It’s easy to overlook sunscreen. Even though it’s been a pivotal growth engine for personal care, we often find ourselves forgetting about it until we’re heading to the beach or about to step onto the green. However, brands across the spectrum are championing SPF as a daily essential.
We’re outdoors a lot more than we think, and sun exposure is far-reaching with long-lasting effects on our skin’s health. That’s why innovators in the segment are looking to redefine what sunscreen is and how we use it.
What if for example, instead of protecting against UV exposure sometimes, we prioritized sun protection every day of the week, all year long, indoors and out? What if, in addition to sun protection, and SPF helped combat acne, wrinkles, and blue light damage?
Brands have been embracing this mindset for years, but consumers have been slow to adapt. That’s changing, as more shoppers are looking for prestige SPFs, particularly those that serve a dual purpose or are made with mineral ingredients.
This realignment is growing the sun care segment, which has a 3.5% CAGR and expected to be valued at $16.8 billion by 2027.1 While the segment did experience a significant decrease in 2020 (8.7%), analysts expect sales to rebound as vacations resume, and education on daily SPF use increases.
As brands reach out and connect with the consumers looking to reprioritize sun protection, the industry should expect a strong decade of innovation. Even today, subcategories for mineral SPFs and makeup SPFs are up growing at a rate of 5% and 16% respectively,2 and Google reports that keyword searches for ‘SPF moisturizer’ have increased 204% over the decade.3
Innovation will also be seen as brands address the unique needs of different consumer niches. SPF use in women is more than double that of men, but men are more likely to re-apply throughout the day — both use cases that can affect the adoption of new product types.
Furthermore, mineral sunscreens are often reef-safe and sans the greasy feeling, but can leave darker skin tones with a white cast. Consumers need products that not only address their personal needs but are practical enough for everyday use.
While we might be entering a new phase of innovation in sun care, the groundwork for groundbreaking innovation has been underway ever since Hawaii passed its “Aloha Reef Safe” law, banning the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Studies linked these ingredients to increased mortality in coral reefs, compelling legislators to act. Coral reefs support 25% of the Earth’s marine life, and Hawaii’s 410,000 acres of living reefs accounts for 85% of all of the coral reef in the United States.4 Since the law passed, California has written similar legislation, and Hawaii is set to add more ingredients to the list.
When two high-profile sun states set standards, the industry takes notice. The upside is that this legislation has actually helped stimulate innovation when it was needed the most. Instead of stifling brands, the mandate to find newer, better, more effective ideas may have helped propel innovation and set a decade’s worth of growth.
This innovation continues to expand, going beyond formulas and packaging and into the ingredient supply chain. Researchers at the University of Sheffield and Imperial College London have discovered a new method for making zinc oxide that uses less energy and produces a wider range of particle types.5
So what’s next for sun care? These are some of the trends we are likely to see over the next year and beyond.
While outdoor social distanced gatherings should always come with a side of SPF, the easing of guidelines and a return to normal will lead to a rebound of vacations, concerts, and other missed activities. Sun care unit sales were down 12.3% by the end of 2020,2 so brands are eager to rebound.
Dual-purpose sunscreens are a main driver for growth and have a huge potential for expanding the category into new consumer markets. We want our post-shower moisturizer to protect us from UV rays, yes, but we also want them to combat redness and protect against blue light damage.
All across beauty care — from face, to hair, to body — in women’s, men’s, or baby — almost every segment has the potential for new brand launches.
There are a few barriers that consumers have to increase their use of SPF (let alone using it in the first place). That greasy, coconut experience pairs well with the pool but not so much with the office. Mineral sunscreens have been able to design lighter, more oil-free formulations, but have the tendency to leave a white cast on darker skin types.
The innovation that will address these concerns will include new fragrance options, vegan formulations, on-the-go packaging options, and ingredient alternatives.
Consumers are very interested in knowing what goes into their personal care products and are eager to seek out new trends. This has put sun care in the spotlight, like the most recent news about unsafe benzene levels found in several brands.
Consumers will be paying attention to ingredient lists, manufacturing process, and what effect it has on the ecosystem. Transparency will be table stakes for disruptors.
Overall, sun care is one of the fastest-growing, dynamic segments in beauty and personal care today. Our idea of what and SPF is, the ingredients that protect us from ultraviolet rays, and the daily rituals we possess around sun care will continue to evolve, spurring a golden era of innovation.