How bad is American sunscreen, really?

Hello! Taps mic

Is this thing on? (Yes, yes, I can see your eyes rolling now.)

I’ve had this site for years and haven’t actually written a single blog post, but the idea of toying with a blog has rolled around in my head for a long time. I also recently found myself with some unexpected free time on my hands. And everything old is basically new again, so well, here I find myself.

So! What is this blog, exactly? Actually, I’m not sure. Right now, it’ll be a place where some of my most recent freelance pieces can live, as well as related stories, things I’m reading, or stuff I just find generally interesting. That’s all subject to change, etc., but for now, I think that’s a pretty safe description of what it’ll look like.

With that in mind, first up: My first piece for Medium’s new health- and science-focused site, Elemental on sunscreen. There’s been a lot of debate recently in the healthy living community about whether American sunscreens are really doing a solid job of protecting Americans or if their European or Asian counterparts are better. My piece specifically touches on Mexoryl as an example of an ingredient that’s been used safely for years in Europe and Canada but is pretty hard to find in the U.S.

Why is it so hard to find? It’s a combination of a) stringent FDA requirements and b) one specific company in the U.S. having the patent on Mexoryl (also known as Ecamsule). The filter is popular overseas for its smooth, silky appearance (no thick white residue left behind), and many experts do think it could be safely used in the U.S. as well.

You can read more here.

I should note that the sunscreen debate is a complicated one. While media coverage recently has hammered home the idea that American sunscreens might not be as effective or safe as European or Asian ones, every expert I spoke with noted that that doesn’t mean they’re inherently unsafe. Wearing sunscreen is still one of the best ways you can protect yourself against skin cancer, which can be deadly, and though there’s been concern about certain ingredients (such as oxybenzone) being harmful to either humans or the environment, the reality is American sunscreens have been used for decades with few adverse effects. So all this is to say: Wear sunscreen! Do your research, of course, and make the product choices you think are right for you, but wear sunscreen especially on sunny days (and even on days that aren’t).

If you’re interested in the sunscreen debate more generally, here are a few excellent pieces you might enjoy: