I’m a zinc oxide fan girl. If a sunscreen doesn’t have it, I won’t even look at it twice.
But, I get it. Not all of you want to put up with its greasy feel and whitish cast. But, what’s the alternative?
Titanium dioxide’s just as bad (I mean good, I mean bad, I mean… you know what I mean).
Avobenzone isn’t reliable. Goes bad quickly and could irritate your skin to boot.
Tinosorb is hard to hunt down.
We’ve kinda run out of UVA filters already…
Wait, there’s another option. It’s still tricky to track down in the US (Us Europeans have it SO much easier), but it does the job well without leaving a white, greasy mess on your face.
What Is Mexoryl?
There are two types of Mexoryl. Mexoryl SX (water-soluble) and Mexoryl XL (lipid soluble).
Mexoryl XL tends to have an oily texture that’s not oily-skin friendly, so it’s not used as much. Shame, because when it’s paired with its sibling, they both become more effective.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to Mexoryl SX. It’s a synthetic UVA filter developed by L’Oreal. You’ll find it on the label under different names:
- Trephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid
Related: What Are The Best UV Filters?
Is your sunscreen up to the job? Download your FREE “Sunscreen Audit” checklist to find out if your sunscreen is both effective AND safe:
What Does Mexoryl Do?
Ok, it’s a UVA filter. It absorbs UV light and transforms it into a less damaging form of energy (heat). But, what makes it better than other UVA filters?
- Broad protection range: Mexoryl protects against both UVA-1 and UVA-2
- Stability: Mexoryl is photostable and doesn’t degrade quickly when exposed to sunlight
Basically, it offers the same UVA protection as zinc oxide, but it’s more pleasant to use. The catch? It needs to be used with other UVB filters.
Related: Why Zinc Oxide Is My Fave UV Filter
Why Is It So Difficult To Find Mexoryl In The US?
You know how you always like to complain the FDA doesn’t protect you enough? Well, it may be a bit slack on cosmetics, but it’s pretty strict on drugs. Sunscreen is a drug (you can check out my post about the difference between a cosmetic and a drug here).
Cosmetics are approved quickly. Drugs must undergo extensive testings to make sure they won’t kill you. It takes a looong time. Some UV filters have been waiting for approval for more than 12 years! This, even though they’ve been freely available in Europe all this time.
But, there’s a backdoor.
A company can petition the FDA to approve a new UV filter as part of a New Drug Application. It’s super expensive and it limits the types of formulas you can use it in so few companies bother with it.
L’Oreal did bother. In 2006, armed with data from Europe, Canada and other corners of the globe, it petitioned the FDA for approval of their patented UV filter “Ecamsule”. It won.
The catch? Well, as I mentioned, L’Oreal (and the many brands it owns) can use it only in very few products and they’re expensive (someone must pay that hefty FDA fee). So… Mexoryl hasn’t exactly taken hold in the US… On the contrary, every year it gets harder to find. 😉
What Are The Best Sunscreens With Mexoryl?
This is tricky:
- There aren’t many options available.
- Some of them still contain avobenzone and other UVA filters.
- Most of them are loaded with alcohol.
So, rather than the best, I’ll tell you where you can start your search. Deal?
- Biotherm Creme Solaire Anti-Age SPF 30 (€24,70): available at Sephora France
- La Roche Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizing Cream With Sunscreens ($33.99):available at Dermstore and Ulta
- La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Ultra Light Fluid SPF50+ (£11.60): available at Feel Unique and Look Fantastic
The Bottom Line
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Here you have a wonderful UVA filter that works without side effects and it’s super hard to find! Let’s hope things change soon. I’m tired of putting up with poorly formulated sunscreens, aren’t you?
I wish the FDA in the U.S. would approve these UVA blocking sunscreen ingredients. However, avobenzone can be stabilized with octocrylene or other UV filters and stabilizers, so it’s an effective UVA blocker. You don’t want to mix it with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, but the FDA doesn’t allow sunscreens with that mix. I use mineral and just live with the slight white cast. At least it minimizes my age spots, lol. I use a tinted mineral sunscreen for my face.
Sherry, it’s insane they haven’t yet, especially when they’re already in use in the Eu and Japan, where cosmetic regulations are stricter!
If current US sunscreens were subjected to current rules, most of them would not fly with FDA. Rules are very tight, and companies don’t want to spend money to do the FDA mandated trials here. This is why I binge on sunscreen abroad.
It’s an impossible situation, isn’t it? Glad you’re still able to get a hold of good sunscreen.
