Could a supplement help protect your skin from sun damage?
Last year, Nutritious Life’s resident dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, shared her thoughts on “sunscreen pills” with us. The quick-and-dirty message: No pill has ever been proven to replace your sunscreen, and many manufacturers make misleading claims about the products.
So we were surprised to hear her raving recently about one supplement that makes some promises related to sun protection. In fact, Dr. Bowe said that at the last dermatologist conference she attended, the derms at her table all had one thing in common “We were all taking Heliocare.”
We asked her for the details on what it is and why skincare experts swear by it.
What is Heliocare?
“Heliocare is a very powerful over-the-counter supplement that is made using a powerful antioxidant technology called Fernblock,” Dr. Bowe explains. “The main ingredient is an extract from a fern plant that grows in Central and South America, and it goes through a meticulous extraction process to ensure safety, efficacy and consistency (a rare thing in the supplement world).” That antioxidant power is combined with nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3 associated with reduced risk of skin cancer.
Does Heliocare Work?
Dr. Bowe says the powerful antioxidants in the supplement can do wonders for your skin, especially for people with melasma, a common skin pigmentation disorder. “Studies have shown the fern extract protects against free radicals, so it is one of the best ways to protect against hyperpigmentation,” she says. And studies like this one suggest taking nicotinamide every day can significantly reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.
How does it work? “UV rays increase your risk of skin cancer in three main ways: by damaging the DNA in your skin cells, suppressing your own natural immune response to tumor growth, and last, by depleting the energy stores in the form of ATP. Normally, ATP is used by your skin cells to repair damage, but sun exposure makes our ATP levels plummet, so we don’t have the cellular energy to repair the DNA damage that’s being done,” Dr. Bowe explains. “Nicotinamide is actually used by the body to make more ATP, so it boosts cellular energy and enhances DNA repair. When you take nicotinamide, it helps to build up enough cellular energy to repair the damage done by harmful UV rays.”
Do you still have to wear sunscreen?
Yes! If you decide to take Heliocare, think of it as an extra defense against the development of skin cancer. “It’s not a substitute for sunscreen,” Dr. Bowe says. “It’s meant to work synergistically with sunscreen.”