Our body's natural defense against the sun's ultraviolet rays is to turn tan. Everyone should know that exposure to the sun for extended periods of time can increase the risk of skin cancer and premature aging. For those of us about to spend time in the sun, whether we are fair skinned or dark skinned, we need protection: sunscreen, a hat and more sunscreen. Sunscreen should be reapplied often, but what if you're outside constantly, sweat a lot and don't remember to lather it back on every few hours? Over the years, research has been developed, looking into a pill that supposedly takes on all the properties of sunscreen. These over-the-counter supplements claim to battle the sun because they contain antioxidants from the tropical fern polypodium leucotomos. Other researchers are looking into extracts from algae found in coral to do the same job.
>> Click here to see the myths and facts about sunscreen.
Researchers are on the right path in supposing antioxidants fight free radicals that cause cells to mutate; antioxidants basically work to scavenge the free radicals and prevent cells from turning cancerous. But an article on Nature.com brings up an important point in considering antioxidants: Once we digest them, how do the beneficial qualities get from the stomach to the skin? In the article, Henry Lim, a dermatologist at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, said, "If you think about taking a pill by mouth, it has to go through multiple steps. It has to be absorbed, go through the blood and then through the liver before it gets to the skin."
We absorb vitamins and antioxidants through a variety of foods: green tea, pomegranates, blueberries, and carrots. Pomegranate extracts are often found in these sunscreen pills. Those antioxidants, vitamin E and vitamin C help neutralize free radicals by giving one of their own electrons to the unbalanced molecule, restoring homeostasis in the body.
>> Read more: What are Free Radicals and How Do They Affect Us?
It is important to know that these sunscreen pills are supplements, not medicines, and are therefore not regulated by the FDA. In a series of studies, researchers found that the pill only enabled a sun protection factor (SPF) of 2; in comparison to sunscreens that have SPFs ranging from 15 to 80, that is quite low. A marriage of sunscreen and the over-the-counter supplements will give you twofold protection, one from the outside and one from the inside. The sunscreen pills do not block the sun as lotion does, but instead work at the cellular level to strengthen the skin's DNA and give it more protection against harmful UV rays.
While the search still continues for a pill to completely prevent dangerous UV rays from mutating cells, any protection from the sun should include sunscreen, long clothes and a hat. Adding the pill to your daily regimen won't hurt, but the supplement is not enough to fully replace that extra layer of outside protection. Remember that antioxidants are essential to your body's health, and you can simply incorporate more antioxidant-rich food into your diet to receive all of their benefits! Because everyday exposure to the sun can be harmful, we highly recommend that you peruse some of the sunscreens you can wear all year long.