Homemade Sunscreens Shared on Pinterest May Do More Harm than Good image

Nearly all—95 percent—of pins for homemade sunscreen found on Pinterest positively portrayed the effectiveness of the sunscreen and most—68 percent—recommended recipes for homemade sunscreens that offered insufficient UV protection, according to a new study in the Health Communication journal.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) claims were made in a third of pins with a range of SPF 2 to SPF 50, which is concerning as 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, says study author Julie Merten, PhD an associate professor of public health in the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida

“Images will be widely shared because they have a pretty picture or a catchy headline, however, the information can be completely misleading,” says Merten in a news release. “Just because you make it yourself or something is labeled as natural, organic, non-toxic or has fewer ingredients, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer.”

In fact, the recipes reviewed in the study had varying SPF claims, ranging from 2 to 50 but unfortunately, the claims can’t be confirmed or tested when you make your own sunscreen. Some of the ingredients do offer some inherent protections but not to the level of commercially available sunscreens, she notes.

“When it comes to protecting your skin, use a commercially available, FDA-approved sunscreen,” she says. “Resist the urge to DIY when it comes to sunscreen. Readers can use the internet for recipes for food; not for products intended to protect them.”

As a result of this study, Merten suggests the public should seek sources like health care organizations and government agency websites such as the Centers for Disease Control to verify ideas from social media.

Photo credit: UNF Staff Photographer Jennifer Grissom

Photo caption: Dr. Julie Merten, an associate professor of public health in the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida, has a new study she led that examines how homemade sunscreens were portrayed on Pinterest and whether people should be using organic sunscreen products that aren’t regulated.