With increasing frequency, I’m finding that I’m getting pitched more often to review sunscreen pills and drinks. I am a true skeptic when it comes to replacing what I know already works (topical sunscreen), and has worked for YEARS, with something so new that claims the same benefits. So I set out to find out the answers to the following questions about sunscreen pills:
Do sunscreen pills really work?
Do sunscreen pills offer the same protection as topical sunscreen?
If sunscreen pills work, how?
Are sunscreen pills meant to only be a supplement to topical sunscreen or to actually replace it?
Are there side effects to sunscreen pills?
Maybe you’ve had these same questions…
“Sunscreen pills contain an active ingredient that may play a role in protecting cells from damage from UV rays. The active ingredient is an extract from a fern plant. This botanical appears to serve as an antioxidant that increases the skin’s threshold for sun exposure before sunburn and damage. The benefit is not enough on its own though. The pills don’t have an SPF rating because they are not applied topically, but it may provide about as much protection as a topical sunscreen with SPF 3 to 5.” says Sally Rafie, PharmD, BCPS, who is a Pharmacist Specialist at UC San Diego Health System and Assistant Clinical Professor of Health Sciences at UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.
While sunscreen pills, which contain polypodium leucotomos extract, have been clinically shown to have photoprotective properties and when taken orally, can help fight UVA and UVB rays, Dr. Jill Waibel, Board Certified Dermatologist, and owner of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute says she is a bit skeptical and doesn’t believe that these pills should be used as a single and sole protectant from the sun. Something that I kept hearing repeated as I reached out to dermatologists and estheticians for this article. As she told me, “They should always be taken in conjunction with a sunscreen that has an SPF 30. There is no better way to protect yourself than with sunscreen, so make sure you don’t skimp on the sunblock regardless of other methods you’re using to help protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.”
While I knew little about sunscreen pills and sunscreen drinks prior to doing the research for this article, I can say it only reinforced for me that just a pill (or a drink) cannot give you the same physical protection that topical sunscreen can. Additionally, while the brands that pitch me say it is “clinically proven,” I do think it is a misleading statement. The tests done have only been by the brands themselves (and honestly “clinically proven” means nothing and is more or less marketing words), and although they claim to work, they usually leave out mentioning that they work as a very low SPF and not the amount recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology, which is SPF 30.
Essentially sunscreen pills work as an anti-oxidant, which can help repair damage and provide some protection from UV rays, but not to the same strength and degree as something that is applied directly to your skin. As for side effects, Dr. Waibel told me that sunscreen pills have not been extensively studied, so the side effects, if any, are unknown at this time.
So I’m going to skip the beauty trend of sunscreen pills and sunscreen drinks and stick with what I know works – topical sunscreen. Our favorites? Sun Bum (and their lip balm), Supergoop (their gradual self-tanner is good too) and MDSolarSciences.
What are your thoughts? Have you tried sunscreen pills and drinks? What has your experience been? Leave a comment and let us know!