New research warns of dangers of homemade sunscreens, other DIY projects

When parents are looking for new kids' crafts or recipes, they can find countless ideas online. But where should they draw the line between what's safe and what poses a risk to their children? 

Countless online DIY projects not only fall short of the hype, but can actually pose a danger. Homemade versions of safety-related products, everything from ointments to furniture, get shared across the internet thousands of times.

"They probably don't meet the safety criteria or the standards for those product types," says Dr. Lara McKenzie from Nationwide Children's Hospital. A popular example: homemade sunscreen.

"The way the photographs are taken, the way the information's portrayed, it looks good," Dr. McKenzie says. But be careful. Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital studied DIY sunscreen recipes posted on Pinterest. The study found nearly all the pins claimed some level of sun protection, many including specific SPF levels up to 50.

"Some of the claims would offer recipes with ingredients that we know are not scientifically effective in offering that kind of broad spectrum coverage," says Dr. McKenzie.

Commercially-available sunscreens are closely regulated by the FDA. They're required to list all ingredients and have a proven level of both UVA and UVB protection. That's not the case for these DIY versions.

"When we don't know the effectiveness of homemade sunscreen recipes that have been shown online, we're taking a risk with our children, with ourselves, and that risk is a really bad sunburn or skin cancer in the future," says Dr. McKenzie. "I think parents get tripped-up on the words all-natural or homemade, and they automatically think, 'Well, it's homemade, it's got to be the best product - but that's not always the case." 

Which is why it's best to stick to regulated products when it comes to your child's health or safety. Experts are calling for more healthcare professionals to get involved online and on social media apps to combat misinformation that can put kids at risk.