The Second Best Sunscreen

Ah, those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer.

Remember when sunscreen was called sun tan lotion?

Remember baby oil and iodine?

Remember the dark amber bottle of sweet, thick coconut oil that was called "dark tanning oil?"

All I have to do is take a big sniff of Coppertone and it all comes back to me......

When I was (much) younger, a dark tan was the rage. We started just before Spring Break to capture all of the rays that we could, even surrounding ourselves in a makeshift aluminum foil "oven."

Tan = beautiful, sexy, exotic, skinny (yes, for some reason you look ten pounds thinner with a tan).

Tan = Dark sun spots on your face, "old lady" freckled chest, turkey skin on neck, and fear every time your dermatologist examines you for melanoma.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of sunscreens on the market. All have various numbers to determine the level of rays that will be "blocked." But did you know that the SPF number only refers to UVB rays? Most sunblocks still allow other very harmful rays to penetrate your skin.

High number, more block, right? No! Most people assume a 30 SPF is twice as strong as a 15 SPF. It is only 4% more effective.  Go figure!

After digging through tons of research, it seems the very best sunblock is also the cheapest. Yes, the best sunblock is good old zinc oxide. Cheap. Waterproof.  Effective.

Now, that old standby looked really cool on the sandy haired lifeguards when they covered their noses with it back when Gidget was surfing, but who wants to run around town looking like a geisha?

A few years ago I was in France and needed some sunscreen.  I popped into the pharmacy and bought La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizing Sunscreen with Mexoryl, SPF 15. I preferred a higher SPF but I bought it anyway. 

Even though it was "only" SPF 15, it seemed to do a better job than my SPF 50 from home. I used it all over when lying on the beach.  I also used it as my daily facial moisturizer. I liked it so much I tried to find it when I got back to the States. At the time, Mexoryl was not approved by the FDA, so every time I went to France I smuggled it back to the US. 

In 2006 the FDA approved Mexoryl. There was little publicity, and I still couldn't find any products containing Mexoryl anywhere in the US. But like a good gold digger, I researched Mexoryl and found impressive reviews.  In a nutshell, here are two:

Dr. Vincent DeLeo, Chairman, Department of Dermatology, Founding Director, Skin of Color Center, St. Luke's-Roosevelt and Beth Israel: “It produces a product which gives us almost perfect protection against sunshine."

Dr. Darrell Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University:  Mexoryl “is the No. 1 individual ingredient in terms of protection from Ultraviolet A radiation."

Don't be afraid that the SPF 15 isn't strong enough.  Anthelios SX with Mexoryl SPF 15 protects you from the kind of rays that cause sunburn AND cancer. Even your SPF 90 doesn't do that.

You are going to pay around $34 for 3.4 oz. (I know it's more expensive than your brand, but think about those visits to the dermatologist. Skin cancer is not cheap.) I found it at CVS and Walgreens, in a separate display, not in the regular sunscreen aisle. Or, you can go to France and buy it just about everywhere.

To buy from, click here.
To buy on line from CVS, click here.

I wonder what those sandy haired lifeguards look like now.........I think I should just stick with my memories, don't you?


  1. Can't have enough good sunscreen in Florida. Who wants to look like the lady in the movie Something About Mary!!

  2. Used this sunscreen on a mission trip to Honduras. Everyone else had higher SPF sunscreens. I was the only one that didn't get burned.


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