Edible sunscreen, what does the science says?

We were sitting and relaxing after a great steamboat dinner, when a friend suddenly flashed us some brochures, promoting sunscreen pills by a direct sale company.

According to the friend, the pills were made from plants. A special plant that is anti-UV-radiation. The plant gained unique UV ray protection properties through its own evolution route. When the plant is made into pills and consumed by human, our body will have our own SPF resistance from the inside out and no longer need to apply creamy, sticky external sunscreen.

She would consumed the pill half an hour before going out to the sun. Ta-da, banana boat sunscreen.

Upon hearing this, I knitted my brow, how can someone actually believe in internal sunscreen? Is she nuts?

So i went home and surf in google scholar.

And then i was there thinking, how ignorance was I, this edible sunscreen extract, has been around since the 1990’s. It wasn’t a scam, it is still studying by scientist today. If it’s truly working, what had been stopping it from appearing on the drugstore shelf just like vitamic C and birth control pill?


So the science say:

1. The plant is called Phlebodium pseudoaureum , or Fernblock ® , Heliocare ®

Yes it does exist, it was not an imaginary plant. It contains:

a. polyphenolic compounds: micronutrients packed with antioxidants

b. caffeic acid: inhibits UV-induced peroxidation

c. ferulic acid, a UV photon acceptor.

d. monosaccharides and acidic molecules, e.g., quinic, shikimic, glucuronic, malic, coumaric, and vanillic acids

2. What you are consuming is actually antioxidants pill

It’s antioxidants with good absoption profile.

It helps you absorb unwanted stuff from UV radiation (after it enter the skin of course), or it helps you to heal damaged cell by healing cell inflammation.

So next time you are at the beach eating blueberries, you can tell your friend you are applying sunscreen, from the inside. But you might need to eat a lot of it.

3. It works, but no immediate effect as topical sunscreen

It may work faster if you inject the photoprotective extract into your blood stream, faster, but not 100% guaranteed protection.

The pills works through digestive system, into blood stream, to the kidney, and then to the skin. This process itself takes time. When the pills filled with antioxidants reach your skin, then the antioxidant help prevent cell mutation that gives us sunburn, wrinkle, skin cancer. Not 100% of the pills will get to your skin, because antioxidant is unstable and will lost itself on the way to your skin.

4. It really works, it’s scientifically proven

Numerous studies show that if you give two group of rats, one diet with Phlebodium (PL) extract, one group without, the group with PL extract will show significant lower sign of UV radiation damage, but not 100% dodging the damage.

5. It’s more like a 3-in-1 pill, anti-skin-cancer, anti-aging, and edible sunscreen pill

It sure act as a less effective sunscreen, but are you sure applying sunblock on your skin is 100% protection coverage? There might be places you misses too and you possible not able to apply sunscreen every wear, let say under your bikini or that super tight wet suit.

But if you market the pills that way, you’ll loose the attention of lazy sunbather like us.

6. The best solution, use both external and edible PL extract pill.

We have places we want extra coverage, our face, back, shoulder, shin. We apply sunscreen at these places. When the sunscreen can’t 100% protect you, whether you had wipe it off, washed off, or the sunscreen had already reach its absorbing capacity, the bill can protect you as Plan B. Else you’ll have to eat a lot of blueberries and kale.


El-Haj, N., & Goldstein, N. (2014). Sun protection in a pill: the photoprotective properties ofPolypodium leucotomosextract. International Journal of Dermatology, 54(3), 362–366. doi:10.1111/ijd.12611

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