Frugal folks are big fans of DIY. It’s cheaper, and it’s a good way to know exactly what’s going into your products. Which is all well and good for many things… but not sunscreen.
I was researching a post for my blog-for-massage deal and decided to see whether people ever try to make their own. I didn’t expect to find much — I mean, seriously? — but I got tons of results touting homemade “safe” sunscreens.
Alarm bells went off in my head for the first recipe I read. Two words: coconut oil.
Remember how it used to be common practice to slather yourself in baby oil to get a deep tan? And how later they found that it was maybe not so healthy? My grandmother apparently slathered it on for her summer tan. She had several growths removed when she was in her 60s. More may have appeared later, but unfortunately she passed away at 68 of (unrelated) cancer.
So why coconut oil? Apparently, people are taking their cue from folk medicine. Rarely a good sign.
Yes, some folk remedies have been wrongly dismissed. But many are downright dangerous. Like this woman who accidentally gave her children lead poisoning. Or an old remedy for an infected or bleeding umbilical cords: cow dung. Or what about the suggestion to kill lice by coating one’s head in kerosene? Beyond the flammability issue, kerosene is easily absorbed by the skin.
Heck, a few years ago a friend of mine opened up a spider bite because his aunt insisted it was the best way. Not surprisingly, it got infected. By the time he went to the ER, the afflicted area was four or five inches in diameter. He spent multiple days in the hospital.
So yeah, I’m sure coconut oil is much better than nothing at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s a safe alternative.The oil actually only blocks about 20% of the sun’s rays, compared to the 93% of UVB from SPF 15. Apparently, you’d get better results using the skimmed fat from a boiled chicken.
Still not convinced? Then consider this: Homemade sunscreen can leave patches of your body completely unprotected. Why? Because you can’t mix the minerals thoroughly enough on your own. This means that some of what you’re rubbing in may not have the minerals in it at all.
Some people complain that modern sunscreen can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. A blood test back in Seattle found I was deficient. They told me to take a supplement. Just sayin’.
Look, I know that sunscreen shouldn’t be trusted blindly. According to the Environmental Working Group, a number of them contain dangerous ingredients. The organization compiles a list of approved sunscreens. (It should be noted that the American Academy of Dermatology disagrees with the EWG on at least a couple points.)
In the end, it’s not worth risking melanoma — and UV-ray exposure, among other things, is linked to it — just to save a few bucks and/or feel like you’re choosing the healthiest option. Cancer isn’t healthy. Instead, research your sunscreens carefully. Maybe opt for products with more natural ingredients.
Don’t think of it as spending more money. Think of it as saving yourself pain (and co-pays) to have any skin growths removed/melanoma treated.
What sunscreen do you rely on? Have you ever tried the homemade variety?