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Can a Pill Really Protect You From Sun Damage?

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Part 2 in a 2-part series

In Part 1, you were introduced to polypodium leucotomos, a natural compound found in the rhizomes (rootstock) of some fern plants that has shown some promise in protecting human skin from damaging UVA and UVB sun rays.

Polypodium is one key ingredient found in several pill supplements on the market that promise to provide, as one product puts it, “maximum protection with a daily dose!”

So are these supplements a silver bullet to protect you and your family’s skin from the sun’s rays?

Most experts say not yet.

While polypodium supplements get mixed assessments from the experts, can some people benefit from extra sun protection the supplements might provide?

Some doctors say perhaps, but warn they are never a substitute for topical sunscreens or practicing sun safety.

Melanie D. Palm, MD, MBA, is Founding Director of The Art of Skin MD in Solana Beach, Calif., and an assistant clinical professor at UC San Diego. She uses a polypodium supplement herself and recommends it to a variety of her patients.

Palm particularly encourages its use for those with high sensitivity to the sun that accompanies skin conditions such as melasma and psoriasis, and inflammatory diseases such as lupus, and even skin cancers.

She says when used with a topical broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher, oral polypodium has “changed some of my patients’ lives.”

Anecdotal evidence aside, there hasn’t yet been enough research to know if oral polypodium effectively protects human skin from harmful UV rays as advertised, said Dr. Emma Taylor, a medical dermatologist at UCLA.

“That doesn’t mean it’s been discredited,” Taylor said. “It just hasn’t gone through rigorous testing so there is actually very little we know about it. The research just isn’t there yet.”

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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