Julie Merten, University of North Florida – Sunscreen

Do you make your own sunscreen?

Julie Merten, associate professor of public health at the University of North Florida, explains why Pinterest might be not your best health care provider.

Dr. Julie Merten is an Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of North Florida. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Public Health Review and chairs the Skin Cancer Prevention Task Force for the Northeast Florida Cancer Control Collaborative. Her research involves behavioral skin cancer prevention and she is currently working on a funded study testing the feasibility of a brief intervention and referral for community-based skin cancer screenings.



Social media and other online tools have changed the way people seek and share health information. Pinterest has more than 175 million active users and is a powerful consumer influence tool because 87% of users have made a purchase as a result of a pin and 93% of users reported using Pinterest before making a purchase. 

Increasing consumer interest in natural, organic, and ethically-made personal care products has led to more shared recipes for homemade products including sunscreen. In a brand-new study, we randomly sampled 189 homemade sunscreen pins on Pinterest and found that nearly all of the pins positively portrayed the effectiveness of homemade sunscreens and most recommended recipes offered insufficient UV radiation protection.

it seems like every week we are learning that a product that was previously thought to be safe is now a threat to our health. However, there are commercially available sunscreens that are regulated and tested for efficacy and safety.  Homemade sunscreens haven’t been tested for their true UV protection, water resistance or photostability which places people at risk for sunburn or worse – skin cancer.

Just because a product is labeled as natural, organic, non-toxic, or has fewer ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer.

There are legitimate concerns about coral reef destruction, endocrine disruption, and Vitamin D deficiency associated with sunscreen. But, in most cases, sunscreen is just one piece of the puzzle and it is important that we don’t send a message that we should stop using sunscreen – or start making our own concoctions.

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