While you may embrace the idea of using sunscreen to reduce your risk of skin cancer and prevent premature aging, let’s face it, applying sunscreen can be a chore. It’s often messy, inconvenient, and downright impossible to apply on “hard to reach” places--unless you’re a double-jointed circus contortionist.
Anyone who’s ended up with the tell-tale “oops, I must have missed a spot” patch of sunburn can tell you, “There’s just got to be a better way!”
As it turns out, scientists are working on one. They hope to replicate a UV blocking compound found in coral to create a sunscreen pill.
Coral Sun Protection
Scientists have known for some time that coral and some algae could protect themselves from UV rays in tropical climates by producing their own sunscreens. Researchers from King's College London working in the waters along Australia's Great Barrier Reef discovered the genetic and biochemical processes behind coral's innate ability to block UV rays.
They found that the algae living within the coral makes a compound that they believe is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae. And, fish that feed on the coral also benefit from the sunscreen protection. So it appears the benefits are transferable.
The first step for use in humans involves synthetically replicating the key compounds in the lab and testing them in a lotion form. If all goes well, you might be able to get inbuilt sun protection for your skin and eyes in a convenient pill. But it’s going to be a few years before that happens, so don’t toss your sunscreen lotions just yet.
The researchers are also exploring other applications for these coral compounds--like crop protection for plants in hot climates.
Until the “sunscreen pill” makes its way to store counters, here are some natural ways to boost your sun protection.