Mexoplex, Mexoryl and Tinosorb S are marketing names for ingredients found in Anthelios sunscreens made by La Roche-Posay. However, as I discovered from my dermatologist, not all Anthelios products contain Mexoplex, Mexoryl and Tinosorb S, making particular Anthelios products better than others. It gets very confusing, especially when considering there are different products in the USA versus those found internationally. All Anthelios products have some common sunscreen ingredients that do a great job blocking UVB rays, which are the rays that cause burning of the skin and redness. However, most sunscreens don’t do a good job of blocking UVA rays for long periods of time, known as photostability, which is why most sunscreens advise to reapply frequently. UVA rays don’t burn the skin like UVB rays, but instead penetrate more deeply into the skin causing unseen damage. You can read more in depth information about UVA rays here.
So, while most sunscreen products, including Anthelios, do a good job of preventing burning of the skin (redness) by blocking UVB rays over long periods of time, most products marked as broad spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreens see a significant drop off in effectiveness at blocking UVA rays past the one hour mark. Fortunately, the key ingredients Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL and Tinosorb S (all three known collectively as Mexoplex) found in a few specific Anthelios products have excellent photostability which effectively blocks both UVA and UVB rays well past the one hour mark. More information about the effectiveness of Mexoryl SX and Mexoryl XL at blocking UVA/UVB rays over extended periods of time can be found here and for Tinosorb S here.
A note about SPF and PPD ratings
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating seen on most sunscreens is used to calculate the theoretical length of time one can stay in the sun before being burned by UVB rays. This length of time is found by multiplying the SPF number by the length of time it takes a person to suffer a burn without sunscreen. The consensus is that anything greater than an SPF rating of 50 is not realistic and misleading. In addition, the SPF rating does not accurately help calculate the effectiveness or length of time the sunscreen blocks UVA rays. Unfortunately, in USA there is no rating system like SPF for UVA rays and the language found on most sunscreens such as “Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection” or “Full Spectrum Sunscreen” does not indicate that the UVA protection is significantly reduced after about an hour of sun exposure.
Fortunately, European products also state the Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) rating. Theoretically this is the multiplication factor the sunscreen provides based on your skin’s natural protect against UVA rays. So a PPD rating of 38 would theoretically allow a person 38 times as much UVA exposure before causing damage.
The bottom line here is to look for sunscreens with a high SPF and PPD ratings, particularly Anthelios products that contain all three of following key ingredients (collectively known as Mexoplex):
Drometrizole trisiloxane (also known as Mexoryl XL)
terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid (also known as ecamsule or Mexoryl SX)
bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine (also known as Bemotrizinol, Tinosorb S or Escalol S)
Internationally, there are a wide range of Anthelios products available with many containing all three of the key ingredients above. Just be sure to check the ingredients list.
Only one of the Anthelios products available in USA contains Mexoryl. And unfortunately this product, Anthelios SX, only contains one of the three key ingredients: Mexoryl SX (terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid also known as ecamsule). The reason products available in the United States contain just one key ingredient is that there are only seventeen ingredients available for US sunscreen makers to use as described here and the only new ingredient on that list approved by the FDA since 1972 is Mexoryl SX. As you can imagine there have been significant advancements in sunscreen science and ingredients since 1972. Fortunately many of these ingredients are available in sunscreens sold in Europe and other countries so I recommend finding Anthelios products internationally that contain all three key ingredients.
Here’s a link to a comparison chart to check some of the different Anthelios products’ ingredients:
The products I use are Anthelios SPF 30 Comfort Lotion (SPF 30, PPD 19) in 300ml tubes for everyday sunscreen and either Anthelios Dermo-Pediatrics SPF 50+ Lotion (SPF 50+, PPD 38) or Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Comfort Lotion if I’ll be outdoors in the sun for a long time. If you want the highest protection available (as of October 8, 2017) it is Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Fluid Ultra Light (SPF 50+, PPD 42). However, I found it very difficult to get this lotion to absorb into the skin and it is only available in 50ml bottles whereas the Dermo-Pediatrics product comes in larger size options which works out to be a much better value and it absorbs much more easily into the skin. Further, if a fair skinned person not wearing any sun protection would typically burn from UVB rays and start being damaged by UVA rays after 10 minutes of direct, midday sun exposure, the Dermo-Pediatrics SPF 50+ Smooth Lotion which has a SPF of 50+ and a PPD of 38 would theoretically offer 8+ hours of UVB protection and over 6 hours of UVA protection whereas the 50+ Fluid Ultra Light would theoretically offer 8+ hours of UVB protection and 7 hours of UVA protection (less than a one hour difference of UVA exposure). For these reasons I found the referenced products above to be a good balance between protection, ease of use and cost.
