The advertising copy for Sunsafe Rx, a nutritional supplement offered by Napa Valley Bioscience, claims that the ingestible capsule’s “proprietary Antioxidine blend” will offer “broad spectrum protection … from UVA and UVB rays.”
If that sounds to you like the pill might work as an effective sunscreen, you'd be wrong—and you’re not alone. As NBC reports, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning to Napa Valley Bioscience and several other supplement manufacturers offering similar products about their misleading advertising. They’re also warning consumers that these “sunscreen pills” don’t replace topical creams that reduce the risk of sun damage.
In an open letter, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. wrote:
"These companies…are putting people’s health at risk by giving consumers a false sense of security that a dietary supplement could prevent sunburn, reduce early skin aging caused by the sun, or protect from the risks of skin cancer. These companies were instructed to correct all violations associated with their products and were advised to review product websites and product labeling to ensure that the claims they are making don’t violate federal law.”
The FDA is concerned with claims that the pills can protect people from the sun’s rays, which could lead some consumers to bypass topical sunscreen application. Some of the companies, including Napa Valley Bioscience, don’t explicitly state the capsules are a substitution. On their website, they write that Sunsafe Rx “is not necessarily intended to replace topical sunscreen, and in fact can be used synergistically and safely with a non-toxic topical sunscreen.”
The FDA recommends that consumers use a topical broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 and choose sunglasses with 100 percent UVA/UVB protection.