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Every skincare expert I know preaches about using sunscreen. So, I've been whipped into a sunblock slathering frenzy for fear of skin wrinkling, darkening and damage. Most of my beauty products contain SPF - from face creams to foundations. But I still worry I'm not protected enough from nasty UV rays, what with reports about skin cancer being on the rise.
What can I do to up my sun protection? Oral supplements may be the answer. Heliocare, for example, was developed in Spain by a dermatologist and sold in Europe from the early 1980s. Available in Singapore since 2005, it's supposedly the only oral supplement (right) here that's marketed as a sunblock. Taking one of these orange capsules every day is said to help protect skin cells and DNA, and prevent premature ageing, pigmentation and skin cancer. The main ingredient is a fern extract from South America that's rich in antioxidants like caffeic and ferulic acids. A 2009 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that this extract blocked some skin-damaging enzymes and increased collagen on skin samples exposed to UV rays. Dr Salvador Gonzales, a dermatology researcher at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kittering Cancer Centre told the newspaper Heliocare has SPF3 like a weak sunscreen, and although this isn't enough to prevent UV damage totally, the damage would be slower to develop and less severe.
SHOO, FREE RADICALS!
Like Heliocare, other oral skin supplements - from brands such as Imedeen, Fancl and DHC - are formulated with vitamins and antioxidants. They promise overall antiageing benefits, including preventing the effects of harmful UV rays, says Maureen Law, managing director of Imedeen. "But we don't label our products as having sun protection because we don't want people to forgo sunblock, the first line of defence," she adds. It's an opinion shared by dermatologist Dr Eileen Tan. "Most oral sunscreens can prevent oxidant damage from UV rays to a certain extent. However, I don't know of any clinical trials that have compared oral to topical sunscreens. Whether you take these pills or not, you have to keep applying sunblock."
THE SPF DIET
Still, the simplest alternative to taking sun-protection pills is eating healthy. Dr Alvin Wong, medical director of SKN Medi Aesthetics, says that since most of these oral supplements contain antioxidants, you can reap similar benefits by being on an antioxidant-rich diet. Pick foods like citrus fruit, berries, red, green or orange vegetables and whole grains. He's convinced me to stick to my annual resolution of eating healthier: better health and skin, and weight loss (hopefully). Yes, pop that sunscreen pill for extra protection, but don't skip your sunblock.
Source: Her World, Beauty News Suncare Special, June 2012
Journalist: Melissa Chew