Still, the biggest issue facing the sun care business in 2020 and beyond is misinformation—with many discussions about ingredients occurring in the US Senate, consumers are under the false impression that sunscreen products are not safe for their health, according to Christina Saikus, senior brand manager, Banana Boat.
“While the FDA recently released study results about the absorption of ingredients through the skin and into the body, this does not mean sunscreen cannot be used safely for protection against UV rays,” she noted. “The FDA and leading medical experts support continued use of sunscreens for broad spectrum protection (UVA/UVB), given the totality of available evidence that sunscreens are safe for use.”
US mass market sun care sales rose more than 3% during the past year to nearly $1.3 billion. Johnson & Johnson is the leading player in the category, thanks to the popularity of its Neutrogena brand, but private label formulas remain the top-seller (see chart).
Sun care may be a great business, but it wasn’t enough to hold Bayer’s interest. Nearly a year ago, Beiersdorf paid $550 million for Coppertone, the company’s iconic sun care brand which, in recent years, has been overshadowed by competition from private label formulas, J&J and smaller brands. Still, adding Coppertone to its arsenal expands Beiersdorf’s presence in the all-important US market. When the deal went down back in August, Beiersdorf CEO Stefan De Loecker observed, “with this acquisition we are gaining access to the world’s largest sun protection market—the United States. We are convinced that this step will enable us to significantly accelerate our growth and presence particularly in North America.”
Maybe, but Beiersdorf has some ways to go if it hopes Coppertone can reclaim the top spot in the US sun care market. Today, it faces better quality offerings from private label as well as aggressive upstarts.
“It can be really intimidating to take on an industry that has been traditionally dominated by just a few massive corporations, but I think it’s a sign of the times that we are living in now where consumers are actually asking for smaller brands and are looking to support indie beauty businesses,” observed Morgan Ioffe, founder of Tropic Lab. “So even though I doubt myself every now and then, I know that there has never been a better time to start a small brand in the beauty industry.”
According to Ioffe, a combination of market-readiness and access to so many services and technologies has created a breeding ground for young, hungry entrepreneurs to launch their brands.
“In an industry once tightly in the grip of a massive few, we now are able to find manufacturers that are willing to do small runs and work with new brands, and we have platforms like Shopify that have made e-commerce easier than ever to access,” she observed. “Combine this with the power of social media and influencer marketing, and I think any budding entrepreneur would see the tremendous opportunity here.”
According to Kathleen Dwyer, director of sales and marketing at Fallene, Ltd., there are several ways to compete against multinationals.
“The first is by focusing on what we do well. We don’t try to be all things to all people,” she explained. “At C¯oTZ, we are dedicated to using only titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.”
In fact, C¯oTZ stands for Contains only Titanium and Zinc.
“Our company has over 30 years’ experience working with mineral sunscreens, so we’ve developed formulations and techniques that deliver exceptional aesthetics including elegant skin feel and virtually invisible appearance on a wide range of skin tones,” said Dwyer. “Secondly, we deliver customer service that is hard for multinationals to replicate, providing excellent service to both small and large specialty retailers. While multinationals are good at working with big mass retailers, they often lack the infrastructure and/or incentive to service small independent accounts. We welcome both!”
And just as ripples grow into something bigger, indies are making waves in the sun care category.
Chief among them is Sun Bum, Cocoa Beach, FL, which saw its sales more than double during the past year. Company Founder Tom Rinks credits the local surf shops that took a chance on the little brand from the start.
“We wouldn’t be here without them,” he told Happi.
The all-important beach season is still months away here in the Northeastern US, but several marketers have rolled out new formulas that should find their way to the sea and sand come Memorial Day. For example, Sun Bum is expanding its mineral-based line with the addition of Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion and more, according to Ashley Aron, VP-marketing.
To help spread the word about its products and the importance of sun protection, Sun Bum will hold its second annual “Banana Suit Challenge” in May, which happens to be Skin Cancer Awareness Month, explained Aron. The company will have an even bigger stage later this year during the Summer Olympics.
