Forget Sunscreen, Sun Pills May Be Wave Of the Future


Researchers at King’s College London have discovered that coral produces natural compounds to protect itself from damaging UV rays. Scientists say these compounds may lead to a new type of sunscreen for humans.

Creamy, sticky, smelly. Sunscreen products are essential for skin protection but a pain to apply. For those who don’t like lotions or sprays, sun protective clothing is an option—though not a great one if you’re experiencing heat like we are here in Chicago. Enter sunscreen pills, the little pearls poised to be the skin-shielding wave of the future.

Last summer, researchers discovered that corals somehow resist sunburns despite their shallow water residences in sun-heavy regions. Their secret? Well, corals and the algae they host produce compounds that protect them from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays that are responsible for sunburns. This research comes from King’s College London in collaboration with the Australian Institute for Marine Science and the University of Maine.

VIDEO: In this video Dr. Paul Long of the King’s College Institute of Pharmaceutical Science explains why this discovery about coral and algae is important.

The findings are currently in preliminary stages, with such a sun pill at least four years from production. Due to coral’s endangered status, researchers cannot harvest it, so they will instead have to recreate the special compound in their labs before testing it for use on humans. Researchers aim to develop a pill that would protect both skin and eyes, minimizing or perhaps even eliminating the need for sunglasses and creams for protection purposes.

So how would something like this work?

The pill would have to release compounds that would enter the blood stream and provide skin protection benefits to the whole body. This would likely require some planning ahead—no throwing them in your beach bag on the way out the door. Also, sunscreen pills may be prescription only. With overuse potentially causing such problems as Vitamin D deficiency or bone weakness, the use of these pills will need to be regulated. We don’t know yet which people will be the best candidates for these pills but that will probably become more clear as they get closer to production.

I don’t know about you but I welcome the opportunity to spend a day at the pool without sticky sprays. But pills? It’s going to be a hard sell but if they really work and don’t need reapplying after a swim, I might just get on board.

Editor’s Note: Until the sun pill is available, you’ll want to depend on a product with great reviews. Coppertone Oil Free Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 is the top-ranked sunscreen on the Viewpoints site (90/100 points).

Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with skin care, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.

Want more information on choosing the best sunscreen? Visit the Sunscreen homepage

Amina Elahi (51 Posts)

Amina Elahi writes about innovations in coffee makers for Viewpoints, drawing upon her interest and passion for coffee, tea and food. Amina also recommends good books and the recipes they inspire on her food blog,