Anyone who’s tried an Asian sunscreen will know, they feel so much better on the skin! Asian sunscreens tend to be lighter, more fluid, and dry more matte on the skin. They’re often hydroalcoholic formulas, which means they use water and alcohol to lighten up the texture and increase the drying speed. But did you know they often also offer better photoprotection compared U.S. sunscreens?
Asia, and pretty much the rest of the world, have access to better, newer generation sunscreen filters compared to the U.S. And that’s a fact! For almost 20 years now, sunscreen manufacturers from Asian, European and South American countries have been able to include sunscreen filters like Tinosorb S and M in their formulations. What’s so special about these sunscreen filters is that they were designed to be sunscreen filters, not discovered. This means they 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 there’s a big lack of sunscreen filters that protect from UVA rays. In reality it’s only avobenzone. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide do absorb throughout the UV spectrum, but they’re not as powerful as avobenzone and definitely less powerful than some of the newer sunscreen filters.
You may be familiar with Asia’s PA system, or the PPD system, or UVAPF. These are all ratings of a sunscreens ability to protect us from UVA. UVA doesn’t cause as much sunburn as UVB, but it damages our skin’s DNA, leading to wrinkles. UVA also causes the tanning response which can lead to hyperpigmentation. 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.
The USFDA hasn’t allowed the newer sunscreen filters to be used, because they say there’s a lack of safety data. But they’ve been in use for almost 20 years in Europe, and in 2014 a law passed through congress called the Sunscreen Innovation Act. It was signed into law by Obama, and it basically forced the USFDA to reconsider and come to a decision on whether or not to approve the new sunscreen filters. This list included; Tinosorb S, Tinosorb M, Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL, and others.
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 Meaning if you’re buying a U.S. made sunscreen–it’s literally almost 20 years out of date.
The rest of the world is already moving to even newer and better sunscreen filters like Uvinul A Plus, which is specially designed to absorb very strongly in the UVA spectrum. There’s also Tinosorb A2B, which absorbs strongly in the wavelengths between UVA and UVB, known as UVA II, a place where most other sunscreen filters miss. There are even new innovations with titanium dioxide that aren’t allowed in the U.S. There’s a version of titanium dioxide fused with manganese, that increases its UVA absorption and also makes it produce less free radicals.
So if you want the best protection for your skin and also the best texture, you’re going to have to look outside of U.S. borders! Until the USFDA finally decides to approve these new sunscreen filters, American sunscreens are not going to be on par with Asian sunscreens.