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Is DIY Sunscreen Safer Than ‘Chemical’ Sunscreen?

You’ve heard my take on DIY beauty in the Stop Putting Food On Your Face article… I truly don’t see the benefits of creating your own cosmetics or skin care, and especially homemade SUNSCREEN.

Today I want to discuss the importance of sun protection, and why it’s a bad idea to make your own sunscreen.

Fear-mongering has made sunscreen its latest victim. Companies are feeding off of the unfounded fear that skin absorbs “chemicals” and “toxins”… People are afraid of nano-particles, of titanium dioxide, of endocrine-affecting oxybenzone…

So much so that the newest craze has become homemade sunscreen using zinc oxide and oils. People have literally started making sunscreen in their kitchens…

Read this article if you’re concerned that skin absorbs stuff.

Some of these fears make sense, but not enough to pretend you’re a cosmetic chemist…

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Should You Be Afraid Of Nano-Particles?

Firstly, skin is a protective organ designed to keep us safe by keeping things OUT. It’s a barrier to the outside world, protecting us not only from chemicals, but pathogens and other intruders, and even from water loss.

Nano-particles are tiny, in fact a nano-particle is about a hundredth of the thickness of human hair. They’re used in sunscreen to scatter UVB and UVA rays.

This study showed that, “No particles could be detected in the lower stratum corneum or viable epidermis by electron microscopy, suggesting that minimal nanoparticle penetration occurs through the human epidermis.”

Another study showed that, “UVB-damaged skin slightly enhanced TiO2 NP or ZnO NP penetration in sunscreen formulations but no transdermal absorption was detected.”

And I’ve found other studies confirming that nano-particles do not actually penetrate our skin — because our skin is an AMAZING barrier. Go skin!

But if you’re still distrusting of nano-particles in sunscreen, then you can opt for sunscreen that doesn’t use them. No big deal.

But keep in mind that all zinc and titanium dioxide used in sunscreen is technically nano-sized even if some manufacturers say that theirs is not… Zinc and titanium dioxide particles have to be small enough to be transparent when applied, and large enough to provide ample UVA protection.

For this reason, manufacturers usually use a smaller titanium dioxide particle for UVB protection, and a larger zinc oxide particle for better UVA protection to strike a balance. Even the Environmental Working Group supports zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the best ingredients for sun protection.

What you should look out for is loose powders with nano-particles in them because you’re likely to INHALE them… And that’s not a good idea.

Non-nano isn’t really regulated, and is a misleading term preying on your ignorance… Just saying.

Is Titanium Dioxide Safe?

Titanium dioxide is used to protect skin from UVB and UVA radiation, and is added to formulas containing zinc oxide to make the sunscreen more transparent (less white).

The one study that is used as the base for the fear that titanium dioxide is unsafe and causes inflammation is one where scientists INJECTED mice with titanium dioxide.

To be very clear, injecting and applying topically are very different things. Especially, since skin doesn’t absorb things, but actually keeps them out. Remember that the next time someone tells you you’re absorbing chemicals and toxins.

If skin absorbed everything we touch, then we’d all be long dead from Mister Cleaning our bathrooms.

Should You Ditch Sunscreen Containing Oxybenzone?

Oxybenzone is the most controversial of all the sunscreen ingredients because there’s some evidence that it causes endocrine disruption… But here scientists injected oxybenzone into the food of rats.

Again, eating sunscreen is not the same as applying it topically.

Another study showed some oxybenzone particles found in urine after it was applied topically… I wasn’t able to access the complete methodology of this study, so I’m not sure how skin was able to absorb oxybenzone to the point where trace amounts of it could be found in the urine of participants, but regardless, this is a discouraging finding.

If there’s truth to this study, then we can all just avoid this ONE ingredient instead of making our own sunscreen at home, right?

Why You Need Sun Protection For Incredible Skin

Sun protection is extremely important, since UVB and UVA rays are powerful AF and great at destroying not only collagen and elastin in your skin, but they also destroy fibroblasts and mitochondria — important in keeping all your cells alive!

Less mitochondria, less dermal fibroblasts, weaker collagen and elastin means older and saggier skin, and looser and larger pores!

I’m not even going to touch on melanoma, a skin cancer caused by the sun…

UVB rays are responsible for skin cancer and burning, while UVA rays go even deeper into the dermis and AGE your skin.

Check out the skin on your butt if you’re not convinced. Notice how it’s much smoother, and poreless compared to the parts of your body that are constantly exposed to the sun and the elements?

The point is, the sun is not to be messed with, so protect your skin.

Can Coconut Oil Protect Your From The Sun?

Common homemade sunscreen recipes include coconut oil and zinc oxide. Coconut oil has SPF of about 7, and we really can’t know what the SPF of zinc oxide is because the formulation and particle size kind of determine that.

The real problem with homemade sunscreen is its formulation — it’s patchy and uneven no matter what equipment you use at home. A patchy and uneven formula means patchy and uneven coverage.

Oh, and remember the 90s when people used oils to tan? What do you think happens to your skin under the parts of your homemade sunscreen that are just oil?

You burn.

If coconut oil and zinc oxide were the optimal ingredients for sun protection, why wouldn’t major sunscreen manufacturers jump on the bandwagon and create a 2-ingredient sunscreen for the masses then?

Sun protection is not as simple as we think. It’s actually a highly regulated industry, requiring precise formulations and a TON of testing to bring the safest possible products to market — products that actually work.

Sunscreens are the most regulated products on the market, so don’t be afraid to use them — just don’t eat them.

What To Look For In A Good Sunscreen

Look for the following qualities in a sunscreen for clear, youthful, resilient skin:

  • The sunscreen is water-resistant.
  • Light or non-existent scent — fragrance can be irritating
  • Applies easily and consistently
  • Minimum SPF 30 — SPF 30 keeps you from burning 30 times longer than if you went out in the sun without sunscreen… If you burn after 15 minutes, then the sunscreen will keep you safe for 450 minutes
  • Avoid spray or powder sunscreens because they don’t have the same coverage, plus it’s easier to ingest them!
  • Avoid ingredients like oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, or octinoxate in your sunscreen.
  • I also like antioxidants like green tea in my sunscreen to protect my skin from pollution and free radicals.

Final Thoughts

Gone are my days of baking by a lake, pool, sea, or ocean…

I admit, the fear-mongering made me afraid to use sunscreen for a while. When I stopped using sunscreen during my stint on ‘natural skincare’ I feel like my skin aged, and my pores got bigger.

The changes were small, but I know my skin.

In my opinion, the benefits of sunscreen outweigh the risks. I’ll be wearing sunscreen until the day I die (in about 92 years) and credit it for my youthful complexion and lack of wrinkles.

And remember, wear sunscreen when you leave the house — that means even on cloudy days! And you know what else? Glass blocks UVB rays, but the super-aging UVA rays still get through… So be careful around windows too.

I understand that a lot of acne-prone peeps are afraid of sunscreen because it seems heavier and more pore-clogging than the average product. I used to be afraid of it too.

There are sunscreens that are extremely pore-clogging (Avene *cough cough*), but the real deal to avoid pore-clogging is to wash your face super thoroughly in the evenings with a proper cleanser. Seriously.

Learn how to wash your face properly here.

So protect and LOVE your face, because you only have one face.

You are loved,
Olena

P.S. Don’t miss a single one of my best 28 hacks for clear skin — sign up to get them in your inbox!


Sunscreens to try:
Paula’s Choice Clear Ultra-Light Daily Fluid SPF 30+
Dermalogica ‘s Oil Free Matte SPF 30

Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protection Cream SPF 40