Figures show that one in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime, and there is no doubting that seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 are still the most reliable methods of sun protection.
Over the last few years we have seen many innovations in the sun care arena and an extract of a Central American fern plant called Polypodium leucotomos has been a particular highlight in a new sunscreen pill.
Studies have shown the fern extract increases the amount of time it takes for skin to burn when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light.
Dermatologist Henry W. Lim, chairman of the department of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit says, "We're not completely sure how sunscreen pills work, but the main understanding is that Polypodium leucotomos acts as an antioxidant, so it protects the skin from oxidative damage caused by sun exposure.”
In addition, Dr Lim says European studies show Polypodium leucotomos can reduce sun sensitivity in people with polymorphous light eruption, a condition that causes an itchy rash when skin is exposed to the sun.
However, these pills cannot be given a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating because the product is not applied to the skin, and the level of protection is significantly less than the American Academy of Dermatology's recommendation to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, according to Dr Lim.
Other antioxidants, such as green tea extracts and vitamins C and E, also have been shown to offer protective effect from sun damage.
"While there have been promising results, more research needs to be done to know the optimal way of using these pills and their long-term safety," adds Dr. Lim
The industry has also seen the launch of a drinkable sunscreen that claims to be infused with electromagnetic waves as a way of protecting the skin.
Dr Lim remains sceptical on drinkable sunscreens at present, as he says it is not known the effect a person's diet has on their sun protection.
"There is absolutely no scientific research published anywhere to support the use of drinkable sunscreen," he says, reinforcing that applying an appropriate sunscreen regularly, staying in the shade, and wearing protective clothing are still the best methods of keeping skin safe.