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Your Healthy Family: For sun protection, skip the DIY formulas, study says

Posted at 9:09 AM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 11:11:34-04

With Memorial Day behind us, and Colorado now in the “Safer at home, and in the Great Outdoors” phase of our COVID-19 mitigation, it’s a good time to remind everyone to protect our skin from the sun.

That often means lots of sunscreen for many of us, but it’s best to avoid do-it-yourself varieties, according to a recent study.

Cleveland Clinic’s Melissa Piliang, M.D., did not take part in the research, but said homemade sunscreen recipes can actually be a recipe for sunburn.

“What the study found, was that most of the online recipes contained things like coconut oil, and essential oils - things that really have no sun-protective value,” she said. “And actually, when you put oils on the skin, it can let the sun penetrate deeper, and give you more sun exposure.”

The study looked at 189 homemade sunscreen recipes shared on social media.

Researchers found 95 percent of the social media posts made claims of the effectiveness of the sunscreens, and 68 percent recommended recipes with insufficient UV radiation protection.

Dr. Piliang said when it comes to choosing a sunscreen, you have to know if the product you’re using is actually protecting your skin from the sun.

She said it only takes one blistering sunburn to increase your risk of skin cancer.

And with more than five blistering sunburns before the age of 20, the risk for the most deadly form of skin cancer – melanoma – increases by 80 percent.

Dr. Piliang said there are two sunscreen ingredients that are considered to be both safe and effective – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – these are both physical blockers.

But if you’re worried about applying, and re-applying a lot of sunscreen to your body, there are other ways to protect yourself.

“The other alternative, especially for people who are really worried about putting chemicals on their skin, is to use sun-protective clothing,” said Dr. Piliang. “These are great options, you put it on in the morning, and you don’t have to think about it again during the day. You should still apply sunscreen to exposed skin, like your hands, your face, and the back of your neck.”

Dr. Piliang said it’s important to remember that we get sun exposure doing everyday things like walking our dogs, and going to and from our cars so protection is needed all the time, especially on the face and hands.

Complete results of the study can be found in the journal Health Communication.