Product: Anthelios 40 sunscreen cream by LaRoche-Posay/L'Oreal, $25.43 for 1.7 ounces at amazon.com and online pharmacies.
Key ingredients: Mexoryl SX & XL (ecamsule), Parsol 1789 (avobenzone), titanium dioxide and octocrylene.
Pros: Mexoryl, first patented by L'Oreal in 1982, has been approved for use in Europe for 18 years, but only became available in the United States in 2006, when the Food and Drug Administration approved Anthelios to be sold over the counter for protection against UVB rays (which cause sunburn) and UVA rays (which are deeper penetrating and can contribute to skin cancer). In determining the safety and efficacy of Anthelios, the FDA reviewed 28 studies involving more than 2,500 patients, ranging in age from 6 months to over 65 years. Side effects were infrequent and not serious. Mexoryl degrades more slowly than Parsol 1789, the ingredient found in most common sunscreens, which means it will protect longer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that, regardless of skin type, a broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 should be used year-round.
Cons: Much of the research on Mexoryl has been backed by L'Oreal. The cream is more than twice the cost of broad-spectrum drugstore sunscreens that contain Parsol 1789. While some dermatologists believe Mexoryl outperforms other sunscreens, others claim people are fine using and reapplying generic broad-spectrum sun protection. This contains a heavy solution of titanium dioxide, which leaves a white coating on skin. The most common side effects of Mexoryl found in the FDA review were acne, dermatitis, dry skin, eczema, abnormal redness and itching.
Bottom line: Since it lasts longer and carries FDA approval, this new sunscreen could be worth it. Don't want to splurge? Try Neutrogena's line of UVA/UVB sunscreens that contain Helioplex, a new ingredient that lasts longer than most sunscreens and runs half the price of this product.