In Brief

Sunscreen Pills Are Fake, FDA Warns

sunscreen, sun, beach
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There is no pill that will protect you against the sun, the Food and Drug Administration warned in a statement yesterday (May 22).

Companies like Advanced Skin Brightening Formula, Sunsafe Rx, Solaricare and Sunergetic supposedly claim that their products, which include nutritional supplements, will provide protection against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The FDA issued a warning to each of the companies, instructing them to correct all false claims about their products and violations of the law. (The warnings can be seen on each company's website.)

These products 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," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the statement. [5 Things You Must Know About Skin Cancer]

Legitimate sunscreens, on the other hand, come in the forms of lotions, creams, sticks and sprays, according to Gottlieb. "All of these formulations are applied topically over the skin and must pass certain tests before they're sold," he said. Sunscreens are tested to see how much UV radiation it would take to cause sunburn while using the product compared to not using one.

UV radiation that comes from the sun's rays is harmful because of its ability to break chemical bonds in our bodies and damage DNA. Sometimes, this damaged DNA begins to proliferate in the body, leading to skin cancer — the most common cancer in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Most cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are caused by ultraviolet exposure from sunlight or artificial light like that from tanning beds, Gottlieb said. The effects of exposure to UV light "are cumulative," adding up throughout one's life, he added.

The statement also said that more research is needed to figure out if active ingredients in sunscreens are completely safe. "When sunscreens first came on the U.S. market, sunscreen active ingredients were not thought to penetrate the skin," Gottlieb said. "We now have evidence that it's possible for some sunscreen active ingredients to be absorbed through the skin." The FDA issued a guide for industries for testing these active ingredients.

Originally published on Live Science.

Yasemin Saplakoglu
Staff Writer

Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, covering health, neuroscience and biology. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Science and the San Jose Mercury News. She has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.