Sun care has risen to new heights to become one of the hottest categories in beauty and personal care over the past year.
Bolstered by considerable innovation from new, niche and luxury sunscreen brands through to traditional stalwarts, and increasingly, entries from the wider beauty space, consumers are finding elevated products that make sunscreen more wearable and enjoyable to use, and offer additional beauty benefits.
Worth $13.4bn globally in 2022, the sun care category is also experiencing an impressive rise in sales.
In the UK, for example, total sun care products grew by 34% in the year ending 22 January 2023 according to exclusive figures from Kantar.
And in the US, prestige sunscreen sales spiked by 60% during the first quarter of 2022 according to Circana.
It is also benefiting from increasingly high consumer engagement, reflected by trending hashtags such as #sunscreenviral with 1.4 billion views and #bestsunscreen with 93.4 million views on TikTok.
Featuring heavily in social content is Supergoop!, which increased its average monthly search volume by 41.2k in March 2023 compared with 12 months prior, according to Spate.
Sun care has traditionally been a category governed by seasonal sales, but Brando Coleman, Research Analyst at Euromonitor International says: “With consumers paying more attention to their skin health, along with government awareness campaigns and companies introducing innovative products, year-round use of sun care products is expected to gain traction and grow in the coming years.”
Brands are recognising that the shift towards daily use products with UV protection offers huge potential, prompting both rising levels of innovation and further brands to move in.
Both The Inkey List and Byoma have just entered the category with their first sunscreens, for example.
Bioré is also focused on this opportunity. “We see that UV protection is becoming an integral part of the daily skin care routine,” says Wendy Brown, Country Manager, Consumer Care Business UK at Kao.
The Japanese brand has just launched its viral sunscreen UV Aqua Rich, which sells one every 15 seconds globally and has 6.3 million views on TikTok, into Europe – bringing the brand’s first facial care product with UV to the region.
Now, brands are focusing on ways to optimise formulations and formats to deliver sun protection in the most beneficial and appealing way for everyday use.
Sarah Murray, NPD Manager at Skin Proud, says: “With innovation in the category, such as textures, formulations and ingredients, it is giving consumers more choice to help increase the usage of SPF among consumers, especially Gen Z.”
Such innovations are bringing a number of new trends into the category, as experimentation increasing moves in and brands offer added value and solutions that will take sunscreen use to the next level.
Here, Cosmetics Business gives a taster of the sun care trends that are shaping the industry, now and into the future.
Trend 1: The 'beautification' of sun care
Sunscreen that doesn’t feel like sunscreen and works as hard as skin care: the ‘beautification’ of sun care is just getting started.
By repositioning sun protection within the realm of beauty, and with the added benefits brands are bringing to the product experience, sun care has entered a dazzling new space.
Whether it's a glowing, dewy or matte effect, the use of hero skin care ingredients to deliver deep hydration, reduce the appearance of dark spots, fine lines and pores or a product that creates the perfect make-up base, today’s sun care products are in many ways indistinguishable from skin care products – and this is exactly what brands have been striving for.
Beauty-boosted sun care products are making it more appealing than ever to use sun protection – and it's a trend in which brands must increasingly invest in order to stand out.
Trend 2: The dawn of 'funscreen'
From whipped cream mousse to neon star-shaped patches, sun protection is starting to look very different in the 2020s, thanks to a cluster of new brands that are on mission to make sunscreen fun.
And it's a strategy that is attracting growing interest from Gen Z. “Gen Z consumers are already very motivated to use sun protection and try new formulations that fit their lifestyles,” says Gena Griffin, founder of SunPatch, a brand that offers reusable peel-and-stick sunblock patches in bright pink and neutral colours.
Griffin says these are popular with Gen Z who co-ordinate their outfits around the patches.
Meanwhile, 'leisure-enhancing' sun care brand Vacation's Classic Whip SPF 30 “regularly goes viral on Gen Z-leaning platforms like TikTok, thanks to its visual, experiential nature,” says Lach Hall, founding partner of Vacation.
Hall adds: “We believe people are now on-board with the importance of wearing sunscreen, and that the best way to encourage them to actually wear it every day is through fun, sensorial products that are actually enjoyable to use.”
Trend 3: Sun serums
SPF serums are one of the brightest sparks in sun care.
Having landed in 2021, gathered pace in 2022 and taken off further this year with a proliferation of new launches, sun serums are now “one of the fastest growing categories in sun care” according to trend forecaster WGSN’s social media listening tools.
There are several reasons for their rise through the ranks. But driving the trend is Gen Z, and the fact that SPF and serums make up two of the top three products in their regular skin care routines goes some way to explaining why a 2-in-1, multi-tasking combination of their skin care favourites appeals so strongly to this consumer group. (Source: Kyra’s The Gen Z State of Beauty Report 2022.)
This trend explores how sun serums are enticing brands and consumers alike with their high-value, luxe texture benefits.
Trend 4: Reapplication revisited
If the best innovations solve a problem, then it is no wonder that SPF products that have crushed the pain points of sunscreen reapplication are becoming bestsellers.
Dermatologists recommend topping up sun protection every two hours when outdoors during the spring and summer months, yet a 2021 study by the American Academy of Dermatology found that while 8 in 10 adults know they should reapply it, only 33% top up every two hours.
Brands are now recognising that there is an opportunity to better meet the needs of consumers when it comes to reapplication, developing sunscreen formats that are specifically designed and optimised for topping up throughout the day.
But brands from Garnier to Givenchy are also going further, offering additional benefits to encourage consumers to use sunscreen throughout the day, without disturbing make-up, for consistent protection.
Trend 5: Future sun care trends
Sun care innovation is progressing at a pace the category has never seen before.
With new launches laced with beauty benefits, ingredients previously only found in skin care formulations, and formats that make them a dream to apply and reapply, sunscreen is no longer purely functional, it’s becoming aspirational.
But what trends will shape the future of sun care? Cosmetics Business highlights three that are set to heat up the category:
- How brands are doubling down to boost daily sunscreen use
- Why retinol sunscreen is stepping in
- Next-level formulas that offer broader environmental protection
- Read here: 3 trends heating up the sun care category