No, Sunscreen Pills Won’t Protect You Against Sunburn, According To The FDA


If you love catching some summertime rays, you probably know that using sunscreen is an essential part of keeping your skin as safe as possible. And while, yes, sunscreen can be kind of annoying to apply, then re-apply, then re-apply again, there's no replacing the good ol' slather-and-go — especially not with so-called "sunscreen pills," according to the The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA recently released a statement that warned consumers not to use sunscreen pills, which are dietary supplements that companies claim offer sunscreen-like benefits, such as protecting your skin from UV rays. The FDA also said in its announcement that it has issued warning letters to four companies about their sunscreen pill products.

"We've found products purporting to provide protection from the sun that aren’t delivering the advertised benefits," the FDA said in its statement. "Instead they're misleading consumers, and putting people at risk. These companies [...] 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." According to TIME, the companies have been "directed to reverse all violations associated with their products and review their marketing claims."

A representative for Napa Valley Bioscience, which received a warning letter from the FDA, told TIME that "'Sunsafe Rx is made with ingredients that published clinical studies show protect skin from damage,' and that the product is useful for supplemental protection and for users with sensitive skin."

On Napa Valley Bioscience's website, the company claims Sunsafe Rx is made from "specific ingredients, isolated from foods and plants, which extensive scientific research shows can promote your skin’s natural defenses against UV rays." The company also says that "Sunsafe Rx fights free-radicals, protecting your skin from both UVA and UVB rays while at the same time reducing skin inflammation, preserving immune function, and preventing or treating a number of photosensitivity reactions."

The representative also told TIME, "However, to be abundantly clear: the sun is dangerous, and UV rays damage your skin. We don't market Sunsafe Rx as a sunscreen, and we certainly don't tell consumers that they don't need any other protection from the sun or that they don't also need to use a topical sunscreen. Everyone should exercise caution when exposed to the sun."

Considering the FDA says skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., with one in five people at risk for developing it during their lifetime, it's crucial to exercise caution indeed. It's extra important that while you're enjoying a day at the beach, sunbathing, or just generally being outside, you remember to keep yourself safe with FDA-approved products, which the FDA said in its statement should be used "liberally." To sum it up, "There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen," the FDA said.

As for how to know which products you should be using on your skin, the FDA said in its statement that "legitimate sunscreens" which receive the FDA's stamp of approval "must pass certain tests before they're sold."

The FDA also said in its statement that it's doing additional research about how some active ingredients in sunscreens may be absorbed through the skin, and noted that the FDA is "committed to reviewing additional sunscreen active ingredients [...] and to do our part to provide consumers with safe and effective sunscreen formulations" that are "developed in a manner that is consistent with modern scientific thinking concerning safety and effectiveness of sunscreens."

This is a good reminder to always investigate the health, beauty, and wellness products you're using. You only have one body — make sure you're treating it well.