“We had a blast this past year seeing the passion that our incredible community put behind joining us in raising awareness of skin cancer. It was incredibly humbling and has motivated us to go even bigger this year! Like a lot of others, we think surfing in the Tokyo Olympics for the first time will be rad to see. Two of our Sun Bum ambassadors, Julian Wilson and Carissa Moore, will be competing, so we’ll for sure be putting some major love behind them.”
Australian Gold’s sales rose more than three times faster than the overall category, according to IRI, but that didn’t stop executives from rebranding product offerings in an effort to stay ahead of the oxybenzone and octinoxate bans that are popping up in the US and around the world. Both organic sunscreens have been blamed for damaging coral reefs. Just over a year ago, Key West took action against the popular UV filter. Hawaii was the first state to ban the actives. That law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
“We saw it coming and started reformulating two years ago and changed our entire line,” recalled Hillary Rebollar, senior brand manager, Australian Gold. “We didn’t want to exclude any markets.”
The new formulas vary. For example, Australian Gold formulators didn’t use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in its classic line for two reasons—cost and aesthetics.
“We want to keep the line affordable for the mass market and we didn’t want to change the feel of the products,” explained Rebollar. However, botanical formulas rely on mineral-based protection.
At the same time, company executives saw the opportunity to update the packaging.
“We have a loyal following, but the old packaging turned new users off,” explained Rebollar. “Consumers are confused about sunscreen. They want less information on front panels, but they want the right information. Terms like water-resistance, non-greasy and cruelty-free are important. Oxybenzone-free is important too. That is especially important in coastal markets where people understand the importance of the coral reef.”
Things that didn’t change include the color scheme, koala logo and iconic bottle shape.
“Long-time users can still find us, but now our bottles are more modern and simplified,” said Rebollar. “Weather is always a factor, but we expect to have a good year and our new packaging will be a part of that.”
C¯oTZ had a great 2019, with double-digit growth in all distribution channels according to Dwyer. The brand got a lift from new packaging introduced more than a year ago, along with updated positioning and a new look online.
“The launch of C¯oTZ Face Moisture SPF 35 was highly successful, and its velvety, hydrating mineral formula is proving to be a strong contributor to year-round sales,” she added.
Burned by the Sun
Ioffe began her career in the beauty industry as a medical aesthetician where she discovered a passion for skin care. She left the service-based beauty industry and pursued further education in cosmetic chemistry and product formulation.
“I knew going into it that I wanted to start my own brand, so I never worked for a larger company before starting Tropic Labs. By the time I had completed my studies in cosmetic chemistry and product formulation, I already had a million ideas for new products bouncing around in my head,” recalled Ioffe. “It wasn’t until my honeymoon in Hawaii when my husband suffered a terrible sunburn that I knew exactly the direction I wanted to take my brand in.”
A sunburn may have pointed Ioffe in the right direction, but she insists that she’s no zealot when it comes to sun protection.
“The sun care industry is a very polarized space, with no shortage of fear-based marketing. With Tropic Labs, we really aimed to take a more balanced approach to sun care that allows our customers to be sun safe while still enjoying their time outside,” she explained. “Media and medical reports are justifiably alarmist, especially with incidences of skin cancer on the rise, but we believe that much of this is due to a lack of information when it comes to sun care.”
At the end of the day, said Ioffe, it’s human nature to love time in the sun, and getting a tan is a natural process which occurs as a result.
“Rather than shun people who prefer to have a tan with threats of skin damage or worse, we opted to offer these ‘at-risk’ users an alternative option that still encourages sun-safety above all else.”
Tropic Lab, founded last year, is only available online at www.tropic-lab.com. But Ioffe hopes to expand into national retail distribution in 2020.
Caring for Kids
Project Sunscreen was born in 2016, when two moms, CEO Rachel Henderson, who has a background in public health and education, and Dr. Ashley Magovern, a Los Angeles dermatologist, wanted to create a better sunscreen for their kids. Products were launched in the summer of 2019.
