Why We're Missing Out on the Best SPF Available

By Lauren Le Vine, REDBOOK.

As the sun's rays penetrate more and more of the depleted atmosphere and skin cancer incidences rise, we know we need to be diligent about applying sunscreen before venturing outside. Unfortunately, the sunscreen we're using may not offer a full range of protection from all of the sun's ultraviolet rays. New labels began to appear on suncreens in December, and this summer, many consumers will notice symbols and letters denoting "broad-spectrum coverage" that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

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Despite these new measures, the Wall Street Journal reports that in the United States, we're still not getting the most sun protection possible. Many long-rage UVA filters are currently awaiting FDA clearance to be used in our sunscreens. People have actually started purchasing their sun protection in France and the Caribbean, where these ingredients are already legal and in use.

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The lack of approved UVA filters in the U.S. limits sunscreen manufacturers to only three UVA filter options, none of which have the same long-lasting protection as ingredients already found in European products. To be fair, the FDA hold-up is in part due to proper protocol, which requires them to carefully test and examine the effects of all chemicals. However, the patents have also been filed through a system known as TEA, which stands for "time and extent application," meaning the FDA can approve products that have been in use abroad for at least five years and found to be safe and effective. Some of these ingredients have been in use for over a decade in Europe.

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In the meantime, just having this knowledge is powerful. You can buy European sunscreens containing Tinosorb and Ecamsule (a proprietary ingredient on which L'Oréal Paris has a patent) online. Avèe Very High Protection Emulsion SPF 50+ comes highly recommended. For the rest of your summer sun protection needs, be sure to seek out labels with UVA and UVB protection. And don't use last summer's products; sunscreen expires.

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