Study: Pinterest Sunscreen Recipes Promise Protection, But May Put Kids At Risk for Burns

Experts warn of potential dangers of online DIY versions of regulated products

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Parents can find an endless supply of ideas and advice online, but as natural or homemade versions of children’s products gain popularity, experts warn that not all of these posts are as safe or effective as they claim to be. Do-it-yourself versions of safety-related products – anything from ointments and sunscreen to furniture and home baby-proofing– can pose a danger. A new study took a closer look at homemade sunscreen recipes on Pinterest and found that while nearly all of the pins portrayed some level of sun protection, there was insufficient proof that the sunscreens were effective.

    “Many of the recipes listed specific SPF levels up to 50, yet the ingredients in the recipes are not scientifically proven to offer that kind of broad spectrum coverage,” said Lara McKenzie, PhD, principal investigator with the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study. “Store-bought sunscreen is a better choice because it is regulated by the FDA and must have a proven level of protection against both UVA and UVB rays.”

    The study found that many homemade sunscreen recipes were shared thousands of times, highlighting the need for medical professionals to get involved with online health sources and social media sites to combat misinformation. “Parents often believe they’re doing the best thing for their child by making their own products at home,” said McKenzie. “But if you use a sunscreen that is ineffective, you are taking a risk, and that risk can result in a severe sunburn or skin cancer in the future.”

    McKenzie urges parents to take the same caution with any federally-regulated product, and to consult their pediatrician with questions about the safest options. “These products are regulated for a reason, and DIY versions probably don’t meet the safety standards required by regulatory agencies,” she said. “Going online for things like crafts and recipes is fine, but when it comes to products such as sunscreen, I recommend buying something you know will be effective.”

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Niki Chave searches for craft ideas for her kids online. While the internet can be a great source of ideas for parents, experts warn that homemade versions of regulated products like sunscreen and furniture can put children at risk.

Niki Chave tries a craft idea she found online with her three-year-old daughter. She uses the internet to find projects and recipes for her family, but stays away from do-it-yourself versions of safety-related products like sunscreen and baby gates.

Lara McKenzie scrolls through do-it-yourself pins online. She led a study that found many homemade sunscreen recipes on Pinterest make sun protection claims but lack scientifically-proven effectiveness.

Niki Chave opens a baby gate with her three-year-old daughter. She always buys commercially-available versions of safety products that comply with regulations rather than opting for homemade or do-it-yourself versions.

Commercial sunscreen is regulated by the FDA to offer a specific level of proven sun protection. A new study by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital finds that homemade sunscreen recipes found online often make claims about effectiveness that are not supported by scientific evidence.