As I mentioned earlier this week, when you go to buy a sunscreen, it’s important to consider not only the SPF which will help guard against sunburn and skin cancer, but also a sunscreen’s protection against UVA. UVA contributes not only to skin cancer but also premature aging. Unfortunately, there is no grading system to evaluate UVA protection in sunscreens. However, starting this December the FDA will require sunscreens that are labeled “broad spectrum” protection to have a certain level of UVA protection. (Finally!!!) But it will still be difficult to compare UVA protection between different sunscreens since there is no number or scaling system to rate the relative level of UVA protection. So you basically have to know what to look for in sunscreens beyond the “broad spectrum” labeling in order to find sunscreens with the very best UVA protection.
My favorite sunscreen is La Roche Posay Anthelios with Mexoryl, and my personal favorite is Fluide Extreme Anthelios XL. This is the one product in my medicine cabinet that I would not give up. Mexoryl is the most effective organic UVA filter approved by the FDA. In addition, it is photostable so it doesn’t start degrading the second it’s exposed to sunlight which is a problem with some UVA sunscreens. So if you want a top-notch UVA sunscreen that protects against photoaging, look for Mexoryl!
Inorganic sunscreens such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are considered physical “blockers” of the sun. They typically reflect the sun rather than absorb it like the organic (chemical) sunscreens. Inorganic sunscreens are photostable but the downside is that they can make you look white. Inorganic sunscreens with smaller particles (nanoparticles) of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide make you look less white but tend to be less effective. If you are worried about chemical organic sunscreens (yes, organic sunscreens are chemical sunscreens) or have very sensitive skin, you may want to opt for an inorganic sunscreen such as Elta MD. I like this one because it has a tint to it that hides the white and my husband describes the look as “giving a glow” to my skin. However, most inorganic sunscreens are not really totally chemical free since the list of inactive ingredients usually contains chemicals ☹. But they are the way to go if you want to stay away from “chemical sunscreens.”
Other notable sunscreens with superior photostable UVA protection include Neutrogena’s Helioplex and Aveeno’s Continuous Protection. These sunscreens are readily available at stores and really great organic sunscreens!
I keep all of these sunscreens around. My typical routine is Ultra Fluide Anthelios XL on my face and chest every morning; it doubles as my moisturizer. If I’m going to work I will put my make-up on over my sunscreen. If I’m not wearing make-up that day, I will add Elta MD before going out to give myself a more natural look while giving me a second application of sunscreen. During nicer whether, I use Neutrogena with Helioplex on my body in the morning before getting dressed and I still use Anthelios Fluide Extreme on my face, neck and chest. This regime isn’t for everyone…the Fluide Extreme can cause a shine which I hide with a little powder. Elta MD doesn’t have any shine so you can try that instead or another Anthelios product with Mexoryl. FYI, Mexoryl XL isn’t available in the US yet so you’ll have to get it online, but Mexoryl SX is available…it’s great too but XL is slightly better at UVA protection. When XL and SX are used in the same product you get ultimate UVA protection!