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01 Jul

Can an Antioxidant Pill Really Protect Your Skin From Sun Damage?

Posted by Bikini Owner in spf pill

Last week, we investigated using coconut oil as a sub for sunscreen.  Next up: We chat with two dermatologists about popping pills — specifically those with Polypodium leucotomos, an antioxidant derived from fern extract — to protect the skin from the inside out.

While it seems crazy to think that ingesting antioxidants could help ward off sunburn, certain foods — like tomatoes, blueberries, and carrots — have all been proven to help the skin protect itself. Loaded with lycopene and beta carotene (both antioxidants, which repair cells from photoaging), these superfoods all strengthen the skin's ability to fight the burn. But can a pill do the same thing? 

We asked New York City dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah to explain exactly how antioxidants — specifically those in pills like Heliocare, a popular antioxidant pill — help our skin avoid sun damage. "UV radiation generates damaging free radicals in the skin, and antioxidants can help protect the skin by capturing free radicals before they have a chance to cause significant damage," she said.  "One concern with an oral supplement is that ingesting a pill doesn't always mean that the antioxidants reach the skin. However, Polypodium leucotomos (the antioxidant in Heliocare) has been found to exhibit photoprotective activity in human studies and has been shown to reduce UV damage. It has also been found to be safe without significant adverse effects. All this being said, a supplement should not be used as a substitute for sunscreen and other sun protective measures — but it may provide some added protection."

Dr. H.L. Greenberg, a Las Vegas-based dermatologist, agrees. "Heliocare does not work as well as regular sunscreen and sun avoidance. When taken 45 minutes before going outdoors and every two hours while outdoors, it acts as an antioxidant to help with damage post-sun exposure." 

Weird fact: the fern plant which Polypodium leucotomos is derived from was once an aquatic plant. Adaptation helped it develop this organically derived antioxidant, which protected it from harsh UV exposure once it become a a land-based plant. It all sounds a bit like science fiction, but nature is pretty darn smart. While you won't find us popping pills and skipping sunscreen on days when we're headed to the beach, we do plan to load up on tomatoes and blueberries this summer when they're plentiful at the farmer's market, and we just might be adding some Heliocare to our already air-tight sunscreen regimen