While it might be nice to pop a pill to protect your skin from the sun, a Loyola University Health System dermatologist warns that oral sunscreens are not as effective as traditional lotions and creams.
“Oral sunscreens can be beneficial when they are used as an extra protective measure against damaging UV rays, but they should not be used in place of topical sunscreens,” said Rebecca Tung, MD, director, Division of Dermatology. “These products don't necessarily prevent premature aging and skin cancer.”
Oral sunscreens contain extracts of the cabbage plant. Dr. Tung reports that these products have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can clear up free radicals, which cause cellular damage in the body. Yet they are not 100 percent effective because they work based on the body's ability to absorb them, which can vary from person to person.
“While oral sunscreens are appealing because they don't leave a sticky white residue or need to be applied frequently, traditional lotions, creams and protective clothing remain the most effective way to block the sun,” Dr. Tung said.
More than 2 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually, making it the most common cancer in the U.S. The incidence of skin cancer, including the deadliest form – melanoma – has increased significantly over the last several decades.
Dr. Tung offers the following tips to prevent skin cancer:
-Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily with an SPF of at least 30. Apply it liberally.
-Wear protective clothing outdoors, including a wide-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt, pants and sunglasses with UV protection.
-Stay out of the midday sun (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
-Use a higher SPF when at higher elevations.
-Avoid sunbathing and tanning salons. UV rays from artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sunlamps, are just as dangerous as those from the sun.
-Set a good example for your children by always using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.
Loyola University Health System