European sunscreen > U.S. sunscreen. Can this American buy it legally?
March 8, 2015 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Experts all over say that Europe has better sunscreens than the U.S. due to the FDA's refusal to approve new sunscreen ingredients. (More info here, here, and here.) I burn within minutes in the sun. Is there any way I can legally buy European sunscreen in the U.S.?

I searched Amazon for "European sunscreen" and got a few options, but not many -- and I wasn't sure if they were actually European. Assuming I'm not going to Europe soon and don't have any friends who live in Europe, is there any way I can get my hands -- legally -- on some of this awesome, much-more-beneficial sunscreen? Googling brings up many contradictory sources.

(Why yes, this question IS triggered by Daylight Savings Time!)
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
La Roche Posay sunscreen containing meroxyl is available in the US. I have seen it at Walgreens and Target, and you can buy it directly from the La Roche Posay site.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:11 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

European brands available on shelf here in the US won't contain the good stuff you're looking for for. Therefore, you'll need to find a supplier who can ship from Europe.

Many of them are available on eBay. Search eBay for Vichy sunscreen, which yields many promising leads of a well reviewed European brand. Others referred to in this article also appear to be available on eBay.
posted by Karaage at 8:15 PM on March 8, 2015

There are two formulations of Anthelios (LaRoche Posay) sold in the US with Mexoryl. SPF 40 or SPF 15 - the other varieties in the line use conventional sunscreen ingredients.
posted by zepheria at 8:34 PM on March 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I would buy online - there are a lot on Amazon, and sites like Pharmamundi and Japanese sunscreens are also an option, if you're interested in good UVA coverage.
posted by taupe at 8:49 PM on March 8, 2015

Australia also has strong sunscreens, although the shipping costs will make things very expensive. But it's an option to look into if you can't find anything elsewhere.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 8:57 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Smallflower has a few options.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:31 PM on March 8, 2015

This doesn't answer the question about how to buy European sunscreens but one of the products mentioned in the 'Why You Shouldn't Be Buying Your Sunscreen in America' link, the Blue Lizard (Face) sunscreen (active ingredients octinoxate and zinc oxide), is available lots of places in the U.S. (, amazon, etc.).

The general point being that zinc oxide provides very good UVA protection (and pretty much all U.S. sunscreens provide good UVB protection, that's what the SPF measures). It's just that in the U.S. it's one of only a couple of UVA blockers that are legal, whereas in Europe there are many more that can be used.

But I don't think there's anything saying that the chemical UVA filter/blockers that are available outside of the U.S. provide *better* UVA protection that zinc oxide does (except possibly possibly in the sense of lasting longer, needing to be reapplied less), just that there are more options and better formulas overall (considering the feel and appearance on the skin, ease of application, etc. as well as sun protection).

So if you find it too difficult to find any of the European sunscreens, my advice is to find a zinc oxide based one that works for you. The main drawback of them is that many formulas are hard to apply and/or sticky and/or turn your skin white. I've tried a lot of them and don't like most of them but there are a couple that are really great - the Blue Lizard one mentioned above and one from Elta MD which also uses octinoxate and zinc oxide. And a zinc oxide and titanium dioxide one from MD Solar Sciences which is too expensive for me to use regularly but is amazing as both a sunscreen and kind of a primer to wear under makeup.

(Apologies if you've already ruled out zinc oxide based sunscreens for whatever reasons).
posted by aadm at 10:03 PM on March 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

I buy sunscreen on eBay and Amazon. I tend to buy Japanese brands, which are better than US brands, though I don't know how they compare to European formulas.

It generally doesn't work to search for "European sunscreen" or "Japanese sunscreen" - you need to search by brand at least, if not by the exact name of the product.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:16 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like (and often use) zinc sunscreen, but it has a comparatively low PPD, which might not be helpful for someone who's intolerant of any sun at all. You can estimate the PPD of any sunscreens you're thinking about with this calculator.

I've heard good things about Japanese sunscreens, but have been ok with the ones I've got (that zinc sunscreen for winter, and a 60 SPF version of Anthelios with mexoryl for summer), so haven't tried to buy them. (BTW, you can get that 60 SPF here in Canada, if you wanted to do a sunscreen run. The US version doesn't seem to have mexoryl.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:50 PM on March 8, 2015

Japanese sunscreens are so much better than anything I've ever been able to buy in the US, and I've finally started WANTING to wear sunscreen instead of grudgingly putting on the smallest possible amount and then burning anyway. The high UVA protection offered by PA+++ or higher is equivalent to a PPD rating of 8 or higher, and many sunscreens have recently been reformulated to PA++++, which is equivalent to a PPD of 16 or more. Biore makes the ones I use most often, although I'm usually not on the sun enough to wear much more than the SPF 33/PA+++ moisturizer I use every day.

Anyway, I work for a company that markets Japanese cosmetics, and my personal preference is for Japanese cosmetics, since that's where I live. But on the skincareaddiction subreddit, someone put together a pretty good spreadsheet of sunscreens that might give you some alternatives to European/Japanese products that aren't easily/cheaply available in the US.

Here's the spreadsheet.
posted by wakannai at 12:07 AM on March 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

Also, this website has several useful reviews and ingredient lists of Japanese sunscreens, including frequent revisions to keep up with product reformulations. The website it's based on doesn't ship to the US at the moment, although it likely will soon. However, you can often find the same products on other import sites like
posted by wakannai at 1:37 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you live somewhere within a few hours' drive of the Canadian border? I usually grab a couple tubes of Vichy sunscreen when I'm visiting friends in Vancouver.
posted by matildaben at 6:38 AM on March 9, 2015

I picked up a tube of this Garnier Ambre Solaire sunscreen while on vacation in St. Martin this year, and it far better than the stuff you can get in the US. Sure, zinc works well at blocking the sun, but it also makes me look like a ghost and feels awful on my skin. And the chemical sunscreens available in the US are so greasy and make my skin itch. I bought an extra tube to bring home and plan to order more from when I run out--it's a little bit pricey to ship, but really not that bad, and cheaper than getting the Anthelios stuff domestically.

I have also had good luck with Japanese imports purchased through Amazon sellers, although the shipping is really slow (4-6 weeks if I remember correctly). The brands were Biore Aqua and Shiseido Senka UV gel; I liked both.
posted by Jemstar at 1:37 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

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