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Why the US Has Fewer Sunscreen Options Than Europe

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Photographer: EMILY HARRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Good morning. Fiona here. I’m a health-care reporter based in New York. As a Brit who recently moved to the US, I’m slowly learning the American way of life. Some adjustments have been straightforward, like swapping my British spelling for American English. Others, not so much, like buying sunscreen lotion. More on that shortly...

Having lived in London most of my life, I’m not used to regular sunny weather. So this being my first summer living in the US, finding a good sunscreen was high on my priority list. 

But the options here are limited. In Europe and other parts of the world, people have access to more sunscreens than in the US. The key difference is that in Europe, sunscreens are regulated as a cosmetic, which allows manufacturers to use and combine ingredients in ways that offer more protection against the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. In the US, sunscreens are regulated as an over-the-counter drug, which means they’re subject to more restrictions.