July 24, 2006 -- For the first time since 1988, the Food and Drug Administration today approved a new type of sunscreen compound that protects skin from shortwave ultraviolet A light and doesn't break down as easily as other products.
Most sunscreens available in the United States protect only against long-wave UVA and both forms of ultraviolet B light. But the new compound, known as ecamsule, has long been available in Europe and Canada. It is made by the L'Oreal cosmetics company.
The new product is considered a superior sunscreen chemical because of its ability to block UVA light -- a harmful, wrinkle-causing form of sunlight -- and because it lasts longer in the sun.
The product, Mexoryl SX, contains two standard sunscreen chemicals as well as ecamsule and will be sold as a daily moisturizer cream. It should be on pharmacy shelves sometime this fall, but it's not known how much it will cost. It will be sold under the name Anthelios SX.
Many dermatologists are happy about the news.
"We are delighted that an effective sunscreen agent has been approved by the . . . FDA. We're aware that this ingredient has been available in Europe since 1993 and we know that it is an effective UVA sunblocking agent," said Dr. Stephen Stone, president of the Academy of Dermatology. ". . . It is an effective UVA blocker. It will have some role in protection from skin cancer and photo-aging -- our term for aging from sun exposure, like wrinkles and skin pigmentation."
This is primarily due to the product's better UVA blocking abilities.
"UVA accounts for over 80 percent of the damage that occurs to the skin in terms of aging, DNA damage and, ultimately, skin cancer," said Dr. Darrell Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center, in a press release issued by L'Oreal. "UVA rays are present all year long, even in the winter, and they can penetrate through clouds and windows."
In an interview last year with ABC's "20/20," Dr. Vincent DeLeo, chairman of the dermatology department at Columbia University, said the European equivalent was sorely needed in the United States.
"It produces a product which gives us almost perfect protection against sunshine," he said.
ABCNEWS.com intern Emily Friedman contributed to this report