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Sunscreen ingredient blocks harmful UV rays

In a move that will change the future of the sun care and skin care industries, the FDA has cleared an over-the-counter sunscreen packing a popular ingredient that blocks UVA rays. By CNBC's Mike Huckman
/ Source: CNBC

For years, Americans have been pointing and clicking their way to younger looking skin, snapping up pricey lotions and potions with mexoryl in them. The stuff is sold on the Internet and shipped from Asia, Latin America, Canada and Europe; where it’s been around since the early 80’s.

But soon, mexoryl will be available at the local drug store. The FDA has approved the first new sunscreen ingredient in nearly two decades. Leading New York dermatologist Dr. Perry Robins says his patients are impatient.

“It started this morning," said Dr. Robins. "People are calling and saying ‘What do I think of it?’ I think it’s good, but the others are good also.”

What some experts think makes mexoryl so good is that it blocks harmful ultraviolet A rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply then UVB rays and can cause cancer and wrinkles. Many fans of mexoryl, which the French cosmetics company L’Oreal sells under the name Anthelios, swear by its anti-aging properties.

“A lot of my patients when they go abroad will bring back boxes of it,” said Dr. Robins. "Not only for themselves, but for their relatives and for their friends because they know it’s a very effective agent at blocking the UVA radiation."

The publicly traded L’Oreal, which declined a request for an interview, says people can stop carting it from overseas sometime this fall, when it will be available over-the-counter in the States. No word on pricing, but most tubes go on the web for $20 to $30. 

It will be sold as a daily moisturizing cream called Anthelios SX, with a relatively low sun protection factor of 15. But, with skin cancer approaching what some dermatologists call epidemic proportions, every little bit, they say, helps.

“It’s a step forward," said Dr. Robins. "I don’t say it’s a giant step, but it’s a small step forward in our armamentarium to protect us from the rays of the sun. I think the most effective anti-aging product that you can use is the daily use of sunscreen.”