Why You Can’t Count on DIY Sunscreens

DIY sunscreens

With the rising concerns over sunscreen ingredients and the popularity of internet do-it-yourself instructions, people are exploring making their own DIY or homemade sunscreens. Safe and effective sunscreens are, however, actually very difficult to make.

Hey Badger, are you just trying to get us to buy your sunscreens?

The goal of this blog is not to sell you on Badger sunscreen. We love DIY, and encourage you to go ahead and make any of our other products at home. But, sunscreens are different. As over-the-counter drugs regulated by the FDA, sunscreens require rigorous manufacturing procedures and testing to ensure that they are safe and effective. When you make your own homemade sunscreen, you are playing a game of chance with possible repercussions of skin damage and skin cancer.

So, why can’t I just make a cream or lotion and add zinc oxide powder?

You can, and it may help to prevent sunburn, but it’s very difficult to do right and you will have no idea how much protection your product would offer. If done improperly the zinc oxide or titanium dioxide particles may clump up, or settle to the bottom of your homemade sunscreen, then you would be getting limited or no protection from the sun. Furthermore, if not properly preserved, your DIY sunscreen can easily grow bacteria and mold, which you may not see and don’t want on your skin.

If done improperly the zinc oxide or titanium dioxide particles may clump up, leaving you unprotected. The streaky image on the left, run through a grind gauge test, shows a poor dispersion and uneven coverage. The image on the right shows a good dispersion, which deposits the minerals uniformly on the skin.
If done improperly the zinc oxide or titanium dioxide particles may clump up, leaving you unprotected. The streaky image on the left, run through a grind gauge test, shows a poor dispersion and uneven coverage. The image on the right shows a good dispersion, which deposits the minerals uniformly on the skin.

What about using just natural oils as a sunscreen?

You may have read internet articles on how plant oils such as coconut oil, carrot seed oil, raspberry seed oil, and others can be used as sunscreens. Some of these articles are just misinterpretations of scientific publications. However, some natural oils, such as coconut oil, may actually offer some level of sunburn protection. This may be due to its anti-inflammatory properties, not from any actual blocking of UV rays, and the effectiveness will vary widely depending on whose oil you use. No natural oils offer the full broad spectrum SPF 15-30 protection that you should be using. These oils may be great for moisturizing your skin or for other purposes, but they should not be used in place of sunscreen.

Why are sunscreens, especially natural ones, so expensive anyway?

Three reasons: expensive ingredients, expensive processing, and expensive testing. Organic plant oils, organic beeswax and recycled mineral powders cost far more than the chemicals that make up conventional sunscreens. In order to mix these ingredients together into a stable and smooth consistency, it takes time and special mixers. Additionally, all sunscreens undergo rigorous independent testing to ensure that they have adequate SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and stable formulations guaranteed to last for 2-3 years. Water resistance and broad spectrum protection testing are also required if such claims are made. Optional additional testing that Badger submits our sunscreens to include biodegradability, non-comedogenic, non-nanoparticle, hypoallergenic and more.

If you are interested in making your own homemade sunscreens in order to avoid controversial ingredients, the good news is there are several brands that are already doing this for you. By law, they all pass all the same safety and efficacy testing as chemical sunscreens. A good place to start your research is with the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide.

What you are paying for when you buy sunscreen is the guarantee that it will safely and effectively protect you and your family. Of course the best protection from the sun is common sense. Avoid the sun during peak hours, and always wear a hat and cover up your skin. See all of our Slow Sun suggestions on our website.

Here are a couple reputable links for further reading on the topic:

Mayo Clinic’s article on why coconut oil is not an effective sunscreen

The President of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery Warns Against Dangers of Homemade Sunscreen

What do you think about homemade sunscreen? Voice your opinion in the comments below!

Chris Hamilton has been an E-Commerce, Sales & Marketing consultant with Badger since 2007. With a background in science and education he has helped with product and ingredient research and sourcing and has written educational pieces for the Badger website and other marketing materials. Chris does most of Badger's product photography and has shot and edited all of Badger's videos. Chris also maintains Badger's website and e-commerce strategies. Chris is an avid surfer, a traveler, and a deep house music DJ, and he also owns a video production company In the Wild Productions. Chris's favorite Badger products: Sleep Balm, All Cocoa Butter Lip Balms, & SPF35 Sport Sunscreen Stick.

11 comments on “Why You Can’t Count on DIY Sunscreens

  • problem is also LOTS of small boutique brand sunscreens out there also who are not FDA compliant. Not made in FDA approved labs etc. Claiming “approximate SPF values”. I had one brand actually tell me they use amounts of zinc that exceed FDA limits on percentage allowable. So while I don’t necessarily disagree with your article, I think there are many companies out there that are not making good products and not going through all the FDA regulations.

  • I was thinking about writing for this theme on my beauty blog, because in Spain many people is SENDING handmade but NOT LEGAL cosmetics, and they also send sunblock. It’s really dangerous, if someone try to make sunblock DIY he/she needs a laboratory to measure the sun block absorbance and need to know how “thin” is the layer should uses on skin. It’s really difficult to a single person without a laboratory and some expensive machines. And dangerous, as you say. In fact my other two favorite natural cosmetics brands don’t make sunblock because of the difficulty they find in Europe ( they are very very small enterprises ).

    Sorry by my poor english :(.

    • Hi Inma!

      Do not worry, your English is great! 🙂 It is interesting to hear that you have a similar issue in Spain. The EU does have a lot of restrictions around sunscreen – but that is a good thing!

      Thank you for stopping by the blog and leaving a comment.

      Warm wishes to you from New Hampshire, USA!

  • I was thinking about trying to make DIY sunscreen for myself with some materials I had on hand for my soap business, but thought better of it (for all the reasons you mention above). I would not be able to know the effectiveness of what I made, and I would not want to endanger myself or my kids. Thanks for the article!

    • Thanks for reading, Molly!

      I’m an avid DIY-er myself, and if I didn’t know as much as I do about the sunscreen manufacturing process I’d probably be tempted to make my own at home, too! We wanted to share the knowledge we have acquired because it is a matter of safety and we care about you! 🙂



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