Living in New Zealand and Australia, Henderson learned early on about the importance of sunscreen. After moving to Southern California and raising two young children, she saw the need to encourage sun-safety habits and wanted to develop an effective product that kids would want to use. Having battled skin cancer for much of her adult life, she wanted to make sure her two kids didn’t suffer the same fate by ensuring they practiced good sun-safe habits from an early age.
With a background in health and clinical research, Henderson had the perfect foundation for developing a new sunscreen. But, finding one that was easy to use and didn’t cause skin sensitivity issues was a challenge. She shared the idea with Magovern, and they decided to combine their talents to create Project Sunscreen, a mineral-based sunscreen.
Henderson told Happi that she had a very romantic idea of what it would be like to start Project Sunscreen.
“I thought it would be develop a formula, find some packaging, create labels and somehow get our product magically into stores—that was it!”
Looking back, she says her naiveté was a blessing in disguise.
“To start a company from scratch, it is far more complicated than you can imagine and challenging at almost every turn,” she admitted. “You need a very thick skin, be able to survive on virtually no sleep, make significant decisions in a flash, be a master of juggling a million and one things at one time while still smiling and acting confident in your ability.”
One of the unique aspects of Project Sunscreen is its ball applicator. Henderson said she discovered the form in Australia and when she returned with it to US, parents were constantly asking her where she found it, since she was able to hold onto a wriggling child and easily apply sunscreen.
“Whenever I went back to Australia, I would bring it in by the truckload to share with my friends,” she recalled. “Ashley and I decided to combine our talents to develop a mineral sunscreen that had the similar qualities to the Australian product—but so much better, without chemical filters, mineral-based, reef-friendly and good for your skin ingredients. That was when Project Sunscreen was born!”
The brand launched with six “personalities,” each designed to appeal to a child’s different tastes and interests.
“We strongly believe that if kids feel a personal connection to the bottles, they’ll be excited to use it,” Henderson explained. “The labels are actually created by kids to make sure they’re cool to them.”
This year, Project Sunscreen will grow with new offerings and distribution for teens and adults. SPFU and For All contain zinc oxide, and are fragrance-, PABA-, paraben- and phthalate-free.
Project Sunscreen is available on Amazon and a number of regional grocery chains, throughout the US, including Meijer, Stop and Shop, and Bartell. This Spring, the line debuts at Ulta.
It may have started as a product line, but Henderson and Magovern insist that Project Sunscreen is a movement.
“We’re incredibly grateful for the success we have gotten out of the gate with the brand and it’s almost overwhelming when we see and hear feedback from customers. We know we struck a chord,” explained Henderson. “We’re passionate about helping kids develop sun safety habits early in life and are working with local school and school districts to establish quick, easy and fun sun safety practices. Why? Many children go unprotected from sun exposure at school—especially midday, when sun protection is critical. We also want to make sure that people (adults and children alike) make sunscreen part of their everyday routines—not only during the warm summer months.”
Of course, innovations aren’t limited to indies. LaRoche-Posay, the dermatologist-recommended brand that’s owned by L’Oréal, just launched Anthelios Melt-In Milk Sunscreen, a broad-spectrum formula that also contains antioxidants and thermal spring water. The SPF100 formula is oxybenzone-free and water-resistant, too. The introduction comes after Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk received a perfect score of 100 for a fifth year in a row from Consumer Reports.
Banana Boat is launching its new Light As Air Sunscreen collection, featuring an “ultra-breathable formula that feels as if it’s barely on, available in a spray, body lotion, and face lotion in SPF 50+,” according to Saikus. The product line helps to address the common consumer hang-up of not wanting to apply sunscreen because of the way it feels on the skin and the perception that it’s greasy and heavy on the skin. Banana Boat is releasing its first-ever product specifically for hair and scalp protection.
“People often forget that hair and scalp is at risk for sun damage, and traditional sunscreen is difficult to apply to the area, but Banana Boat Hair & Scalp Defense Sunscreen Spray makes it easy and convenient to protect these commonly overlooked places allowing you to simply enjoy your time in the sun,” explained Saikus. The spray is available in SPF 30, is ultra-lightweight, fast-drying and can applied to wet or dry hair.
