Chemistry Lesson |

4 Things You Should Know About “Natural,” “Organic” and “Homemade” Sunscreen

We’re living in a moment where “natural” skincare is everywhere you look. It’s gotten to the point where people are even starting to use “homemade sunscreen.” This is where we step in to set the record straight on both – and everything in between.

Sunscreen ingredients have been in the news a lot recently. From the recent FDA announcement about reevaluating ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreens to the recent findings about sunscreen ingredients in the bloodstream, it should be no surprise that searches for “natural sunscreen,” “homemade sunscreen” and even “DIY sunscreen” have increased. But here are four facts you should keep in mind when it comes to all of the above…

1. First things first: there’s actually no such thing as “natural sunscreen.”

“All-natural” product claims can be extremely misleading because there’s actually no official government organization that endorses the term, much less pinpoints a specific definition for it. This means that when something claims to be “natural,” it’s purely marketing.

That being said, many brands will go through third parties (ECOCERT, for example) to get a special certification to be able to call themselves “all-natural.”

All SPF – including 100% mineral SPF – is produced synthetically in a lab.

You’re probably wondering how these types of organizations define the phrase in these instances, and here’s how… They claim that it means that no single ingredient in the product itself was made in a lab. But when it comes to sunscreen, here’s the truth: all SPF – including 100% mineral SPF – is produced synthetically in a lab. This is to ensure that the materials don’t contain any impurities or traces of hazardous materials…and that the formulation lives up to its protection claims. So if we’re going by this definition of “natural” that many companies adhere to, then no sunscreens can be considered natural.

2. Some ingredients that may be deemed “natural” actually aren’t good for you.

Just because a third party has deemed something “all-natural” doesn’t mean that it’s actually good for you. Plenty of ingredients that aren’t made in a lab are unsafe – take poison ivy, for example! Other things that are “all-natural” can be unethically sourced, toxic and even ineffective – none of which are good things, especially when it comes to sunscreen.

When it comes to SPF ingredients, we really believe that there are two types out there: good, safe, effective ones and bad, harmful, ineffective ones. Our goal is to always use the former, never the latter.

3. “Organic sunscreen” is another misleading marketing claim.

When you see the word “organic,” your mind probably drifts to healthy fruits and veggies that have been grown without the aid of chemically-formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants or pesticides. But when it comes to skincare, it’s a whole different ball game.

In chemistry speak, the term “organic” refers to any chemical compound that contains carbon (all life on earth is carbon-based, BTW). Chemical sunscreen also falls into this bucket – in fact, chemists will commonly refer to chemical SPF as “organic SPF,” as all chemical SPF contains carbon in their molecular composition. So in the scientific sense, all chemical sunscreen actually is “organic sunscreen” if you’re adhering to the chemists’ definition of it. On the flip side, mineral SPF is actually known as “inorganic SPF,” as these sunscreen actives do not contain any carbon molecules.

But regardless of what you associate with “organic” (be it healthy fruits and veggies or carbon molecules), the FDA actually doesn’t regulate it as a proper way to describe any personal care or beauty products. So that’s that.

4. Finally, please don’t ever use “homemade” or “DIY” sunscreen.

All of this ingredients talk has also led to a spike in people searching for things like homemade sunscreen. A recent article published by Consumer Reports discusses the trend, along with a study that was done to examine how homemade sunscreen is being portrayed on Pinterest. It found that when people searched for “homemade sunscreen,” around 1,000 pins showed up for recipes that 1) called for ingredients that have not been deemed effective (coconut oil, lavender oil, shea butter and more) and 2) claimed things like SPF numbers and water-resistance that they didn’t have the authority to claim.

Without conducting the lab testing that’s regulated and required by the FDA, there’s really no way of knowing if these homemade SPF products are safe and effective – and a person certainly can’t claim things like a specific SPF number, broad spectrum protection or water resistance from the comforts of their own kitchen.

Long story short, these are recipes for disaster (i.e. skin damage and even skin cancer) – and we firmly do not recommend putting yourself at risk.

The bottom line…

There’s a lot of misleading terms and labels in the beauty industry, which can cause a lot of confusion and unnecessary panic when it comes to what you’re putting on your skin. We cannot stress enough how important it is to know your labels and the ingredients listed on them, rather than rely on buzzwords like “natural” and “organic” that are often incredibly misleading.

Also, if you’re worried about the FDA ingredients investigation, then you can read our founder Holly’s direct response to it here.

In the meantime, please remember that skin cancer remains the most common type of cancer in America – and SPF is the only surefire way of staying protected. So please, wear sunscreen.

+What do you think about the term “natural”? Let us know in the comments below!