What is oral sunscreen and should you use it?

As the song goes, it’s summertime, and livin’ is easy. Well, almost. Bring on the cocktails, bring on the beaches. Bring on the sunscreen. Are you telling us that you’re not a fan of sunscreen’s distinct, chemical perfume? You don’t love the way that your sweat mixes lovingly with sunscreen’s goop? Maybe you think you can do without it. Go ahead, if you’re willing to deal with moles, burns, and unnaturally early aging. Just ask Caitlyn Jenner. She’s more than happy to tell you all about the brutal effects of sun damage. Or ask the FDA. They’ll tell you that it’s important. Why? One in five Americans might develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Yes, sunscreen is good. But it’s not your favorite beauty product. We feel you, we really do. So do companies like Sunsafe RX and Sunergetic. Their solution? Oral sunscreen pills. But what is oral sunscreen? More importantly, should you use it?  

Here's what the FDA says about oral sunscreen

Before we go any further, you should know something. Oral sunscreen is not something you add to your morning toothbrushing routine. Oral sunscreen tablets are nutritional supplements. Some of these come from a South American fern that is filled with the skin-protecting polypodium extract (via The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology). Others use lycopene, which is scientifically proven to strengthen your skin’s response to UV light (via the National Library of Medicine). Yes, both of these do increase the health of your skin.

Sound good? Don’t hold your breath. These oral sunscreen tablets are not FDA approved. In fact, the FDA wants you to know that the companies selling sunscreen pills are “misleading consumers, and putting people at risk.” Ouch. To add insult to injury, people who have replaced normal sunscreen with the pills — like Wil Fulton with Thrillist — will tell you, they “fought the sun and the sun won.” Does oral sunscreen work? The simple answer is: not by itself. Magical South American ferns in pill form don’t replace the cream you have to painstakingly slather on your body. Try it, and you’ll end up treating painful burns with aloe vera and yogurt for days.  

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them. No one said you had to pick between the two products. There’s a reason that the Mayo Clinic suggests adding antioxidants to your diet. They don’t might they protect against UV damage, but they also help prevent heart, cancer, and other diseases. It sounds like a win-win to us!   

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