Oral supplements just one tool in armory vs sun damage, says new market entrant

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Sunsafe RX is a new supplement developed by Santa Monica-based Napa Valley Bioscience
Sunsafe RX is a new supplement developed by Santa Monica-based Napa Valley Bioscience
While it would be irresponsible to suggest you can pop some pills and spend all day in intense sunlight without damaging your skin, there is a growing market for supplements that can protect skin from ‘incidental’ exposure to sunlight, says one new entrant to the nutri-cosmetics market.

David Murphey is founder and president of Napa Valley Bioscience, the Santa Monica-based firm behind Sunsafe Rx, a new supplement claimed to help skin defend itself against UVA and UVB rays and prevent unnecessary skin aging.

An extra layer of protection

He told NutraIngredients-USA: “No one is suggesting you should go out all day in hot sun without covering up or necessarily using sunscreen.

“Supplements are about giving you an extra layer of protection, but also for times when you would probably not think about using sunscreen or covering up - when you are going to and from work, driving and so on - what I’d call incidental sunlight exposure.”

He added: “Unlike sunscreen, using supplements such as Sunsafe don’t block the production of vitamin D.”

A healthy glow

But it is not necessarily a case of using supplements OR sunscreen, he said.“If you are going to spend a long time out in intense sunlight you need to cover up.

But supplements can be used in combination with sunscreen, which people rarely use as directed. They miss areas of skin and they don’t keep reapplying it if they sweat or go swimming. Supplements offer total body protection.

“Another benefit of products containing carotenoids is that they give your skin a healthy glow and serve as a natural tanning agent. You can use them all year around.”

Natural fern extract: Polypodium Leucotomos (PL) Leaf Extract

Sunsafe RX contains a proprietary blend of active ingredients including Polypodium Leucotomos​ (PL) Leaf Extract (a fern native to central and South America shown to offer protection from UV rays); green tea extract EGCG; vitamins C, E and A; zinc and selenium; plus lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, phytoene, phytofluene and fish oil.

While the photo-protective effects of carotenoids are well-known, there is also some clinical research on PL extracts, said Murphey.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology​ in 2003 (Photoprotective Properties Of A Hydrophilic Extract Of The Fern Polypodium Leucotomos On Human Skin Cells​) demonstrated the photoprotective effect of PL extract on human cells in vitro, he said.

A human study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology​ in 2004 (Oral Polypodium Leucotomos Extract Decreases Ultraviolet-Induced Damage Of Human Skin​) then showed that oral supplementation with PL extract offered significant protection for skin against UV radiation, he added.

Sunsafe Rx has been test marketed in some stores but is primarily sold online and via direct-to-consumer catalogues, said Murphey.

The firm has not yet conducted any human clinical studies on the product, but may look at the feasibility of this in future should sales take off, he added.

Where should suncare supplements be stocked?

While there are several other supplements on the market claiming to protect skin from sun damage, the category is still relatively new and it is not clear yet whether stocking these products next to topical sunscreen products, in the beauty aisles next to cosmeceutical products, in the dietary supplement fixture alongside skin and nail care supplements or with antioxidant/anti-aging supplements, is most likely to drive sales, he said.  

Logically stocking them next to sunscreen could be a better place to put them to raise awareness, but it depends on the retailer.”

The oral supplement suncare market

The number of oral supplements claiming to protect skin from sun damage is growing rapidly, with several products now on the market including Biopelle’s Heliocare​ supplements (which contain beta-carotene, green tea and PL extract); Cyanotech’s Bioastin​ astaxanthin supplements; FerncarePLE​ PL extract supplements; Murad’s Pomphenol Sunguard​ supplements (which contain pomegranate extract); Functionalab’s Opti tan formula​ capsules (which contain lycopene, zeaxantin and lutein and Vitamins A, C and E) and Life Extension’s Enhanced Fernblock with Sendara​ (which contains PL extract and Sendara, a blend of ashwagandha and Indian gooseberry).

Many of these are marketed as being part of a broader strategy to protect skin from sun damage. Fernblock, for example, is “designed to complement topical sunscreens for intense sun exposure​”, says Life Extension.

“Topical sunscreens are effective if properly and regularly applied, especially for long periods of sun exposure. FernBlock supplements the effects of sunscreens by protecting the entire skin surface and has an obvious advantage since it cannot be removed by perspiring or bathing.”

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