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 Preventing sunburn and sun damage
 Sunscreens 101 (USA)
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Forum Member

Posted - 07/24/2006 :  9:12:22 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
(I normally don't send out annoying 'informative' posts, but I'm making an exception this time, since sunscreens are of particular interest to naked people. Apologies for the length and technical jargon.)

I was mildly interested to read today that the FDA has given its approval for the sale in the U.S. of sunscreen containing an ingredient called Mexoryl. However, when I delved a little deeper into the background of the story, I was flabbergasted. Mexoryl is by all accounts a huge improvement over what is currently available here. American dermatologists have been screaming for this stuff for years. Here's why.

The sunscreens we used when we were kids only blocked UVB rays (290-320 nm). These rays are the ones that cause sunburn, and until the late 1970's, they were thought to be the only 'dangerous' part of the solar UV spectrum.

UVA radiation (320-400), having a longer wavelength and therefore lower energy than UVB, didn't attract much attention until dermatologists noticed that sunscreen use, while preventing sunburn, didn't seem to be protecting people from skin cancers or from skin damage like wrinkles and loss of elasticity. It turned out that UVA penetrates much farther into the skin than UVB, and is actually more dangerous in the long run than UVB.

Several "UVA blockers" have been developed and marketed in the U.S., but none of them is particularly good, especially at the longer wavelengths. Oxybenzone and avobenzone absorb some (not all) UVA, but are destroyed in the process and lose effectiveness in a short time. The only things that really work are zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which are pasty white goops that nobody wants to use

Mexoryl was developed in France in the 1980's. Unlike the 'benzones', it isn't destroyed by UVA rays. It blocks all UVA wavelengths, but not all UVB, so it's usually mixed with a UVB blocker.It is the consensus choice of dermatological societies all over there world. Other than bureaucratic inefficiency, I don't know why the FDA has delayed approval of Mexoryl. Maybe because it's French. [Conspiracy theorists claim it's to protect Neutrogena/Johnson & Johnson. They are bringing to market a UVA blocker called Helioplex, which is essentially a stabilized form of avobenzone Hmmm.] L'Oreal will market Mexoryl under the trade name Anthelios. The problem is, it won't be available until the summer months have come and gone, and will initially be sold only as SPF 15.

The good news is that these sunscreens (up to SPF 60) are available online from Canadian pharmacies. The not-quite-so-good news is that the FDA regards importing them as technically illegal, although I doubt you'd get a prison sentence for contraband sunscreen. They're also kinda pricey; we're talking L'Oreal, after all. But you're worth it.

Country: USA | Posts: 1036

old hippie
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Posted - 07/25/2006 :  12:25:15 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
....Thanks, Doc
Took me about thirty seconds to find, which lists a 3-oz SPF 60 for $20 plus shipping. Now, I have had one squamous cell removed, and my Dad (bless his soul & genes) had a number of basal cell carcinomas removed in his later years. I figure, since I have a cancer history as well, I'd better be as protective as possible.
...wouldn't want to go breaking the law, of course - we never did that in my youth 40 years ago, right? :) Of course, the gummint knows what is best for me better than I do, eh?

Old Hippie

Dum vivimus, vivamus!

Country: USA | Posts: 325 Go to Top of Page

Forum Member

Posted - 07/25/2006 :  01:13:33 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Old Hippie,

Far be it from me to suggest that anyone break the law ... unless it's a stupid moronic law that makes no sense, and is actually harmful to the citizens. My guess is that a large percentage of the members of this forum are outlaws already, having violated the Indecent Exposure statutes a time or two. (I was going to say "hardened criminals", but ... let's don't go there.)

A Google search will pull up dozens of Canadian sites that sell products containing Mexoryl. You can also find it through Yahoo. Most sites are legit, but caveat emptor. (You're not the only one who took Latin!)

One additional thing I should have stressed. People our age (I'm 53) have already done considerable damage to our hides. While an effective sunscreen is still a good idea for us old farts, it is even more important for the younger folk, especially the kids. Maybe when they're our age, they won't look quite so bad!


Country: USA | Posts: 1036 Go to Top of Page

Forum Member

Posted - 07/25/2006 :  12:59:41 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks Doc,

My wife has a history of skin cancer in her family. She will welcome the news.


Country: USA | Posts: 200 Go to Top of Page

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Posted - 07/25/2006 :  6:26:53 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

I also want to thank you for this information. I'll pass it on to the Prof. Since her bout with the dematologist and skin cancer last year, this is better news for her.

I appreciate your information.


Country: USA | Posts: 2974 Go to Top of Page

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Posted - 07/25/2006 :  8:59:15 PM  Show Profile  Visit Ranger191's Homepage  Send Ranger191 a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Excellent post Doc! Thanks very much. My neighbors have had skin cancer already and has stopped enjoying the sun because of it. I'll pass this along to them.

