An article in the New York Times a few weeks ago noted that Americans are still traveling to Europe for their summer vacations but due to the strong Euro and the weak dollar they are returning home with far fewer souvenirs. While it might not be the right time to hit the Champs-Élysées for the newest Louis Vuitton bag, it's a perfect time to stock up on European sunscreens. French sunscreens from La Roche-Posay and Vichy contain higher concentrations of Mexoryl, one of the most potent and stable UVA protectors, than the typical sunscreens sold in the US. Furthermore, these sunscreens are often difficult to find in the States and when you do find them they usually cost 3-4 times what they cost in Europe.
The French cosmetics giant L'Oreal, the parent company of both the La Roche-Posay line and the more basic Vichy line, finally won approval from the FDA last year for sunscreens containing Mexoryl. This approved product is sold as Anthelios SX, it is available in the US for just under $30 and is marketed as a daily moisturizer containing sunscreen. It is adequate for short exposures such as walking to work but does not provide enough sun protection for significant outdoor exposure. For summer sports and trips to the beach, it's better to use a product with as high a SPF as possible and to apply it frequently. On my last trip to France, I stocked up on the Anthelios XL SPF 50+ melt in cream for the face and Anthelios XL SPF 50+ spray for the body, each for around €18. I really like both of these products, but especially the spray for its ease of application and non-greasy feel. If you can't make it abroad this summer, you can find both these products in specialty pharmacies and on-line. So if the soaring euro is preventing you from sporting the latest in European fashion, at least you can take advantage of their skin care bargains!