Nara Smith's Homemade Sunscreen: Is it a Trend Worth Trying?

Some people are turning to homemade sunscreen as an alternative to commercial products and using social media tutorials as a guide. But is DIY sunblock safe and effective?

Recently, debates over sunscreen and sunblock use have popped up across social media platforms. For instance, a May 13 X post commenting about a vitamin D study had X users reeling after the post's creator suggested people should stop using sunscreen with an SPF 50 to facilitate vitamin D absorption.

In addition, television personality Kristin Cavallari recently revealed that she doesn't wear sunscreen. In response to her confession, dermatologists reiterated that sunscreen is essential protection against ultraviolet radiation and urged people not to follow suit.

ADVERTISEMENT

Moreover, some people are looking for alternatives to commercial products due to concerns about sunscreen safety. These worries emerged after research found that some chemicals in sunscreen products may be neurotoxic, carcinogenic, or disrupt endocrine function.

Now, a new trend involving DIY sunscreen has surfaced, sparked by TikTokers, like Nara Smith, posting videos demonstrating how to make sunblock at home. The soft-spoken model and social media influencer has gained a following due to her outlandish and extravagant recipes where she makes cereal, chewing gum, among many other things from scratch.

While her and her husband, Lucky Blue Smith's, homemade sunscreen concoction is touted as an alternative to commercial sunscreen products, whether DIY creams like this actually work is less certain.

@naraazizasmith🤍 #fypツ #easyrecipe #sun #fromscratch #skincare #marriage ♬ Just Give Me One More Day - Alej

Is homemade sunscreen safe and effective?

According to the video tutorial, the primary ingredients in the handmade sunscreen concoction are zinc oxide, beeswax, and oils such as coconut and jojoba oil.

Linas Černiauskas, health content researcher at Healthnews, says that zinc oxide (and titanium dioxide) are generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

ADVERTISEMENT

"As a physical SPF, it works similarly to a mirror when applied to the skin — creating a barrier that reflects harmful UV rays away from the skin or scatters them. It is a broad-spectrum SPF, meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays," Černiauskas explains.

Using a sunscreen with a broad-spectrum SPF is critical for preventing several types of skin cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Still, Černiauskas says there are some safety concerns with homemade sunscreen.

"Coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil are often used in cosmetics, and no notable toxicity reports have been published," Černiauskas explains. "However, this at-home formulation should be approached with caution as it contains allergens and may cause adverse skin reactions for some."

Other reasons why DIY sunscreen may be unsafe include:

  • Homemade versions may have unclear ingredient quantities, and different batches may yield different results.
  • The ingredients and storage containers might not be sterile, so the product can become contaminated with bacteria, viruses, fungi, and unicellular or multicellular organisms, which can be hazardous to health.
  • According to the international SPF test method, homemade sunscreen lacks comprehensive testing, and it is impossible to say how much SPF it provides.

Considering this, Černiauskas says, "It's impossible to know the efficacy of this formulation. Simply put, it is unclear whether it blocks UV radiation from reaching your skin."

generic sunscreen tube
Image by 9gifts via Shutterstock

Jennifer Tang, M.D., dermatologist and cutaneous malignancies group co-leader at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Health System, tells Healthnews that zinc oxide is the primary and active ingredient in some over-the-counter diaper creams and sunscreens. However, the zinc oxide found in these products differs.

"Zinc oxide sunscreens tend to be more elegant and micronized, which allows for smooth, even application on the skin," Tang explains. "Zinc oxide containing diaper creams tend to be thicker, which makes application difficult and likely uneven, leading to gaps in protection."

So, skin coverage provided by homemade sunscreens can vary depending on the type of zinc oxide used and the consistency of the end product.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tang also notes that sunscreens must meet FDA SPF standards to ensure protection against sunburn from UVB. Therefore, homemade sunscreens cannot be safely tested against these standards to ensure efficacy.

In addition, various additives included in the sunscreen-making process may weaken or destabilize the zinc oxide, and added fragrances may lead to allergic contact dermatitis.

"Bottom line, dermatologists do not recommend at-home formulations," Tang says.

Researchers test DIY sunscreen

In a study published in 2020 in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, scientists tested homemade sunscreen recipes to determine whether they provided adequate protection from the sun's damaging rays.

The team made sunscreens using 15 different recipes found online and then tested them for SPF and other sun protection parameters.

They found that three recipes contained no sunscreen ingredients, and the remaining 12 had an SPF of under six, which the scientists considered too low to offer any protection.

Instead of risking skin health by using homemade sunscreen, Tang suggests that people should follow the American Academy of Dermatology's recommendations. These include using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more and reapplying the product at regular intervals (every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating) for adequate protection.

While there are many effective products to choose from, individuals concerned about the safety of commercial sunscreen can consider selecting those made with GRASE ingredients, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.