Homemade sunscreen is a hot topic right now. With many mothers trying to limit the amount of chemicals their baby comes into contact with, I suppose it was only a matter of time before people started to DIY their sunscreen. But the burning question I myself faced was: is homemade sunscreen safe for my baby?
What’s in homemade sunscreen?
First of all, it’s important to note that there are hundreds, if not thousands of recipes for homemade sunscreen online (I’m looking at you, Pinterest!). Some homemade sunscreens simply contain a variety of essential oils. Some have beeswax, some have shea butter. Others include zinc oxide (which is commonly found in many mineral sunscreens). Almost all recipes I’ve seen call for coconut oil. Am I the only one that feels like people say coconut oil is good for damn near everything? I swear 70% of the questions parents ask on online forums receive the answer, “coconut oil”. Anyways, those are some of the common ingredients. Some recipes call for all of the above, some call for only a few.
So, is homemade sunscreen safe for babies?
The thing about making your own sunscreen is that there’s no possible way to know how much SPF you’re getting. And even if you knew how much you were getting, chances are it isn’t evenly dispersed, according to an actual cosmetic chemist. Nothing in homemade sunscreen is dangerous in and of itself. But taking your baby out in the sun and hoping that your homemade sunscreen works? Not the best idea out there. I would definitely recommend speaking with your doctor before using homemade sunscreen, at the very least.
Also, if a child gets a blistering sunburn early in life, they are 50% more likely to develop skin cancer. Is it really worth the risk? If you’re trying to be more mindful of what you put on your child’s body, why not try a mineral sunscreen rather than a chemical one? I know it’s not quite the same as slathering on some coconut oil and calling it good… But it’s better than chemical sunscreen and has actually been through proper testing. (Note: Consumer Reports consistently finds them less effective than chemical sunscreens, but they are still a better option than going the DIY route.)
The technicians that make sunscreen have homogenizers to properly disperse that zinc oxide. They don’t use a blender or food processor. They also put their sunscreens through rigorous testing to make sure it has a reliable SPF. Sunscreen should be made in a lab, not a kitchen.
There’s an ARTICLE that talks in depth about trying to make sunscreen. She took her concoctions to a lab to get the SPF tested, and lo and behold, they were not as high as she imagined. And she knows her stuff. Most of the people on Pinterest are whipping out their trusty old Black & Decker food processors and hoping for the best. If you’re not using zinc, then you’re mixing a bunch of oils that have an SPF of 1-7. If you are using zinc, it more than likely isn’t evenly dispersed. So while some clumps of your sunscreen may be effective, not all of it is.
What can I do instead?
The obvious answer is to keep your baby out of the sun, particularly during peak hours (between 10am and 4pm). However, that’s not always possible. Depending on the heat outside, dress your little one in clothes that cover the majority of her skin, and put a hat on that little head. However, if it’s burning hot, you don’t want your darling in long sleeves and pants. You can use an umbrella or the cover on your stroller/car seat. Just remember, it’s not recommended to use a blanket as a source of shade over a car seat, that can cause the inside of the car seat to become hot (like, dangerously hot!).
Also, according to the AAP, all babies, even newborns, are okay to wear sunscreen if they absolutely need to. They suggest using a very small amount rather than slathering it on. I know many people say to wait until six months, so please feel free to bring it up with your doctor. I’m not sure if this is a new guideline or not, as I generally hear people say to wait until six months.
Want even more resources?
THIS article goes into great detail about why essential oils aren’t effective sunblock (and it’s written by Formula Botanica which is a school for organic, natural skincare, and they say they do not teach their students how to make sunscreen)
THIS article, by Consumer Reports, talks all about homemade sunscreen and it’s dangers.
THIS article by the Huffington Post is backed by an actual doctor, not some stranger on the internet.
THIS article speaks with an actual cosmetic chemist.
THIS article is aptly titled, “Homemade Sunscreen is a Definite Don’t”. Enough said.
Have you made homemade sunscreen? Do you think it’s a good or bad idea? Let me know in the comments if you’d use homemade sunscreen on your baby. Don’t forget to share this with all your (well-meaning) friends!