Pharmacology Update

OTC Sunscreen Cream (Anthelios SX Cream)

By William T. Elliott, MD, FACP, and James Chan, PhD, PharmD, Dr. Elliott is Chair, Formulary Committee, Northern California Kaiser Permanente; Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco; Dr. Chan is Pharmacy Quality and Outcomes Manager, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, CA. Drs. Chan and Elliott report no financial relationships to this field of study.

The FDA has approved a unique otc sunscreen that combines three active ingredients including a new molecular entity, ecamsule. Anthelios SX contains avobenzone, and octocrylene as well as ecamsule, three sunscreens that are complementary and provide continuous protection across the entire UV spectrum. Ecamsule has been available, as (Mexoryl SX), in Europe and Canada since 1993. Anthelios SX has a sun protection factor of 15 and is distributed by L'Oreal and La Roche-Posay.


Anthelios SX is for the prevention of sunburn and protection against UVA and UVB rays.1


Sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. A sufficient amount should be applied to exposed skin. Approximately one ounce is needed to cover any adult wearing a bathing suit.2

Available as a 100 g cream containing 2% avobenzone, 2% ecamsule, and 10% octocrylene.

Potential Advantages

Anthelios SX contains effective UVA and UVB absorbing agents providing protection across the UV spectrum from 290 nm-400 nm.3

Potential Disadvantages

The most common adverse events associated with Anthelios SX are acne, dermatitis, dry skin, eczema, abnormal redness, itching, skin discomfort, and sunburn.1


Anthelios SX contains a new UVA absorber, ecamsule, that has been available in Europe and Canada since 1993. Ecamsule protects against short UVA rays and along with azobenzene and octocrylene provide protection across the UV spectrum. The safety and efficacy included information from 28 studies in more than 2500 patients.1 The product has been shown to reduce solar-UV induced skin damage as assessed by erythema, pigmentation, skin hydration, and changes in skin micreotopography.4 Anthelios SX is currently not approved for use in infants younger than 6 months of age. The retail cost of Anthelios SX $29.00.

Clinical Implications

More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year and about 112,000 are melanoma.2 Sunscreen use is an important strategy in preventing skin cancer. Anthelios SX offers a new broad spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection.


1. Accessed August 24, 2006.

2. Accessed August 24, 2006.

3. Accessed August 24, 2006.

4. Seite S, et al. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2000;16:147-155.