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Sun care’s bright future

As consumers get out of the house and take skin health seriously, the sun care category is poised for growth.

Masks are off; sunscreen is on.

As vaccination rates increase, Americans are ready to hit the pool, beach, backyard and hiking trails. With more than a year’s worth of pent-up travel in full swing, sun care sales are heating up after a down year.

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Category sales dropped 8.9% for the 52-week period ended Dec. 27, 2020 in multi-unit outlets, according to IRI. Similar sales trends kicked off 2021. The only bright spot in 2020 and early 2021 was self-tanners as consumers faked getting a glow.

The picture is much different this summer. All indications are that retailers need to stock up as they plan for the next few years. Some suggest the category receive more real estate in stores to reflect the surge in demand, including greater off-shelf presentations.

Mordor Intelligence predicts sun care will produce yearly gains exceeding 3% through 2026. The India-based research firm calls sun care one of the fastest-growing segments within personal care. Their researchers reported that sun protection will benefit from concern over skin cancer, as well as aging linked to exposure to UV rays.

Layering on top of that, demand will stay strong for self-tanners along with after-sun products. One of the fastest growing after-sun products is Quest Products’ Sunburnt Daily After-Sun Lotion. The Pleasant Prairie, Wis.-based company purchased Sunburnt in 2019 and has successfully expanded distribution to major retailers, such as Target, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Publix and Kroger.

Mirroring trends in many categories emerging from the pandemic, shoppers are looking for cleaner formulas, multitasking products and ingredients that are safer for the environment. In the case of sun care, the concern is over marine life. 

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Mineral sunscreens, once the domain of higher-end lines, has gained mass acceptance, and the segment is doing well, according to such retailers as Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS and Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens. Consumers are on the prowl for mineral-based lines that don’t leave their mark. Google searches for sunscreens experience the biggest leaps across skin care, and the hunt for “sunscreens that don’t leave a white cast” skyrocketed almost 610%. Other subsectors with promise are derm and sport formulas, which all add more dollars to transactions thanks to slightly higher price tags.

And while sun protection is a serious concern to prevent skin cancer and aging, shoppers are on the hunt for fun products like Wilton, Conn.-based Beiersdorf’s Coppertone’s Glow SPF 30 and Coppertone Glow SPF 50, which both feature a touch of shimmer.

With consumers out and about more, they continue a pre-pandemic movement to SPF 50 or higher, retailers said.

After losing shelf space to emerging brands over the past five years, heritage companies either snapped up those niche players or stepped up their own product innovation to maintain a lead in the global industry, which is valued at more than $13 billion, according to Fortune Business Insights in Norfolk, Va.

Beiersdorf, for example, has put marketing muscle and product innovation behind Coppertone, which it acquired in 2019. In addition to its new Glow items, Coppertone’s latest debuts include Sport Mineral SPF 50 Spray, a sport sunscreen with 100% naturally sourced zinc oxide in a new spray format, along with Sport Mineral SPF 50 Face and Sport Mineral SPF 50 Lotion.

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S.C. Johnson in Racine, Wis., bought Sun Bum in 2019 and has built the brand into a mass-market staple. In addition to its growing sun care range, Sun Bum branched into skin care with SPF. The line consists of eight products — Daily Cleanser, Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, Daily Mineral Moisturizer SPF 30, Restoring Face Mask, Face Mist SPF 30, Hydrating Serum, Eye Cream and Night Cream — which range from $13.99 to $21.99, and incorporate such ingredients as nutrient-dense banana, vitamin-rich brown algae, hydrating green coconut water and ginseng.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Galderma Laboratories’ cult favorite Cetaphil brand introduced a Sheer Mineral Sunscreen line that a CVS Pharmacy source said is a prime example of heritage lines rooted in skin health, transferring that expertise to sun care. Each product in the range is formulated with antioxidant vitamin E to defend against surface free radicals and environmental stressors. 

The line features four 100% mineral sunscreens with microbiome gentle formulas and vitamin E to provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, the company said. 

Designed for sensitive skin, the line also is reef-safe and includes an SPF 30 and SPF 50 lotion, SPF 50 liquid face sunscreen and SPF 50 stick sunscreen. 

