That may sound obvious, but a new study makes it clear: Do not use prescriptions you find online to make homemade sunscreen.
Researchers in the Pinterest social network researched homemade sunscreen recipes, finding that nearly 70 percent of recommended prescriptions did not provide adequate sunscreen. According to a study published in Health Communication on Monday, users are at risk for sunburn and long-term skin damage that can lead to cancer.
Pinterest, which serves as a series of virtual bulletin boards, has a user base of mostly women with a mean age of 40 years and a strong community of mothers with young children looking for health advice, the researchers said. However, previous studies have found that the health content on Pinterest tends toward a level of vaccines, unscientific material or alternative therapies such as herbal medicine.
"Parents want their children to be fine," said study author Lara McKenzie, a trauma researcher at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "The current trend towards organic and natural products comes from a good place ̵
What Researchers Have Made
Pinterest allows users to create "pins" by storing links to photos, infographics, or external Web sites on their own personal boards, or republishing the pins of other users.
On two days in December 2017, the team searched Pinterest for "homemade sunscreen" or "natural sunscreen". They found 1,000 pins and then picked out one in five to create a random sample instead of just focusing on the top results.
A total of 189 pens were cataloged. Each pin has been categorized by popularity into a number of categories, regardless of whether the recipe was advertised as simple or particularly health-conscious, and the accompanying imagery. For example, they recorded whether the pens contained pictures of homemade sunscreen, nature or children.
Ninety five percent of the collected pens showed homemade sunscreen in a positive light. Most also included a recipe that viewers could prepare at home, often with coconut oil, essential oils, shea butter, beeswax and zinc. Some of the pins were only saved a few times, others more than 21,000 times.
Why These Homemade Recipes Do Not Protect Your Skin
Many of the sunscreens have made unsubstantiated claims about the sun protection factor or SPF of their prescriptions – a measure of the ability of a sunscreen to keep harmful ultraviolet light off a user's skin. One third of the pins have indicated protection levels from SPF 2 to SPF 50, although most said their prescriptions are above SPF 30, the recommended sunscreen dose. All these pencils lacked demonstrable evidence.
Making a sunscreen is not an easy task, said Sherry Pagoto, a health psychologist from the University of Connecticut, who was not involved in the study. "If you can only do it in the bathroom, nobody will test what you did."
That is, until you try it on yourself or your child. Without laboratory validation, signs of sun damage on sensitive skin are the only methods to determine if sunscreen is effective.
The recipes they found for homemade sunscreen often used ingredients with validated sunscreen properties, such as vitamin E, coconut oil and essential raspberry oil. Even then, the amounts of these ingredients are so low or vary so much from lot to lot that these sunscreens provide little reliable sunscreen.
Other cited ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide can be protective, but their use at home can be flawed. According to the researchers, it can be difficult to introduce them evenly into any mixture. Commercial sunscreens that are machine mixed do not have this problem.
Why This Study Is Meaningful
"Lately sunscreens have been mixed [news coverage] which casts doubt, I think wrongly," said Pagoto.
On May 6, a US Food and Drug Administration study concluded that some ingredients in commercial sunscreens can be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, it did not turn out that these ingredients were harmful. Instead, the report, which included only 10 subjects, identified which common sunscreen infiltrated the body and recommended further investigation to determine if it could do any harm.
"However, this nuance is not always recognized by the public. "You will still find it difficult to find a dermatologist who does not recommend you to wear sunscreen."
The rise of social media is accompanied by a growing mistrust of commercial health products and a preference For products called "natural" and "organic," Pagoto said, "Pinterest and other social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram have been trying to tackle vaccine misinformation, a symptom of the general trend." They have mixed results because pins and posts still slide through filters and sometimes cause thousands of calls.
These pins – and other types of health advice for locals – are just too clickable in the researchers' view.
"Those who Having a picture of a kid getting sunscreen – that really makes me nervous, "McKe said nzie. "I feel that's important."
To counteract this clickability, established healthcare facilities such as the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Association of Dermatologists need to socialize Speak and meet parents for whom they are already seeking health advice, the scientists argued.
"We can not keep silent and give the bloggers the floor," McKenzie said.
The FDA, the CDC and the AAD all recommend that anyone who wants to get out in the sun this summer should wear a relatively thick dress FDA-approved sunscreen – SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum and waterproof – on all exposed skin areas apply again and reapply at least every two hours.