There Is No Such Thing as a Sunscreen Pill, FDA Says

May 23, 2018 at 12:21 p.m. ET
Image: Ralwel/Getty Images

When it comes to wearing sunscreen, there are no shortcuts. As easy as it would be to just pop a pill and be protected from the sun's rays, the Food and Drug Administration says these medications don't work.

"We’ve found products purporting to provide protection from the sun that aren’t delivering the advertised benefits," FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "Instead they’re misleading consumers, and putting people at risk."

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The FDA recently sent warning letters to companies illegally marketing pills that claim to protect consumers from sun exposure without meeting the organization's safety and effectiveness standards. Specifically, they called out Advanced Skin Brightening FormulaSunsafe RxSolaricare 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."

Gottlieb warned consumers to be wary of products with unproven claims.

"When the FDA sees companies taking advantage of people’s desire to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sun — we’ll step in," he said in a statement. "There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen."

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So, why is this so important? Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with 1 in 5 Americans being at risk for developing the condition at some point during their lifetime according to the FDA.

"Dietary supplements that claim to protect from the sun's harmful rays are putting people at risk for skin cancer," Dr. Sreek Cherukuri, a physician and consumer advocate tells SheKnows. "These unscrupulous products have no evidence to back up their claims and are taking advantage of unsuspecting customers."

And what can you do to protect yourself from the sun? Instead of opting for a pill, the Mayo Clinic recommends using a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen and reapplying it regularly as well as avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and wearing protective clothing.

"As a facial plastic surgeon, I tell my patients that there is no replacement for sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher," Cherukuri notes.

So get out and have fun this weekend and the rest of the summer — just don't skip the (effective) sun protection.

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