In addition to rolling out this new collection, Cetaphil launched a digital campaign to educate the public about sun safety to help prevent skin cancer. 

Sun Bum and Cetaphil sun care joined CeraVe as models reflecting a trend the Mordor report confirmed — the fusion of sun and skin care. More skin care products are infused with SPF, while sun care serves up moisturizing and other benefits once associated with the skin care aisle. “Therefore, most sun care products available on the market are more likely to be infused with a combination of compounds having antiaging properties and intensive moisturizing solutions among others,” according to the Mordor research.

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Natural formulas are elbowing their way onto mass shelves. Alba Botanica, sold at such retailers as Walmart, Target and Kohl’s, has added new items featuring its signature “better-for-you” ingredients. Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen with Green Tea SPF 50 also incorporates aloe vera and fruit extracts to help protect against sunburns, skin cancer and premature aging. It is a biodegradable formula that is reef friendly and gluten-free. Also new from Alba Botanica is a Hawaiian Sunscreen Coconut Spray SPF 50. Rounding out the innovations from the Lake Success, N.Y.-based Hain Celestial-owned brand are a Fast Fix Sun Sticks SPF 30, an on-the-go sunscreen stick and Alba Botanica Soothing Sunscreen Pure Lavender Lotion SPF 45. 

With consumers digging deeper into the safety of ingredients, C’est Moi Beauty’s Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 has been included on the Environmental Working Group’s list of approved clean, reef-safe sunscreens. It is not only the third year for that stock keeping unit to earn the distinction, but this year all the brand’s SPF made the grade. C’est Moi, based in Santa Monica, Calif., is sold at Target and CVS and online at Amazon and its own site.

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Bondi Sands, whose self-tanning foam typically ranks in the top 50 beauty sellers on Amazon, is broadening distribution in mass doors while also breaking into SPF formulas. The Australia-based brand released a collection of fragrance-free SPF in March with four body products and one face item. Each item, also free of parabens and sulfates, is reef-safe, cruelty-free and dermatologist tested. The brand also revealed Pure, a 100% recyclable line of self-tanning products made entirely from recycled materials.

Partnerships in Focus

The sun care industry is also putting purpose and education at its core. Neutrogena, owned by Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J., works with Walgreens and the Melanoma Research Foundation to spotlight the importance of healthy sun habits. A component of the partnership is education of the more than 3,000 Walgreens Beauty Consultants to boost their understanding of the importance of protection from the sun’s rays. In stores, shoppers can view educational information via QR codes on Neutrogena sunscreen products that include cancer prevention information and resources to help consumers perform self-checks on their skin.

“The continued rise of skin cancer is alarming, especially when you think that it is among the most preventable cancers,” Kerry Sullivan, general manager at Neutrogena, said. “We’re dedicated to the eradication of preventable skin cancer and have long advocated for greater education and promotion of sun safe behaviors because we know it is imperative to total skin health and well-being.”

Through this campaign, both companies said they look to raise funds for the Melanoma Research Foundation to help broaden its research, increase access to free educational materials to Black and Hispanic communities and drive its prevention efforts with communities of color. Funds will be raised through the purchase of specially marked and limited-edition Neutrogena sunscreens, which will be available exclusively at Walgreens.

Neutrogena, through its Neutrogena Studios effort, worked with Kerry Washington to create “In the Sun,” a 37-minute documentary about people who have been diagnosed with skin cancer. 

During Earth Month, Bondi Sands partnered with Take 3 for the Sea to support efforts in education communities about the impact of plastic pollution. 

L’Oréal-owned La Roche-Posay and OutCare Health announced an exclusive partnership to create a training program to improve LGBTQ+ and cultural competency in provider practices and patient interactions. The OutCare training program educates dermatologists on how to communicate with LGBTQ+ patients and care for them with increased sensitivity and cultural competence. 

Currently, OutCare has an extensive network of LGBTQ+ public viewership, initiatives, resources and culturally competent providers. By joining forces with La Roche-Posay, OutCare will be able to train medical staff at dermatology and oncology practices across the country and increase the number of OutList providers ready to deliver experienced, culturally competent care to the growing LGBTQ+ population.

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