Why haven’t we invented a sunscreen pill?

A question every pale person wants answered

Antioxidants in Polypodium leucotomos, a tropical fern, can technically block UV radiation. But antioxidants are unstable molecules, so getting them from stomach to skin is hard. Today’s fern-extract pills, like Solaricare or Heliocare, reach only SPF 4, not nearly enough for daily protection, let alone a beach day. This instability issue won’t be solved soon, so keep slathering up.

Want to know if your fantasy invention could become a reality? Tweet @PopSci or tell us on Facebook. Popular Science reader Chad Wells submitted this question via Facebook.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2017 issue of Popular Science, under the title “I Wish Someone Would Invent…A Sunscreen Pill.”

Sara Chodosh

Sara Chodoshis an associate editor at PopSci where she writes about everything from vaccine hesitancy to extreme animal sex. She got her master's degree in science journalism at NYU's Science Health and Environmental Reporting Program, and is getting a second master's in data visualization from the University of Girona. Contact the author here.