Sunscreen pills won’t protect you from a sunburn: FDA

Although they are not widely available in Canada, health experts are warning consumers not to use sunscreen pills as lotion and spray replacements. Getty Images

Sunscreen is important all year round, but as summer gears up and more people head outdoors, don’t rely on sunscreen pills to keep you safe.

On Tuesday, commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement warning consumers to avoid pills marketed to protect you from the sun.

“Instead they’re misleading consumers, and putting people at risk. Today we sent warning letters to companies illegally marketing pills and capsules labelled as dietary supplements that make unproven drug claims about protecting consumers from the harms that come from sun exposure without meeting the FDA’s standards for safety and effectiveness.”

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Concern for Canadians

The companies mentioned in the FDA’s statement include Advanced Skin Brightening Formula, Sunsafe Rx, Solaricare and Sunergetic.

All four claim dietary supplements could prevent sunburns, reduce signs of aging skin and protect one from skin cancer — the deadliest form of cancer.

“These companies were instructed to correct all violations associated with their products and were advised to review product websites and product labelling to ensure that the claims they are making don’t violate federal law.”

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Dr. Julia Carroll of Compass Dermatology in Toronto says while these pills are not widely available in Canada, there are consumers who can travel to the U.S. for products.

“It’s important for them to know of the false claims these pills are making. A pill to avoid sunburns would be the holy grail for dermatologists, but these pills are not it,” she tells Global News.

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She adds that in Canada consumers can access a Heliocare, a fern-based supplement that decreases damage from the sun but does not protect from the actual sunburn. “I recommend it for certain patients in addition to sunscreen and other sun protection methods”

Don’t skip sunscreen

She says besides using falsely marketed products that don’t work, the bigger danger is avoiding sunscreen during the summer altogether.

“The dangers are threefold. First, you risk a sunburn which can be very uncomfortable and put a damper on summer plans. Second, even one burn can dramatically increase your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. And finally, long-term exposure to the sun ages the skin more quickly, causing age spots, wrinkles and poor skin texture.”

READ MORE: Sun safety — What you need to know about sunscreen, protecting your skin

And while sunscreen may seem like a hassle, it’s really about adding it to your daily shower and moisturizing routine.

“My favourite tip is to apply it naked! Right after a morning shower is perfect. This way you get hard to reach places without getting it on your clothes and hopefully it becomes a daily habit. Spray sunscreens are also a great option for re-application.”

READ MORE: Do you know which sunscreen best fits your skin type?

Below, Caroll shares tips on the best tips for protecting your skin this summer.

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1. Avoid sun exposure during peak hours of the day (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is when ultraviolet radiation is at it’s strongest, increasing your risk of sun damage and skin cancer.)
2. Use sun protective clothing including wide-brimmed hats, thick-armed sunglasses and SPF garments.
3. Apply sunscreen generously, every two hours and after you sweat or get wet.

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