Nobility is not a birthright, it is defined by one's actions.

Country: USA | Posts: 118 Go to Top of Page

New Member

Posted - 07/29/2006 :  09:34:55 AM  Show Profile  Send therainmakerman a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
I got so burned yesterday. First time at a nude beach and I lost track of time. I have an all over burn!

Country: USA | Posts: 3 Go to Top of Page

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Posted - 05/06/2007 :  6:06:36 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I guess I should call this "Sunscreens 102". Since my original post last year, there have been a couple of new developments.

Sunscreens containing Mexoryl are (finally!) becoming more available in the USA ... 15 years too late, in my opinion. Look for them under the "Anthelios" trade name. Don't be surprised if it's hard to find ... especially in the high-SPF formulations. I used Anthelios products on a nude cruise in the Grenadines last fall, and they worked well. And no, I don't own stock in it.

Perhaps not coincidentally (see the conspiracy theory in the original post), Neutrogena's "Helioplex" products have recently hit the market with a lot of advertising hoopla. They have taken Avobenzone, a pretty good but lamentably unstable UVA blocker, and figured out a way to keep it stablized (and thus functional) in the presence of strong UVA radiation. Then they tossed in some Oxybenzone to fend off UVB, and voila - a legitimate (and maybe a little less expensive) alternative to Mexoryl-containing products.

If you're put off by the thought of slathering up with scary-sounding synthetic creations out of the Organic Chemistry labs, there are some (slightly) simpler alternatives. Of course, the old tried-and-true UV blockers were zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which were fine ... if you didn't mind looking like a Druid. (No offense intended to any Druids out there.) Now, in the UK at least and with any luck coming soon to a drug store near you, is a modified titanium oxide formulation called "Optisol". It's been doped with a pinch of manganese, which imparts a couple of advantages. First, it acts as a free-radical scavenger. I won't go into the dreary technical details on why this is a good thing, but it is. Trust me. I'm a doctor. Second, the preparation has a sort of beige color to it which makes it look a lot less like war paint ... at least if you're of the beige persuasion.

Each of these products is a genuine improvement over what has been available in the US. I encourage my fellow heliophiles to seek them out and use them.

Country: USA | Posts: 1036 Go to Top of Page

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Posted - 05/07/2007 :  4:14:36 PM  Show Profile  Click to see EuroTim's MSN Messenger address  Send EuroTim a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Hi Doc,
I really appreciate all this info. I have yet another visit to the dermatologist next Monday and will ask him about Meroxyl. It would be nice to be able to go to the beach without spending the entire time worrying about future problems, as we've been watching the spots on my face for a year now!
Keep up the good work.

Country: Italy | Posts: 194 Go to Top of Page

Forum Member

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  12:37:43 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Sunscreens 103: More good news!

The FDA's current regulations on sunscreen formulations and labelling were issued in 1999. No new sunscreen ingredients had been approved since 1988! The FDA is finally starting to come to terms with the fact that the old "SPF" system, while helpful in avoiding a bad sunburn, is useless when it comes to preventing UV-A skin damage, which leads to wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and skin cancers. Their somewhat grudging approval of Mexoryl in 2006 was a real step forward, as was the development of Helioplex in 2007.

Since my last post on this topic, several brands of sunscreen have appeared on the shelves of your local Walgreen's boasting of their UV-A protection. Some of them have a form of stabilized avobenzone, which gives somewhat prolonged protection; others have plain old avobenzone, which starts breaking down as soon as the sun hits it. There isn't an obvious way to tell what you're getting.

After almost two years of dithering, the FDA appears to be in the final stages of preparing new and improved regulations. There is a lot of information to be found on their website, but the here's the important part. In addition to an "SPF" number, which only applies to UV-B, sunscreen labels will display a UV-A protection factor, using a system of 1 to 4 stars, 4 being the highest level of protection. This is good!

The FDA is also unhappy with claims that sunscreens are "waterproof" or "sweatproof". Fact is, they aren't. Under the new rules, a sunscreen can be marketed as "water-resistant" if it maintains its rated level of protection for 40 minutes in the water, and "very water-resistant" if it hold up for 80 minutes.

In related news ... Optisol, which is a formulation of nanoparticles of titanium dioxide with just a pinch of manganese thrown in, is now marketed in the UK, but it still seems to be a work in progress. Neither the FDA nor the major cosmetic companies in the US have shown much enthusiasm for it. Stay tuned.

