Drinkable Sunscreen, A Review And An Explainer


Humans are creatures of comfort and conditioning. We get caught in our familiar neural pathways and plow those tracks deeper and deeper with each passing year. We begin to feel like we understand our little corner of the world. Then one day someone says we can drink our sunscreen and all of that goes out the window. Suddenly, it’s like the whole planet has Keyser Söze-d us into a false sense of comfort before flipping us [for real].

At least that’s how I felt when I heard about UVO, a sunscreen you can drink. I mean “screen” is right there in the the name and the efficacy of an internal screen seems difficult for the non-scientific mind to fathom.

Before risking a skin graft, I spoke with the product’s inventor, Dr. Bobby Awadalla, who is a real dermatologist with a real office and who, I would imagine, will be ruined if this is all a big sham.

So…What is this stuff? 

UVO is the beginning of a new era of sun protection. Not that it will replace sunscreen, but that it will be part of a broader supplementation plan. We’re learning that we don’t need paint to activate the body’s protection mechanisms. The body knows how to protect itself. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t live as long and we’d be riddled with skin cancer. There’s a genetic disease in which the DNA isn’t able to repair UV damage and people dealing with that disease have serious skin cancer by age ten. So the body is certainly capable of protecting itself and is designed to do so.

Are you saying that your formula is just about activating the body’s natural defenses?

Yes and no. Many of the mechanisms involve ramping up the body’s ability to protect itself by increasing the nutrients and antioxidants that we already consume. Others, are natural plant extracts that offer sun protection in ways the body doesn’t have the ability to do.

But you don’t really seem to come out to say that this could be a complete replacement…

As a dermatologist, my stance is always going to be multiple forms of sun protection over just one. I’ll never recommend someone go out during the prime hours and just lay there to bake. You have to be conscious of taking shade, wearing a hat, and using an umbrella. So there’s kind of this bigger concept of being “sun wise” and UVO fits in that. If you’re surfing all day, I won’t say don’t put sunscreen on your face. But if you’re surfing for three hours, I guarantee that your sunscreen is gone after 30 minutes. That’s when UVO comes in to say “Hey, you’re still protected.”

You must’ve dealt with a ton of skeptics because —

[Laughs] Of course. People are skeptical of things that are new. If you told people in the 1800s that one day they wouldn’t need a horse to ride down the street, they would have laughed in your face. Change and revolution comes with skepticism. It’s natural and it’s good. I don’t mind answering questions — this is something I’ve invested heavily in and I want to talk about it. It makes me smile when people who were doubtful come back to me with stories about their success with the product.

At the end of the day, I’m a dermatologist and my focus is to get people to use sunscreen. Still, no matter what I do, some people don’t do it. Maybe they don’t like how it feels or how it looks or whatever. UVO can help those people a lot and for the rest of us it fills in the gap during the times we forget to reapply.

Okay, that was all well put. Also, the bottle does have actual ingredients listed (unlike the only competitor I could find, which is called “Harmonized Water“). There’s a science page on the website, and one for clinical trials — although to be fair, the trial was done with only 15 people. Still, considering that Dr. Awadalla sounded rational and nothing like a snake oil salesman, I decided to try his product out on the Fourth of July. As far as one-man, very-un-clinical trials go, it was a leap of faith because I like to celebrate my independence with six or seven hours on the beach.

Dr. Bobby instructed me to drink a full bottle (12 ounces) an hour before going in the sun. I was still dubious, so I drank two instead. I wasn’t wild about the saccharine taste, but it wasn’t unbearable [apparently there’s already a new formula with lower sugar content on the way -ed].

The first noticeable effect of UVO is that it’s unnerving as all hell. I mean, cancer stuff aside, sunburns are miserable and I’m highly prone to them. The prospect of getting fried sounded absolutely unbearable, so I supplemented my two bottles with traditional zinc-based sunscreen on my shoulders and face.

I then proceeded to surf three times in one day and was completely sun-exposed for hours on end. I wore a hat and snuck under an umbrella here and there, but for the most part I was out there and loving every minute of it. At one point, I reapplied traditional sunscreen to my face and shoulders, but I don’t think I put anything on my legs or torso all day. I also drank another bottle of UVO over the course of the afternoon — taking a sip or two every time a friend asked me what it was.

That night, before bed, I looked in the mirror. My cheeks weren’t red or puffy. My back and shoulders didn’t have any hot spots, and I didn’t have to take a bath in aloe and coconut oil (as fun as that sounds).

Does this mean it worked? I think so. I mean, I’m not a doctor, or a scientist, or a qualified sunscreen reviewer and I only tried the stuff once. I’m not going to bet my life on it. On the other hand, I was in the sun all day and applied far less traditional sunscreen than normal.

So…yeah, I think it worked. Count it as a win for science.