‘Sunscreen’ Pills Don’t Work, Are Putting People’s Health At Risk, FDA Says

Have you taken any supplements that are supposed to guard against UV rays?

Recent sunscreen innovations have made it easier than ever to ensure your entire family is protected from the sun. From eco-friendly ingredients to user-friendly formulas, there is no reason to go commando when it comes to sun protection.

However, not all new sunscreens are as effective as they may appear. In addition to the regular creams and sprays, there’s been an influx of pills and supplements promising sun protection. Take a dose and, according to marketing claims, voilà — you’re protected from the sun.

As the old adage goes: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That saying seems to fit when it comes to sunscreen pills.

vitamins photo
Flickr | Suzanne Schroeter

Concerned with the unproven claims surrounding sunscreen pills, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stepped in recently and issued a clear warning for consumers: “There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen.”

The FDA is taking sun protection very seriously. In fact, the group sent warning letters to the companies illegally marketing the supplements. According to FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, products including Advanced Skin Brightening FormulaSunsafe RxSolaricare and Sunergetic are putting people’s health at risk.

According to Gottlieb, products like those create “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.”

A quick look at the website for Sunsafe Rx shows the company promises “one capsule per day helps provide natural, healthy, anti-aging protection from [ultraviolet] rays.”

sunbathing photo
Getty Images | Mario Tama

In addition to that warning to consumers, Gottlieb also said the FDA will introduce new regulations to encourage more product development and ensure ingredients undergo rigorous testing prior to use.

Now that you know to steer clear of these sunscreen imposters, here’s what you should look for in sunscreen instead:

1. Go Natural

“When shopping for your next sunscreen look for these two natural active ingredients, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide,” says Catie Wiggy, licensed esthetician and director of product innovation for MyChelle Dermaceuticals. “Both offer safe, yet effective broad-spectrum protection against destructive ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB).”

2. Go Water-Resistant When Needed

If you’re going to be active and sweating or in the water, a standard SPF won’t be enough. “Look specifically for a water-resistant SPF 30, or higher, broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen,” says Wiggy. “Use it anytime you are at the pool, swimming or enjoying your favorite water sports. ”

3. Reapply Regularly

No matter how wonderful any given sunscreen formula is, you must reapply to stay protected. “Ensure the SPF level is 30 or higher and reapply every two hours,” says Patricia Boland, vice president of research & development at Colorescience.

sunscreen photo
Flickr | Joe Shlabotnik

4. Avoid Harmful Chemicals

This may sound like a no-brainer, but there are some new ingredients to avoid because of the risk of environmental damage. According to a large study from the University of Central Florida, two common sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been shown to damage and kill coral reefs.

5. Pick From The List

The Environmental Working Group evaluates sunscreens each year and shares its picks of the best products for babies and children. The 2018 list includes 23 family-friendly products to choose from, all with the EWG stamp of approval.