And lastly ... combined usage of a physical sunscreen such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide with avobenzone-containing sunscreens appears to be a bad idea, because the avobenzone breaks down very rapidly. There is also some concern that so-called "mineral" make-up (whatever that is) can have a similar bad effect on avobenzone. This does not seem to be a problem with Mexoryl.

There are now a number of really good sunscreens available. Find one you like ... and then use it!

Country: USA | Posts: 1036 Go to Top of Page

Forum Member

Posted - 05/25/2009 :  6:08:37 PM  Show Profile  Send Warmskin a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
It's great that the FDA (could stand for - Federal Delays Administration) is approving something for us folks, albeit 20 years too late. With all the different kinds of sunblocker, it can be hard to find one that is best for you.

I try to find a tree or umbrella when in the state of clotheslessness, but use a 65 rated lotion. Didn't know about the nasty UVAs.

Why is that the FDA is decades behind the times? Maybe they are afraid of being sued if they release a medication without knowing 100% about each potentially useful product. I wish they'd pay attention to other countries' successes instead of thinking it must be researched here as if it were not a well-tested product elsewhere.

I wonder how many FDA folks buy meds from Canada?

“In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.” -John Adams

Country: USA | Posts: 1909 Go to Top of Page

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Posted - 05/25/2009 :  8:27:16 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Warmskin, you're quite right. The FDA has what amounts to an impossible mission: Save us from bad medicines, while providing a legal and regulatory framework for marketing good ones. Since no medicine is completely good nor completely bad, most of the drugs the FDA has to pass judgement on fall in a grey zone: they offer significant benefits, but have significant risks. The FDA has the unenviable task of trying to quantify that risk/benefit ratio while being bashed on one side by activists who want their particular favorite drug approved yesterday, and on the other by victims who claim to have been harmed by some product the FDA shouldn't have approved in the first place. Toss in some dubious research by clinicians with ties to the less-than-totally-scrupulous drug companies, and political overlords with a social agenda breathing down their necks, and you can imagine what a minefield the FDA scientists have to negotiate. In their defense, I must say that they do indeed look at other countries' data and procedures, but tend to favor large-scale studies done in the US where they have some oversight.

I wouldn't want their job. Nobody wants to be known as the guy who approved the next Thalidomide, so the tendency is to be over-cautious in approving new drugs. So things like Mexoryl and stabilized avobenzone take forever to grind through the approval process. Still ... better late than never!

Country: USA | Posts: 1036 Go to Top of Page

old hippie
Forum Member

Posted - 04/24/2013 :  5:04:31 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Doc -
Any more recent updates to the Sunscreen saga? There seem to be more and more products on the market that claim to filter UVA and UVB, but I don't notice the "star" system you mentioned earlier.
I still routinely use a SPF30 on my face before spending a few hours in the cockpit [less uv protection at 5000 ft, you know], but beach time is a bit dicier.
And don't apologize for the technical terms; you aren't tho only one who took organic chemistry.

Dum vivimus, vivamus!

Country: USA | Posts: 325 Go to Top of Page

Forum Member

Posted - 04/25/2013 :  10:25:15 AM  Show Profile  Send nudesunguy a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
I just went to Amazon to look for sunscreen with Mexoryl and found this:
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 40 Suncreen Cream UVA Protection with Mexoryl SX, 1.7-Ounce Tube: $27.10

$27 for 1.7 oz? That would last about two days. They've finally found a way to make nudity expensive! I'm wondering/hoping that the new formulations of other ingredients are just as affective nowadays? Doc, do you by any chance have an update to your posts?

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Posted - 04/27/2013 :  2:10:21 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
La Roche-Posay is pretty proud of their stuff, aren't they? Until it goes off patent, it's likely to stay pricey. As noted elsewhere, Mexoryl products can be had from Canadian pharmacies at somewhat less exorbitant prices.

There are a number of products on the market in the US that contain 'stabilized avobenzone' that cost less than Mexoryl-containing products and work very well to block UVA and UVB. One version (avobenzone + oxybenzone) is marketed as 'Helioplex'. Or, if you're willing to read the list of ingredients, there are several brands that contain avobenzone + octocrylene. Octocrylene works to stabilize avobenzone (good), but has been implicated in a number of cases of photoallergy and contact dermatitis (bad).

There are other stabilizers/sunscreens in the pipeline. Two of the more interesting ones are Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M, which are already marketed in Europe.

Country: USA | Posts: 1036 Go to Top of Page

Forum Member

Posted - 05/11/2013 :  06:19:34 AM  Show Profile  Send Warmskin a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Besides needing a good 5 cent cigar, we need a simple sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB that can be sold en masse, and not to far into the future, something simple and generic.

“I rise early almost every morning and sit in my chamber, without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing.”
Ben Franklin

Country: USA | Posts: 1909 Go to Top of Page
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