If I were to tell you there’s a pill that you could take every day to help prevent sun damage, would you believe me? It sounds like something out of science fiction, but the pill exists. Heliocare® is a “one-a-day dietary supplement made with Fernblock® Polypodium leucotomos extract (PLE)” and is designed to protect you from free radicals – at least that is what its website claims. But supplements like these do not need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Is Heliocare for real, or just blowing smoke?
The research behind Heliocare
The key to Heliocare is Polypodium leucotomos, a type of fern found in South America. Doctors have used extracts from this plant to treat a variety of skin conditions including In one study, a group of 40 adult men and women were split into a placebo group and a test group who took a capsule of Heliocare twice a day. The results showed members of the placebo group were to experience at least one sunburn during the study and researchers concluded P. leucotomos is a safe and effective way to reduce the damaging effects of UV radiation.
Additionally, highlights P. leucotomos’ role in accelerating the removal of UV-induced carcinogenic byproducts and inhibiting the generation of reactive oxygen species. In other words, the researchers believe there is evidence that supports claims that P. leucotomos’ can help prevent skin cancer and damage caused by UV radiation.
An FDA warning
Last year the Food and Drug Administration released a warning against certain supplements claiming to act as sunscreens. They called out four companies (Advanced Skin Brightening Formula, Sunsafe Rx, Solaricare, and Sunergetic) for making misleading claims in their marketing that suggested to consumers that they would not need to apply sunscreen when taking the supplements. Notably, Heliocare was not on the FDA’s hit list. In fact, with HuffPost saying they recommend Heliocare to their patients, but only in addition to regular sunscreen. Heliocare does not act as a sunblock (nor does it claim to), but it can be a helpful tool in battling sun damage.
"There has been a lot of promising research done with the specific formulation Heliocare. I think Heliocare can be recommended as a good adjunct to sunscreen, especially in fair-skinned individuals who easily burn or for those who are outdoors for hours at a time. Some dermatologists recommend taking one supplement daily with an additional pill one hour before intense sun exposure. This does not replace other important sun protective behaviors such as sunscreen and protective hats and clothing."
There you have it! Heliocare is safe and can be helpful in protecting your skin, just make sure you use it in addition to your sunscreen, not instead of your sunscreen.