I hadn’t even heard of this! I admit I’m still trying to find a facial sunscreen that doesn’t break me out, I am going to try this zinc oxide one next: https://www.lovelula.com/products/odylique-spf-30-natural-sun-screen-50ml
I just use a moisturiser with spf at the moment – I know it’s not as effective but it’s better than nothing, and I live somewhere cloudy and work indoors!
Porcelina, I’ve checked that sunscreen and has a lot of oils. It may indeed cause breakouts if you have oily skin. Have you tried Cyberderm Sun Whip SPF25? It has both mineral and synthetic filters but it is very lightweight.
Thanks for the recommendation – I can’t find Cyberderm in the UK unfortunately. I actually have combination skin, dry cheeks and oily t-zone, but sunscreens seem to break me out on my cheeks and forehead quite badly. I also wondered about the Piz Buin Dry Touch that you recently reviewed, and it’s so cheap that I’ve actually ordered that one and will give it a go! I’ll keep trying… Thanks again for your fab blog, I am finding it so useful!
The Piz Buin sunscreen is very good, too. It’s a chemical sunscreen but so lightweight. I really love the texture and don’t think you will have any problems with it either. Let me know how it goes when you try it.
What a coincidence! I’ve just finished my bottle of Anthelios XL from your title picture today. Uffff… I wanted to love this sunscreen because of its superb sun protection qualities. I appreciate proper UVA1&2 protection a lot.
But at the end I could only use it on days when no one would see me (basically, when I stayed at home). I have normal to combination skin and it was waaaaay to greasy for me.
So much for “light feel” advertised on the bottle. My face looked like an oily pancake with it.
It’s a shame, I really wanted to make it work with this sunscreen, but could not manage it.
I wonder if there are any more “non-greasy” options with Mexoryl out there. Or is Anthelios XL as “non-oily” as it gets with this particular filter compound because of its chemistry?
Jana, oh no! This sunscreen looks shiny on me when I put it on but once it settles, it’s not so bad. I guess my skin is drier than yours so it appreciates it more.
Mexoryl XL is oily indeed. Your best bet would be to use a sunscreen with only mexoryl SX paired with some other filter.
I bought Vichy ideal soleil 50 Fresh Hydrating Milk for Face and body. Mexoryl top ingredient. Love it. Used it the entire month I was in Spain. Sunny everyday. Unfortunately I have not seen the Vichy WITH mexoryl in states thanks to the FDA. Guess I will load up when I return in Nov. afraid to order it on line. Told it is not the same
Noel, yes unfortunately the FDA is VERY slow at approving new sunscreens. Definitely stock up when you come back.
I had my friend buy Garnier Ombrelle with Mexoryl when she was in Canada. It’s sold at Walmart and it was not expensive. Problem solved.
Sarah, glad you were able to get your hands on it. 🙂
What about Vichy Ideal Soleil? They have a Mexoryl XL and SX.
Judy, I’m not a big fan because it contains alcohol but if that doesn’t bother your skin then yes, it will provide good broad spectrum protection.
I have been using Athelos products for 2 plus years. I apply in the morning let it absorb in then use a powder foundation to hold it in place. When I am all done applying my makeup, I carefully use a spray SPF products of the best quality I can find. This has helped tremendously, where without I quickly develop a very cherry red face, that hurts and burns. Of course I protect the rest of my body with SPF too, but I also wear long pants or skirts and long sleeved shirts (gauzy shirts if really hot). Sun protective clothing is expensive but polyester helps a great deal in locking the rays. I really work hard to avoid allUVAs, and other bad things in my life including stree. It is not easy thing but has its rewards. Last fall my Rheumatologist told me I am in remission. Best wishes to all.
Jerri, that’s wonderful news! So glad you’ve found a routine and products that works so well for you.
This article is quite misleading! Neither of the Mexoryls protects beyond 390 nm. The only ingredients that provides full UVA1 protection are Zinc Oxide, Tinosorb M, Uvinul A Plus, and Avobenzone. Uvinul A Plus is my absolute favourite sunscreen ingredient, since it’s basically a completely stable form of Avobenzone. It absorbs all the way to 410 nm. Tinosorb M is the most affective UVA protectant of them all, but not particularly elegant, since it’s only partially soluble. Another thing is that Mexoryl SX is not completely photostable (nowhere near the mess that’s Avobenzone, but still). If you want a completely stable form of Mexoryl SX, just go with Tinosorb S. Soluble and dies out at about 390 nm. Cheers!
Nikolai, thank you for pointing that out. 🙂
Which products contain Uvinul A Plus?
Stephanie, usually only a handful of Asian sunscreens use it so far. I couldn’t find one that’s available here yet.
I’ve found mexoryl such a confusing topic, this article is great and clears up so much! Thanks!
E, glad you found it helpful.