Are There Better Sunscreens Across The Pond?

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Not only do they have more vacation time, the French Riviera and Javier Bardem, but it looks like those Europeans also have better sunscreens too. Apparently, there are about eight sunscreen ingredients that have been pending with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for years, some for over a decade. These ingredients are already available in sunscreens that are being sold in many overseas countries—specifically in Europe.

"The U.S. is an island by itself on this one," says dermatologist Dr. Henry Lim, chairman of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and member of the American Academy of Dermatology to the Wall Street Journal. "They're available in Canada, available in Europe, available in Asia, available in Mexico and available in South America."

As of now, the U.S. only has a few ingredients available that filter UVA rays and provide long-range protection, but they’re not without their problems. Benzophenones like oxybenzone and avobenzone are known to cause allergic reactions, potentially affect hormone levels and some studies have found traces in the blood stream. Avenbenzone, in particular, can sometimes break down in sunlight and can potentially make UVB blockers less effective. Even though dermatologists say approved ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer to use, many consumers complain about their white, chalky appearance.

If currently pending effective UVA blockers such as ecamsule, Tinosord S and Tinosorb M were approved by the FDA, consumers would have more options. Ecamsule, in particular, a proprietary ingredient of L’Oreal, has been widely used in a variety of European skin-care products since 1991. 

However, because the FDA hasn’t given the go-ahead yet, many US doctors are hesitant to recommend these foreign sunscreens to their patients. This is because they could potentially be highly allergenic or affect estrogen levels and there isn’t enough research to prove otherwise.

Here’s to hoping that we’ll have more options in the near future! Until then, we’ll just have to stick to what we have or stay out of the sun completely. Learn how to select the best sunscreen.