Are 'sunscreen pills' safe?

Do pills that claim to offer protection from UV rays actually work?

Australians have been warned to avoid ‘sunscreen pills’ which claim to offer protection from UV rays despite no evidence proving they work.

The pills, which are manufactured by US companies, are available to Australians via online vitamin stores. 

The product claims to “protect skin from excessive sun exposure and its harmful effects” and “protect your skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays”.

Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda said the claims are too good to be true.  

“There is no evidence that sunscreen pills work and they should be avoided,” she said.

Sunscreen pills have not been approved by the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) and have been targeted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for making misleading claims.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gotlieb said sunscreen pills are putting people’s lives at risk.

“Companies 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,” he said.

Professor Aranda urged people to use legitimate sunscreen products.

“When selecting a sunscreen, it is important to make sure it is approved by the TGA, which means it has been tested to the Australian standard,” she said.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with two in three Australians diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70.

Cancer Council recommended using a waterproof, broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. 

Professor Aranda said sunscreen must be applied correctly to get the right amount of protection.

“The average-sized adult needs a teaspoon of sunscreen for their head and neck, each limb and for the front and the back of the body,” she said.

“That is about 35ml (seven teaspoons) of sunscreen for one full body application.

"It should be applied 20 minutes before you go outside and reapplied again every two hours or after swimming or towel-drying.”

Sun-safety tips

  • Wear sun-protective clothing, including a hat and sunglasses.
  • Use broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ sunscreen.
  • Seek shade if possible.
  • Avoid the sun in the middle of the day when UV levels are highest.

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