It’s difficult to find merchants in the USA selling the above referenced products and you will most likely need to order from an international seller. My only bad experience with an international merchant thus far was OmorfiaShop. DO NOT BUY FROM OMORFIA SHOP, they sell counterfeit and/or outdated products. If you find other reputable merchants, please post them in the comments at the end of this post. Here’s the sources I’ve found:
Anthelios SPF 30 Comfort Lotion, Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Comfort Lotion and Anthelios Dermo-Pediatrics SPF 50+ Lotion. I’ve purchased these (3/21/2016) from Life&Looks and had a good experience. Life&Looks is a Northern Ireland based merchant with a BizRate Rating of Good: 8.9/10 based on 1,924 customers ratings since 2011. The last I checked (October 8, 2017) Life&Looks had the Anthelios Dermo-Pediatrics SPF 50+ Lotion in stock here, Anthelios Comfort Cream SPF 30 in stock here and Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Cream Comfor here. If you find a reputable source, please post it in the comments below.
Anthelios XL Spf 50+ Ultra Light Fluid (only available in 50ml bottles). I’ve purchased this (3/21/2016) from Life&Looks here. If you find a reputable source, please post it in the comments below.
Products I’ve ordered in the past but no longer use are:
Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizer ($25.19 for one 1.7oz tube. It has Mexoryl SX which is good but did not have the other key ingredients, once I found the SPF 30 Comfort Lotion I switched to it for daily use since it has all the key ingredients and also comes in 300ml (10oz) tubes which is a much better value.)
Anthelios XL 50+ SPF Fluide Extreme ($32.55 for two 50ml tubes including shipping. Water resistant, lighter cream for when I’m not going in the water, but it only contained Mexoryl XL and SX which is only 2 of the 3 key ingredients, so I switched to Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Comfort Lotion which has all three key ingredients and is a better value in 300ml tubes.) This product has since changed names to Anthelios XL SPF 50 Fluid Ultra Light and added the third key ingredient.
Anthelios XL 50+ SPF Fluide Extreme Body ($38.88 for two 125ml bottles including shipping. This was a better value than the 50ml tubes of Anthelios XL 50+ SPF Fluide Extreme but it only contained Mexoryl XL and SX which is only 2 of the 3 key ingredients, so I switched to Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Comfort Lotion which has all three key ingredients and is an even better value in 300ml tubes.)
Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Melt-In Cream ($32.81 for two 50ml tubes, including shipping. I used this when swimming since it has a very high water resistance but it only contained Mexoryl XL and SX which is only 2 of the 3 key ingredients, so I switched to Anthelios Dermo-Pediatrics SPF 50+ Smooth Lotion which has all three key ingredients and is an even better value in 300ml tubes.)
Anthelios 40 Suncreen Cream UVA Protection with Mexoryl SX ($30.64 for one 1.7oz tube. I used this when I was going to be outdoors in the sun for a long time and before I found out about the international versions of Anthelios. This is the best USA version of Anthelios, but it only contains Mexoryl SX which is only 1 of the three key ingredients, so I switched to Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Comfort Lotion which has all three key ingredients and is an even better value in 300ml tubes.)
Skinacea put together this great chart of sunscreen ingredients including the ingredients in Mexoplex:
Good article about why there are better sunscreens in Europe.
Video about Mexoplex:
From La Roche-Posay Anthelios.com website:
The first sun filter approved by the FDA in 18 years.1 A breakthrough technology in sun protection.
What is MEXORYL™ SX?
MEXORYL™ SX is the most effective FDA-approved organic filter designed to protect against short UVA rays (maximum absorption at 344nm) with high photostability, a key factor in sunscreen protection efficacy. This high photostability means the sunscreen will maintain a higher UVA protective ability longer and not degrade as quickly as other FDA approved UVA filters when exposed to the sun.
What is photostability?
Photostability means the ability to stabilize under sunlight. The process of photostability is a key factor in sunscreen protection efficacy. High photostability means the sunscreen will maintain a higher UVA protective barrier.
Why is MEXORYL™ SX unique?
When UVA and UVB inorganic protective filters were first introduced using cosmetically acceptable concentrations, they provided minimal protection against UVA rays. Though the UVA ray filter molecule Avobenzone (Parsol 1789) was approved for drug store and apothecary use in 1992, it was discovered that when used by itself, Avobenzone (Parsol 1789) degrades when exposed to the sun, thereby reducing its UVA protection efficacy.
MEXORYL™ SX, now available in the US, is photostable on its own and is the most effective FDA-approved organic filter designed to protect against short UVA rays. Formulations containing MEXORYL™ SX and L’Oreal’s patented photostable association of Octocrylene and Avobenzone provide complete broad spectrum UV protection, with a high level of protection across the UVA spectrum – particularly short UVA rays in the range of UVA 320-340nm.
How does MEXORYL™ SX work?
MEXORYL™ SX protects the skin by absorbing the energy of the sun’s short UVA rays. MEXORYL™ SX acts as a normal filter, but becomes highly energized by absorbing the energy of a UV photon. MEXORYL™ SX protects against UVA photons penetrating your skin, deactivates and releases the absorbed energy to the environment as harmless energy, then repeats the process over and over.