This year, Banana Boat has expanded the popular Simply Protect Sensitive collection to include the Simply Protect Sensitive Sunscreen Spray in SPF 50+. The same hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formula is now available in a convenient clear spray. For the younger set, Banana Boat is launching mineral formulas for kids and babies, Kids Mineral in SPF 50+ and Baby Mineral in SPF 50+.
To create the next generation of sun care products, formulators may be working with a limited palette of actives, now that oxybenzone and octinoxate bans are popping up around the globe. The FDA has requested more information from industry in order to approve several actives that are already in use in Europe. The Final FDA Sunscreen Monograph was to be issued on Nov. 26, 2019, but when that deadline came and went, FDA changed the date to September 2020.
To get a better understanding of the regulatory landscape, the New York Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists held a seminar on FDA’s new proposed sunscreen regulations, the testing protocol and its impact on industry. The event, chaired by Howard Epstein, was held in January.
Gabriel Berkland of EMD Performance Materials presented eye-opening data regarding the popularity of sunscreen actives. He noted that organic UV filters make up 93% of UV filters used by weight.
Homosalate leads the way at 32%, followed by octisalate, octocrylene and oxybenzone, each with 13%. Octinoxate is next at 10% and avobenzone represents 9% of UV filters by weight.
Surprisingly, inorganic filters, which are very popular with marketing departments these days, play a limited role in current formulations. Titanium dioxide accounts for just 4% of UV filters used by weight and zinc oxide is even less popular at 3%. For those keeping track, “other” accounts for the missing 3% of UV filter usage.
FDA’s E. Dennis Bashaw noted that the use of the Maximal Usage Trial (MUsT) in the evaluation of sunscreen safety has been a topic of discussion with both the medical community, industry, and academia for many years including the American Academy of Dermatology and Photomedicine Society. An FDA study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association sent ripples through the sun care industry when results showed systemic absorption of ingredients about the FDA threshold limit of 0.5ng/ml.
According to Bashaw, the FDA-sponsored sunscreen studies were done to both demonstrate how such a study could be done with sunscreens and to get an initial estimate as to the degree of absorption.
“The FDA has not said that sunscreens are unsafe,” he stressed.
Linda Loretz of the Personal Care Product Council said the results of the FDA study raised two questions:
- Should the threshold be based on the hazard profile of the ingredient?
- What is the best way to assess exposure and safety?
“Environmental questions need to be assessed,” added Loretz. “Local and state regulatory and legislative actions are pushing for sunscreen bans without credible scientific data.”
For its part, Banana Boat dramatically minimized the use of oxybenzone and octinoxate. Currently nearly two-thirds of Banana Boat products are reef-friendly, and by 2021 all products under SPF 100 will be reef-friendly, according to Saikus.
The Personal Care Product Council continues to work with FDA on acceptable data approaches with Finalization of the Sunscreen Monograph expected in September 2020.
But no matter what they choose, dermatologists urge consumers to apply sunscreen. The recent Skin of Color Society Media Day attracted 60 bloggers and reporters from publications such as O, Essence, The New York Times and Good Housekeeping. During their presentations, nearly every dermatologist reminded reporters to tell their readers about the importance of sunscreen to protect against skin cancer and other diseases, including melasma, vitiligo, lupus erythematosus and solar urticaria.
“Melanin-rich skin is susceptible to skin cancer,” noted Susan C. Taylor, MD. “There are also many diseases requiring sun protection in melanin-rich skin.”
According to Taylor, chemical sunscreen aesthetics are preferred in melanin-rich skin.
“Some of the reasons cited by patients for not using sunscreen include residual color and the consistency of zinc and titanium,” said Taylor.
Her patients are not alone. Nearly all consumers prefer the aesthetics of inorganic sunscreens. Now, it is up to FDA and industry to come together and figure out a way to bring more of these actives to the US market.