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Should You Buy Sunscreen from Europe or Japan Instead?

Coppertone Waterbabies SPF 50 Check the ingredients when you travel: There are only 17 approved sunscreen ingredients in the U.S., 28 in Europe, and over 40 in Japan.
According to the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, there are over 200 sunscreen manufacturers in the U.S. currently making over 4000 different sunscreen products. Yet, despite all of this selection, the formulas are not as varietal as they are for our European and Asian counterparts.  In Europe and Japan, sunscreens are considered to be cosmetics, not over-the-counter drugs like they are in the U.S.  For this reason, there are more active ingredients allowed:

  • In the U.S., there are only 17 approved active sunscreen ingredients.
  • In Europe, there are 28.
  • In Japan, there are more than 40.

Ingredients Not Allowed in the U.S.

As of June 2012, here is a list of some of the ingredients permitted in Europe and Japan but not in the U.S.:

Of these ingredients, I think we will be seeing the most from Tinosorb M and S in the years to come. Thankfully, Tinosorb S is now available in the U.S.

One Ingredient to Make it to America: Tinosorb S

Tinosorb Spectrum Graph Unlike some other chemical sunscreens, Tinosorb is highly stable, so it doesn't break down in the presence of light or air. Yet, the best part of Tinosorb is that it is the most effective UV protection available for both UVA and UVB rays, according to a 2007 study from the European journal Pharmazie. Tinosorb’s secret?  It is not just a physical sunscreen that prevents UV rays from hitting the skin, or just a chemical sunscreen that stops transmitted rays from damaging the skin - but actually does both!  That's right - Tinosorb shields and protects the skin.  That's like a man who stands up for you in public and cuddles with you while watching The Notebook.  Best of both worlds! Based on current studies, it does not seem that long-term exposure to Tinosorb has any damaging effects, nor does it seem that irritation is common.   Still, Tinosorb is a relatively new ingredient, and further studies need to be done.  That said, it has been on the market for several years in Europe, and irritation studies have been minimal.

Products You Can Get in the U.S. with Tinosorb

Avene High Protection SPF 50+ I really like Avene High Protection SPF 50+ Emulsion for the face. It has chemical sunscreen Tinosorb, formulated in a lightweight emulsion that wears well under makeup. It also wears well under physical sunscreens, for those that are ultra-conscious about sun protection!
Here are some great options:

Bottom Line

While many dermatologists still swear by physical sunscreens, like zinc and titanium oxide, there are still many patients who are constantly looking for alternatives.  There are many new options brewing on the horizon that are currently only available in Europe and Japan, but one great chemical sunscreen, Tinosorb S, has made it to our shores.  I highly recommend it for anyone who dislikes zinc and titanium oxide and who wants an effective, broad-spectrum UVA/UVB chemical sunscreen! What do you think about buying sunscreen overseas?  Or Tinosorb?  Let us know in Comments!

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Date: July 6 2012 at 7:59 AM
Skin Care

Comments (8)

  1. jeff
    July 6 2012 at 5:29 PM


  2. MysteriousWho
    July 7 2012 at 11:02 PM

    Do you know how US and Canadian approved sunscreen ingredients compare?

  3. Jessica Allison
    July 12 2012 at 10:30 AM

    For anyone looking, the Eucerin Sun Protection line is not available in the US, though Amazon sellers like the one linked to in this post, will be able to ship it in. Just thought I'd mention it so nobody goes on a wild goose chase :)

  4. CC
    July 21 2012 at 11:57 PM

    I think Mexoryl XL is now approved by the FDA. La Roche Posay, available at many Walgreens and CVS stores uses it.

  5. CC
    July 21 2012 at 11:58 PM

    My bad, it's Mexoryl XS now XL

  6. CC
    July 21 2012 at 11:58 PM

    not, lol

  7. Nicki
    July 22 2012 at 5:16 AM

    @CC - It's a difficult distinction: Mexoryl XL is only available in Canada, Europe, and Japan. Mexoryl SX is available in the U.S.

  8. ian
    October 22 2012 at 3:49 AM

    Only just found your article? Are you saying that Tinosorb S is now definitively approved for use in sunscreens formulations marketed in the US?

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