With summertime travel high on people’s list these days, many are looking for ways to avoid the effects of a scorching sun. In addition to all sorts of tonics, tanning lotions and the like, some have taken up the practice of using so-called “sunscreen pills.”
As the name suggests, these orally ingested tablets purportedly offer protection from the sun — but experts say they do no such thing.
FDA: Sunscreen pills are bad for your health
In a May 2018 statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said that consumers looking for sun protection by taking pills are getting scammed.
“We’ve found products purporting to provide protection from the sun that aren’t delivering the advertised benefits. Instead they’re misleading consumers, and putting people at risk,” Gottlieb noted.
To make matters worse, many of the companies are illegally marketing the pills and capsules by labeling them as dietary supplements.
“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,” he said.
Aside from unproven drug claims, the FDA says many of the products simply don’t meet its standards for safety and effectiveness. The items may be still on the market for now, but the FDA says it is wading through the bureaucratic red tape to change that. In the meantime, here’s how to stay safe:
4 things to keep in mind when it comes to sunscreens
There’s no pill or capsule for sunscreen: Over-the-counter products such as lotions, creams, sticks and sprays can help protect you against sun exposure. These are all applied topically and approved by the government.
Beware of empty terms: Because many of the terms we see on the side of a bottle of sunscreen aren’t regulated, they’re practically meaningless. Those terms include words like “Sport,” “Reef Safe,” “Dermatologist Recommended,” “Natural,” and “Mineral Based.”
Use the right kind of sunscreen: It’s best to use broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF (sun protection factor) values of 15 or higher, the FDA says.
“As of June 2011, sunscreens that pass the broad spectrum test can demonstrate that they also provide UVA protection,” the agency says on its website. “Therefore, under the label requirements, for sunscreens labeled ‘Broad Spectrum SPF [value]’, they will indicate protection from both UVA and UVB radiation.”
If you use it, use enough of it: The American Academy of Dermatology says that you should use enough sunscreen to cover your entire palm. The “Today” show says it should be enough to fill a shot glass.