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Sunscreen pills could become new option for sun protection

By Katie Virtue


As the sun beats down on Charlotte, many people are swimming to stay cool and lathering on the sunscreen before heading outside.

But in a few years, you may be able to take a sunscreen pill instead of using lotion.

Charlotte mom Heather Gaskins doesn’t mess around when it comes to the summer sun. The skin-cancer survivor uses both sunscreen and sun-protective clothing to stay safe.

“Having had skin cancer before, we’ll take all the time we can to protect ourselves and we don’t stay out long,” Gaskins said.

Dr. Girish Munavalli hopes new drugs will make sun protection even easier. The goal is to allow the body to block UV rays from the inside-out.

Right now, researchers are synthesizing new chemicals from coral for use in sunscreen pills. But they’re still in development and at least five years away from consumers.

Scientists are also testing an implant called Scenesse. It uses hormones to increase melanin, which help block UV rays. The implant is in drug trials and will not be available for at least two years.

“These types of compounds could increase their melanin in their skin, hopefully,” Munavalli said. “So that will probably come to market in the U.S. before anything else, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Many people Eyewitness News spoke with want to stick with regular sunscreen. Side effects are the number one fear when it comes to taking a pill instead of using the lotion.

“It’s something new, and you’d have to use it or take it for a while to know if there’s going to be any side effects,” Carrie Zackery said. “That might not be as good an idea as I thought.”

Munavalli is eager to see the latest research.

“A lot of our drugs in nature come from plants and animals and bacteria, so it’s a good start,” Munavalli said.