Does a SunScreen Pill Exist?
January 6, 2010 9:58 PM   Subscribe

Is there a "sunscreen pill" that compares to SPF 30 lotion?

Is there such a thing as a sunscreen (protects your skin from UV a,b,c,etc. damage) pill that you can take orally and receive the same effects as if you were wearing SPF ## sunscreen lotion?

What is it's formal name?
Is it FDA approved?
Is there a generic version?
Can it be prescribed to anyone?
Is it dangerous on the liver (i.e., it ruins your liver and would only be prescribed to individuals with sun exposure issues as the lesser of 2 evils)?
How much does it typically cost with insurance?
posted by thankyoumuchly to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Short answer: no, not really in the sense you're looking for.

Long answer is summed up in this LA Times article on one such "sunscreen pill," Heliocare.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:01 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by mr_roboto at 10:21 PM on January 6, 2010

There are pills that lighten your skin (I think most of them have high concentrations of Vit C and I've heard that some are dangerous for your liver) - I'm not sure whether they protect your skin from UV damage though. They're widely available in Asia (East Asia especially I think); not sure about the US. There are also "whitening injections" that are said to do the same thing but (supposedly) more effectively.
posted by aielen at 10:25 PM on January 6, 2010

FoLA has it in one go. What products that are out there may help with minor sun exposure (think low strength sun screen), and seems to work primarily by fighting free radicals (Must... resist... urge... to... make... cheap... joke). You'd get much much better protection by applying essentially the same stuff directly to skin.
posted by edgeways at 10:47 PM on January 6, 2010

re: the skin-lightening preparations--whatever quantity of vitamin C is in there is likely not as useful in protecting against UV light as the actual melanin contained in the skin (that makes it whatever color it is). You know how lighter-skinned people are more likely to get sunburned...? Lightening the skin is basically like asking for more sun damage.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:49 PM on January 6, 2010

I would stay away from anything like this that's to be taken orally. Although sunscreen is arguably far better than no sunscreen, even the chemicals in this sun-safety product are not ideal even for topical application. I would not ingest anything for this purpose. Total liver hell, not worth it.

So... that only answers one of your many questions, but it's the only one I've got :P
posted by nitor at 1:17 AM on January 7, 2010

Sunscreen acts as a physical barrier, protecting the skin from damage by reducign the amount of light reaching it.

Heliocare seems to be an anti-oxidant pill, which might reduce damage a little bit, but I certainly wouldn't rely on it as a substitute for sunscreen.

And so_gracefuly is right: melanin is the most effective natural quencher of free radicals in the skin. Removing it will not confer protection from the sun - it will increase the risk of damage. Conversely, something that stimulates the production of melanin (such as Melanotan I/Afamelanotide) might provide protection, but despite being surprisingly available, Melanotan is not approved for this use.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 3:10 AM on January 7, 2010

posted by James Scott-Brown at 3:11 AM on January 7, 2010

Not exactly a sunscreen pill, but apparently (eating) tomato paste boosts your skin's resistance to sun damage.
posted by wiretap at 2:33 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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