Experts are warning people who may have bought "sunscreen pills" online to stop using them as there is no evidence they offer any kind of protection from the Sun, and could even be harmful.
Australian authorities are warning that these US-made pills, sold on online vitamin sites, are being bought by Australians in a misguided attempt to be Sun-safe. Australians, by necessity, are very aware, educated, and proactive about protecting their skin from the Sun – but this is not the way to do it.
Any pill that is purporting to “strengthen your skin’s defenses against ultraviolet radiation”, or “defend your eyes and skin from sun damage” is telling a huge whopper. Oral sunscreen doesn’t exist.
"All medicines supplied in Australia, including complementary or 'listed' medicines, such as those indicated to help protect the skin from sun exposure are rigorously monitored for safety," a spokesperson for Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration said in a statement.
"In some cases [they] contain little or no active ingredients or ingredients different to those as advertised."
This reiterates the warning the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued back in May, after an investigation into companies selling products that supposedly could prevent sunburn, reduce early aging of skin from the Sun, and even protect from the risks of skin cancer, despite no evidence their ingredients could do any of these things.
“Today we sent warning letters to companies illegally marketing pills and capsules labeled as dietary supplements that make unproven drug claims about protecting consumers from the harms that come from sun exposure,” the FDA said at the time.
“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.”
Many of these products claim they contain antioxidants and natural plant extracts that help protect against Sun damage, some resorting to ingredients that have been “used for hundreds of years to promote various health benefits” (here’s a tip: the more ailments a product claims it cures, the less likely it can cure anything). Because they are being marketed as nutritional supplements rather than drugs, companies can legally sell these products without FDA regulation.
The danger here is the same as using "alternative medicine" instead of, rather than (if you really must) alongside actual medicine. People get lulled into a false sense of security that the supplement they are taking is covering all their health needs, when the truth is, here, all the evidence so far on the only way to properly protect your skin from harmful UV rays is to "Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, and Slide" with a proper SPF approved sunscreen that is absorbed through your skin.
More people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the US each year than any other kind of cancer, that's one in five people likely to develop it by the time they're 70. In Australia, it's two in three people.
Bottom line: Don't go looking for miracle cures, your health is too important to gamble with.