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Experts urge users to avoid DIY sunscreens

Experts urge users to avoid DIY sunscreens

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Between Pinterest and Instagram and crafting competitions, everyone seems to be looking to do-it-yourself projects these days.

But in this week's stay-cation safety special report, we take a look at one thing you definitely should not try to make at home: sunscreen.

A quick search on the internet and you'll be swimming in recipes and how-to videos--not for whipping up food, but for whipping up sunscreen. These sites may claim to have the formula for sun protection, but board certified dermatologist Dr. Jessica Krant says it could actually be a recipe for something a lot worse.

"You're at risk for sunburn in the short term, but in the long term you're really at risk for skin cancer," she said.

That's in part because there's no way for you to test the effectiveness of the mixture.

"You have no quality control. You can't determine what the SPF of the product is. You don't even know if those ingredients have any kind of SPF protection," said Consumer Reports Health Editor Trisha Calvo.

Take zinc oxide--one of the potential ingredients in homemade sunscreen. This mineral protects skin by deflecting the sun's UV rays rather than absorbing them the way chemical-based sunscreens do. While zinc oxide is found in many mineral-based sunscreens available on store shelves:

"In CR tests of store-bought sunscreens, the ones that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide or both as active ingredients have been consistently found to be less effective than those that contain the chemical active ingredients," Calvo said.

And effectiveness is key.

"In childhood, one single blistering sunburn can increase the risk of skin cancer by 50 percent," said Dr. Krant.

To minimize harmful sun exposure, Dr. Krant says you should not only use sunscreen, and use it correctly, but also apply a little strategy when heading outdoors.

"The best protection is to avoid strong midday sun and plan most of your activities early or later in the day and to wear sun protective fabric and sun protective clothing, hats and sunglasses in addition to your sunscreen," she said.

Experts say good sunscreen doesn't have to be expensive.

Consumer Reports testing found several brands that perform well and cost less than a dollar an ounce.

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