Does homemade sunscreen really work?

 You should use proven ingredients when making homemade sunscreen.
 You should use proven ingredients when making homemade sunscreen.
© Kcova/HowStuffWorks 2009

Walk into any grocery store or pharmacy during the summer, and you'll find a plethora of sunscreen products on the shelves. Without a doubt, the varieties are plentiful, whether consumers want a natural or a chemical formula. But store-bought sun protection isn't your only option. For some, making a sunscreen formula at home is the preferred alternative. Whether your motive is to save money or simply take control over what's coming in contact with your skin, there are a few things you should know before making homemade sunscreen.

Before you start, you should find a detailed recipe. These are available online or even in some home remedy books. While ingredients vary among recipes, be sure the formula you choose includes either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These two agents have a proven ability to provide protection from the sun's UVA and UVB rays [source: Mayo Clinic]. There may be some suitable alternatives, but these two ingredients are common because they are natural and their effects are trusted.


Oils are a popular additive for homemade formulas, but on their own they may not provide sufficient protection from UVA/UVB exposure. But by creating a sunscreen with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, you're creating a physical sunscreen formula. These ingredients rest on top of your skin and scatter UVA and UVB rays [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

You should also be aware of the risks involved in making your own sunscreen. The products you buy in the store are tested before they are made available. They are composed of trusted recipes that are well established to work. If you're creating your sunscreen at home, there's no way to know exactly how much protection you're providing your skin. Just because your skin isn't burning when exposed to UV rays doesn't mean that there isn't less noticeable skin damage taking place.

Be sure to take all the same precautions against sun exposure, whether you're using a store bought formula or one that's homemade. This includes applying sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading outside, seeking shade when possible, avoiding the sun's peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and reapplying the product after you sweat or swim [source: Davis].

Certain formulas of homemade sunscreen can be effective if you do your research and take the time to mix them properly. For more information on protecting your skin, check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Sunscreen." (Accessed 09/09/09).
  • Davis, Jeanie Lerche. "Summer Skin Care for Kids." (Accessed 09/09/09).
  • Mayo Clinic. "Sunscreen: Answers to your burning questions." (Accessed 09/09/09).