Sunscreen is one of those things you know you should wear every day, but for most of us in the US, the sunscreens we have access to are mostly thick, smelly, and cosmetically inelegant. In addition to the awful texture, most US sunscreens can be irritating to those of us with sensitive skin or feel like a greasy, acne causing oil-slick for those with oily combination skin. Unfortunately, despite its limitations, sunscreen is one of the most important things you can do for your health, (and is one of the most important anti-aging steps you can take for your skin care).
However, there are sunscreens out that that are cosmetically elegant, scentless, and offer much better protection than what’s available in US drugstores. Most of these are Asian sunscreens (though there are many European sunscreens that work equally well). These sunscreens feel like moisturizer or serum on your skin, they’re lighter, more fluid, and dry much faster than most US products. Why is that? Asia, and most of the rest of the world have access to better, newer generation sunscreen filters, and have had for almost 20 years now. These new sunscreen filters like Tinosorb S and M have larger molecular sizes, so they don’t penetrate the skin as much, and they’re less irritating. They’re also superior because they’re stable under UV light and they often have broader UV absorption.
In the US, sunscreens only need to show their SPF rating. SPF is a metric used to measure a sunscreen’s level of UVB protection. UVB rays are responsible for tanning, burning, and skin cancer, so SPF of course is important. But UVA is also important, and apart from the “broad spectrum” designation that shows that a sunscreen has some UVA protection, US sunscreens don’t indicate how much UVA protection they provide.
In the US there aren’t many sunscreen filters that protect from UVA rays. Asia has a whole system that rates the UVA protection of sunscreens. They have a PA system (also known as PPD or UVAPF). When you look at the PA rating on a Japanese or Korean sunscreen bottle, you’ll notice that more pluses equals more protection. Japanese sunscreens go up to PA++++; Korean sunscreens only label up to PA+++.
UVA doesn’t cause as much sunburn as UVB, but it can damage your skin’s DNA, leading to wrinkles. UVA also causes tanning which can cause hyperpigmentation (dark or red spots). So if having an even skin tone is important to you, you really need a sunscreen with high UVA protection, and that almost always means a formulation with a new generation sunscreen filter.
Unfortunately, the US FDA doesn’t allow these newer sunscreen filters in US Products because they say there’s a lack of safety data, even though they’ve been in use for almost 20 years in Europe. In 2014 a law was passed called the Sunscreen Innovation act that was intended for the US FDA to reconsider approving these next gen sunscreen filters. The USFDA’s response? They denied them all. Meaning if you’re buying a U.S. made sunscreen–it’s literally almost 20 years out of date.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find Asian sunscreens on Amazon. Here are 10 that won’t break the bank but will leave your skin glowing (and not sunburnt!).
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