IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Sunscreen pills are fake medicine, FDA says

No pill can protect you from the sun.
Image: Minsk experiences hot summer weather
The Food and Drug Administration says "sunscreen supplements" are fake.Tatyana Zenkovich / EPA file

There’s no such thing as a sunscreen pill, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday, telling companies that sell them to stop.

These so-called sunscreen-in-a-pill supplements are fakes and people should not fall for the scam, the FDA said.

“There’s no pill or capsule that can replace your sunscreen,” FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We’ve found products purporting to provide protection from the sun that aren’t delivering the advertised benefits. Instead they’re misleading consumers, and putting people at risk,” he said.

The agency warned the companies that make Advanced Skin Brightening Formula, Sunsafe Rx, Solaricare and Sunergetic to stop saying they protect people from the sun’s rays.

Canada-based Glisodin sells its Advanced Skin Brightening Formula for $85 a bottle. “Do you know that sun damage is responsible for 90 percent of the visible signs of skin aging?” it asks on its website.

“The good news is there is a simple and natural way to strengthen your skin’s defenses against ultraviolet radiation in the form of a daily supplement designed to improve skin health.”

In fact, it cannot do this, the FDA said.

They “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,” Gottlieb said.

“Legitimate sunscreens are made in a wide range of sun protection factor values, also known as SPF values, and are over-the-counter drugs that come in many forms. These include lotions, creams, sticks and sprays,” he said.

“All of these formulations are applied topically over the skin and must pass certain tests before they’re sold.”

Napa Valley Bioscience says its Sunsafe Rx “is a nutritional supplement that protects your skin and eyes from the sun. Just one capsule per day provides natural, healthy anti–aging protection from UV rays.”

Its website discusses “the dangers of sunscreen lotion” and claims that some are toxic.

Pharmacy Direct said its Solaricare supplement “helps maintain your skin's ability to protect against sun-related effects and aging."

Sunergized, which sells Sunergetic, says one of its many supplements “help protect the skin from the adverse effects of sun exposure."

Gottlieb said the FDA was also reviewing the safety of sunscreen ingredients.

“When sunscreens first came on the market, they were used only occasionally at the beach. Now, people are encouraged to use them liberally whenever they are out in the sun. So our exposure to sunscreens has greatly increased,” he said.

“We now have evidence that it’s possible for some sunscreen active ingredients to be absorbed through the skin.”

So, he said, the FDA is updating its guidance on how companies should test new sunscreens.

Half of Americans take vitamins or supplements even though there’s very little evidence that anyone needs them except for in a very few cases. But the supplement industry is protected by federal legislation called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. The FDA can only step in when a company makes a medical claim for its product.

None of the companies contacted by NBC News for comment responded immediately.