Summer skin care: ultimate sun protection

Summer is all about fun under the sun. Although dermatologist always recommend sun protection, it doesn’t mean we live like vampires when it comes to sunny days. Bob and I traveled to Hawaii recently and we had a ton of fun with proper sun protection. Beside sunscreen and sun protective clothing, I want to introduce another product that will give your skin additional protection from solar damage.

Heliocare is a plant based supplement that has antioxidant properties. It is derived from Polypodium leucotomos fern, which is found in Central and South America. This supplement is taken as needed when anticipating long duration of sun exposure.

Does it really work? Polypodium leucotomos extract (PLE) is not a new discovery. It is a part of the polyphenol family of chemicals (including tea, cocoa, wine, soy, etc) that are well known for their antioxidant affects. Clinically it’s has shown to reduce sun-induced erythema (sunburns). Patients subjected to UV radiation before and after ingesting the supplement showed a significant decrease in sun burn after ingestion of PLE. Biopsies of these patients’ skin also demonstrated lower amounts of sunburn cells and inflammation post PLE ingestion. This helps to decrease the amount of oxidative changes in the skin, decreasing collagen and elastin breakdown.

Medically for my patients with photosensitive disorders, PLE supplements, along with adequate sun protection, allows them to stay out in the sun for much longer periods of time without flaring their skin disease.

Interestingly, some dermatologists recommend PLE  for treatment of melasma in skin of color patients. I recently learned about this unique use at the Skin of Color Seminar. There are small double-blinded, randomized controlled studies showing impressive lightening of the melasma when patients are concurrently applying proper topical treatments and taking oral PLE compared to just topicals alone.

Polypodium lecuotomos extract is by no means a substitute for sunscreen, but it will give you that additional 4-6% of protection that sunscreen cannot provide.


Here is my recommended sun protection regimen (and what I did during my Hawaii vacation) for the summer:

  1.  Apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to leaving home. Physical sunscreens (containing zinc oxide) offer better production than chemical ones. Makes sure it is broadsprectrum and water resistant. Make sure to apply the adequate amount (see link).
  2. Take Heliocare 1 capsule 30 minute prior to outdoor. Additional capsule may be taken hours later if anticipating long sun exposure duration.
  3. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours
    1. I just want to briefly mention ColoreScience powder mineral sunscreen. It contains powdered zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. I’ve been using this daily before leaving work at the end of the day, to help touch up the sunscreen that may have been rubbed off from surgical masks or with my hand. I gently stroke my face with this brush a few times to get even and adequate covereage. I love the simple, clean, and hands-free application. Best of all, it is very cosmetically elegant, giving slightly bronzed and matted look. I do not recommend this as a primary daily sunscreen, however it is great for reapplication.





  1. The impact of oral Polypodium leucotomos extract on ultraviolet B response: A human clinical study. JAAD, July 2017.
  2. Double-blind placebo controlled trial to investigate the use of PLE (Polypodium leucotomos extract) in the management of melasma. JAAD, April 2012.
  3. Oral Polypodium leucotomos extract decreases ultraviolet-induced damage of human skin. JAAD, December, 2014.



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