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Can Oral Sunscreen Protect Your Skin From The Inside Out?

Oral sunscreen is a new player in the prevention of sunburns and skin damage.

This generation of sun protection may help defend the skin from within!

What is Oral Sunscreen?

This sunscreen comes in the form of a dietary supplement. It contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may bolster the skin’s resilience to sun damage.

Oral sunscreens also contain Polypodium leucotomos (PL), a natural extract from tropical fern leaves with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Research shows that taking PL orally helps prevent cell damage and supports DNA repair, reducing cancer risks and skin aging.

Woman taking an oral sunscreen supplement

How Does it Work?

The concept of oral sunblock is relatively new and still being studied.

A dietary supplement containing specific ingredients targets the skin’s natural defense mechanisms.

Below are the ways oral sunscreen may protect the skin from UV damage:

1. Antioxidant Protection

These supplements contain various antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and polyphenols.

Antioxidants neutralize harmful molecules called free radicals reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the skin.

Targeting free radicals may help defend the skin against sunburn and UV damage

2. Anti-Inflammation

Sunburn is the body’s inflammatory response to UV radiation. Symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, and blistering.

Ingredients like polypodium leucotomos (PL) may reduce the inflammation and associated symptoms of sunburn.

3. Photoprotection from Within

Photoprotection is the biochemical process that helps organisms cope with molecular damage caused by sunlight.

Polypodium leucotomos (PL) offers photoprotective properties. This natural extract may make the skin less susceptible to sunburn and UV radiation.

4. DNA Repair & Cell Maintenance

Ingredients like niacinamide (vitamin B3), may help repair DNA and help maintain the integrity of our cells.

In recent studies, vitamin B3 has shown promise in the prevention of skin cancer.

Picture of Sun with 2 hands in the shape of a heart.

How is it Different from Topical Sunscreen?

The main difference is their application. As discussed above, you swallow oral sunscreen just like any other dietary supplement or medication.

Oral sunblock’s ingredients may enhance the skin’s natural defenses against UV damage.

On the other hand, you apply topical sunscreen to the skin in the form of lotions, creams, gels, and sprays.

SPF written in the sand; oral sunscreen complements topical sunscreen

Topical sunscreen provides a barrier on the skin’s surface. This barrier absorbs and reflects the sun’s UV rays before they enter the skin.

The most significant difference is that oral sunscreen does not provide an immediate barrier to the sun’s rays. 

An oral sunscreen supplement increases your threshold for sunburns and your sensitivity to radiation.

Oral supplementation aims at countering the long-term effects of sun exposure.

Oral sunscreen does not replace topical sunscreen.

The two complement each other in a more comprehensive approach to sun protection.

Oral Sunscreen’s Benefits

The benefits of oral sunscreen include:

  • Supplemental sun protection
  • Convenience and accessibility
  • Enhanced natural defense from UV radiation
  • Skin Health

It’s estimated that only a third of us apply sunscreen correctly and regularly. An oral sunscreen may supplement our skin protection efforts.

It’s inconvenient and difficult to apply topical sunscreen. An oral version could provide a convenience benefit in the future.

In addition, these dietary supplements offer an option for those who cannot wear sunscreen.

Oral Sunscreen may protect against UV Damage

Antioxidants and photoprotective ingredients may enhance the skin’s natural defense mechanisms.

Fortifying our internal protection from UV rays may provide an additional layer of defense to topical sunscreen application.

A final benefit is the impact an oral sunscreen may have on your skin.

The antioxidants may improve skin health and slow down the aging process caused by sun damage.

You can learn more about beneficial nutrients for the skin in this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post “Nutricosmetics: Proving that Beauty is More Than Skin Deep”.

Limitations of Oral Sunscreen

Below are the limitations of oral sunscreen:

  • No FDA regulation
  • Not a substitute for topical sunscreen
  • Varied ingredients and responses
  • Insufficient scientific evidence

The FDA regulates topical sunscreens, while they do not regulate oral sunscreen.

This means sunscreen in a capsule or pill is not subject to the strict regulations that are applied to traditional sunscreens.

Because of this, these products can vary significantly in quality and formulation.

Another major drawback is that oral sunscreen does not provide immediate protection from UVB rays.

Therefore, it cannot replace your topical sunscreen which in turn increases the cost and number of steps in your sun protection routine.

Woman on beach holding a bottle of sunscreen.

Individuals will respond uniquely to oral sunscreen due to differences in absorption, metabolism, and overall health.

As a result, the effectiveness can vary from one person to another.

Finally, the science is promising, however, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of oral sunscreen.

A growing body of data supports the beneficial effects of oral photoprotection on the health of the skin.

More studies will likely confirm and expand the positive impact of oral dietary botanicals as complementary measures for photoprotection.

Safety of Oral Sunscreen

Overall, these products are safe for adults who want to enhance their current sunscreen regimen. These products are not suitable for children.

You should always consult your healthcare provider before adding any dietary supplements to your wellness routine.

FDA Concerns

The FDA’s main concern is not the ingredients, but the marketing of these products.

They issued a statement in May 2018 warning about the risks of using oral supplements as a sole form of sun protection.

The FDA stated these products misleading claims were “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.”

What do Dermatologists Recommend?

The American Academy of Dermatology does not currently support the use of oral sunscreens for sun protection.

President, Dirk M. Elston, MD, FAAD, issued this statement in 2018 “Regardless of whether you choose to take oral supplements, the Academy recommends you seek shade, wear sun-protective clothing, and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher”.

A female dermatologist doing a mole check on a patient's back.
Consult your healthcare provider about dietary supplements.

Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group in Manhattan and Dr. Jeanine Downie, a board-certified dermatologist recommend one particular product.

Both doctors say Heliocare, is suggested to patients at times, especially for those who are extremely fair or very photosensitive. 

Heliocare’s main active ingredient is polypodium extract, which is an “effective means for reducing the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation.”

Dermatologists stress that oral sunscreens do not provide immediate sun protection and should be used with topical sunscreen!

Hand applying sunscreen to a shoulder
Sunscreen remains your best defense from sun damage.

Available Products

Below are Heliocare products recommended by some dermatologists.

You should discuss the addition of any dietary supplement with your healthcare provider.

  1. Heliocare Skin Care Dietary Supplement
  2. Heliocare Advanced Nicotinamide B3 Supplement

Interested in other innovative ways to improve your skin? Check out this Age-Defying Dietitian blog post – “IV Therapy For Skin: A Quick Way To Nourish & Rejuvenate“.


Oral sunscreen is still in its early stages and more research is needed.

As a dietitian who loves the sun, the prospect of effective oral skin protection is exciting!

Topical sunscreen remains the gold standard for sun protection.

If you choose to take an oral sunscreen supplement, it should be used along with topical sunscreen.

The FDA said it best “There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen.”

Woman in a raft having fun in a pool; oral sunscreen can protect her from UV damage.

*Please note this blog post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

Hungry for more?

Interested in more information on nutritional benefits for the skin?

Check out the Age-Defying Dietitian’s Skin & Beauty Nutrition section of the blog!

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*Please note this blog post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

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