand make an effective and safe sun protectant? Absolutely, and those brands have paid to have their product evaluated and tested (which is not cheap). However, there are other indie brands that are dangerously selling their products after finding some DIY recipe off of Pinterest. What tips me off is their incorrect cosmetic labeling not following regulations: not in INCI format, ingredients not in descending order of dominance, no SPF indication, and more. These brands make false claims that each ingredient has their own "known" SPF rating, and inaccurately add the values up in their product using the "safe" misnomer. (For instance, shea butter having a "natural" rating of 6-10 SPF.) This is dangerous, misleading, and wrong.
Bottom line, please do not make your own sun protectant. Ensure you trust the brand you are buying from. Ultimately, it is your skin, however your skin is your largest organ, protect it!