Earlier this week, we published a recipe for DIY sunscreen. A conversation quickly erupted in the comments about the efficacy and/or responsibility of taking sunscreen chemistry into your own hands. Even within the office, opinions were mixed. To settle the issue, we asked experts in the field to give us their input. They were wary of the idea, but not wholly turned off. Bottom line: There is no one route to protecting yourself from the sun. In fact, only relying on one product is not enough.
"Sunscreen is one piece of a good sun-protection plan," Dr. Jennifer Stein, an assistant professor at the NYU Langone Medical Center's Perelman Department of Dermatology, says. "A lot of people come into my office and say, ‘I don’t know what happened. I was wearing SPF 80 and I still got a sunburn.’ Sunscreen alone isn’t enough." But when you get into making your own formula, it's best to be cautious. "You just don’t really know what you’re getting [if you make it yourself]," she says.
A cosmetic chemist (who requested anonymity due to his relationships with multiple brands) warned against the whole idea of crafting sunscreen outside of a lab. He stressed that as a drug product, sunscreen is rigorously tested by both manufacturers and the FDA to ensure the integrity of the active ingredients and the homogeneity of the final product. Without testing, there's no surefire way to know exactly what SPF number you've created.
But not everyone rejects at-home sunscreen out of hand. "If you are motivated and want to put together products for yourself then that’s fine, as long as you're knowledgeable about what you are putting in them, like if you are including zinc oxide and carrot seed oil, which are known to have protective qualities," Dr. Jessica Weiser, of New York Dermatology Group, says. "I think that you, as the consumer of your own product, have to realize the potential for incomplete sun protection."
You know your body better than anyone else, so do what works for you—whether that be a drugstore sunscreen, a physical blocker like zinc, or just a fabulously large floppy hat (preferably all of those things at one time). Sun protection is good. Several forms of sun protection is even better. The one thing we would never recommend is baking in the sun for hours without a small arsenal of sun-blockers. That would be the worst idea.
Hanalei Reponty photographed by Brydie Mack.