To many of us, the concept of a sunscreen pill sounds like a dream come true. No more absorption of questionable ingredients, weird sunburn patterns from missed spots, greasy stains on your swimsuit, or painful reapplications when you’re covered in sand or sweat. Yaasss, please!
But are they safe? And do they work?
According to the FDA, those are two questions we cannot yet answer.
Over the past few years, products such as Advanced Skin Brightening Formula, Sunsafe Rx, Solaricare and Sunergetic have been marketed as supplements that protect skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. These sunscreen pills are often advertised as a simple way to boost the skin’s natural defenses against UV radiation, improve skin health, and increase protection against sun-related effects.
However, there’s simply not enough scientific evidence to date to promote edible sunscreen. In May 2018, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. issued a statement explaining what consumers should know about sunscreen pills:
“These companies — marketing products called Advanced Skin Brightening Formula, Sunsafe Rx, Solaricare and Sunergetic — are putting people’s health at risk by giving consumers a false sense of security that a dietary supplement could prevent sunburn, reduce early skin aging caused by the sun, or protect from the risks of skin cancer. These companies were instructed to correct all violations associated with their products and were advised to review product websites and product labeling to ensure that the claims they are making don’t violate federal law. Consumers should be watchful for unscrupulous companies making unproven claims. When the FDA sees companies taking advantage of people’s desire to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun — we’ll step in. There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen.”
Looks like we’ll have to keep protecting our skin the old school, topical way - for now at least. However, if you’re concerned about recent reports detailing how skin can absorb sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone and avobenzone, here are a few tips on how to stay safe in the sun without worry.
1. Cover up. Buy a hat you love - and wear it. Choose sunglasses that block 99-100% of both UVA and UVB rays and screen out 75-90% of visible light, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic.
If the thought of a rash guard makes you cringe, you might be surprised to find out that there are actually many options available today that are so much cuter than a sunburn. If you tend to burn quite easily, you may also want to invest in clothing that protects against UV exposure. Most sun-protective clothes specify their UV protection factor (UPF) value, so you know exactly how much protection they can provide.
Get the skinny on exactly what that UPF number means >>
2. Know the peak hours of the sun. They are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UVB rays are at their strongest. Try to limit your exposure to the sun during these hours. Take it from RiRi and stand under an umbrella, ella, ella … or take periodic breaks from the sun wherever you can find shade.
3. Choose a sunscreen recommended by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They’ve done the hard work for you! Check out their 2019 Guide to Sunscreen to find recommendations for sunscreens that work without the harmful chemicals.