Sunscreen, as you already know, is a crucial way to protect yourself from skin damage and skin cancer. But the truth is it's not the easiest thing to put on correctly or consistently. So it makes sense that some companies have begun making and marketing supplements that supposedly have skin-protecting benefits, and in theory, would make sun protection a lot simpler. But according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumers should steer clear of these so-called sunscreen pills.
In a press release published on Tuesday and written by FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., the agency announced that it sent warning letters to four companies illegally marketing dietary supplements that claim to help protect consumers from the dangers of sun exposure.
The FDA came down on the makers of four supplement products (Advanced Skin Brightening Formula, Sunsafe Rx, Solaricare, and Sunergetic) for "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." The companies are now required to re-frame their marketing and product labeling to comply with federal law.
The FDA is 100 percent clear about its stance on sunscreen pills: "There's no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen."
In lieu of any trendy supplements, the FDA reminds consumers to stick to tried-and-true topical sunscreen formulations in lotions, creams, sprays, and sticks. Not sure which to choose among all the sunscreen options? SELF recently spoke with dermatologists and found a few winners for different skin types.
The FDA also has general guidelines for sunscreen use. The agency recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the American Academy of Dermatology recommends at least 30 SPF), applied at least 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply at least every two hours, especially if you go in the water.
Finally, the agency restated its commitment to sunscreen research and innovation in the announcement. "When sunscreens first came on the U.S. market, sunscreen active ingredients were not thought to penetrate the skin,” Dr. Gottlieb wrote. “We now have evidence that it’s possible for some sunscreen active ingredients to be absorbed through the skin." The keywords are through the skin—so not by ingesting a supplement.
And remember, if a new product sounds too good to be true, that's probably because it is. This summer, we'll all just have to apply our the old-fashioned way.