Trends that are breaking into the sun protection category in the U.S.

A category in full bloom
April 2022
Trends that are breaking into the sun protection category in the U.S.

With the summer season almost upon us, when the hours of sun exposure increase exponentially, and taking advantage of our visit to sunny California for the Expo West, we wanted to analyze some of the launches that are taking place on the shelves of the main American organic retailers. This category is in full effervescence.

Promoting the use of products composed of natural ingredients, avoiding the use of controversial ingredients in formulations, and ensuring the preservation of the environment and seabed are the main tasks that this category is currently trying to solve.  

Claiming mineral protection

In recent years, awareness of the sunscreen products we apply to our skin and the effects they can have on it has increased. Although there is still a long way to go in terms of awareness, the industry is starting to promote the use of 100% natural ingredients in all its sun protection formulations. 

One argument that is clearly growing in the category is the rise in the value of sunscreens composed solely of mineral ingredients as opposed to conventional sunscreens based on water-soluble chemical ingredients and silicones. In fact, many brands have migrated to the use of liposoluble chemicals (less environmental impact) and have eliminated silicone from their formulas.

The development of mineral sunscreens has gained prominence in the most recent launches of the category in the U.S., as a solution for those seeking to use ingredients of natural origin. 

100% mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, are developed with minerals, which act on the skin to form a barrier that reflects UVA/UVB rays and prevents radiation from penetrating the skin. Unlike water-soluble chemical filters, which absorb UVA/UVB rays and prevent burns through a chemical reaction, they can create skin reactions. 

Sunscreen brands are currently working their mineral formulas in two directions: 

- To improve their thick texture and their persistent whitish application on the skin. To reformulate their mineral sunscreens to improve this pain point, which is important in a market like the U.S where the cosmetic component of sunscreens is highly valued over other variables. 

- To achieve formulations that are free of nanoparticles. It was discovered that the mineral ingredients used to develop these sunscreens are not coated and are nano-sized (less than 35 nm in diameter). These particles can enter cells and have toxic effects on humans.

The unfinished business: minimizing environmental impact 

There is great concern in the category of developing sunscreens that are as environmentally responsible as possible. 

Virtually, all the sunscreen brands we have come across on the shelves in California have been reformulated by studying the ecotoxicity and biodegradability of ingredients. These ingredients can be harmful to the seas and oceans. Some states, such as Florida and Hawaii, already have strict regulations on sunscreens that prohibit the use of some chemical ingredients that affect the seabed and coral reefs, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. And more and more states within the U.S. and other countries are looking into regulating the use of harmful ingredients in natural environments.

The Be Reef Safe Approach to Sun Safety and Sunscreen 101' 5-step infographic guide to sun care in summer.

We find a multitude of sunscreen brands on the American, Australian, and some European shelves, with claims and seals on the packs that highlight the minimal environmental impact of their formulations. Claims such as reef-safe, ocean-safe, reef-friendly, biodegradable ingredients, plastic-free sunscreen, ... are becoming more and more common.

Other items that have caught our attention in the American sunscreen shelves

Products under the 'surfer-approved' seal, reformulated water-resistant sunscreens, generally Zinc-based, for high sun exposure while practicing water sports and at the same time caring for the oceans. In stick or conventional formats with different color ranges depending on skin type. 

There appears to be an opportunity to develop a subcategory within sun protection focused on sports with high sun exposure. 

‘Prebiotic, probiotic sunscreens’, enhance ingredients to fight against the imbalance in the microbiome and the defense system of skin that changes after prolonged sun exposure.    

Inclusive sunscreens that formulate products that meet specific consumer needs BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).

The Eleven brand has developed sun protection in collaboration with the Williams sisters, for colored skins that require care, which protects this type of skin without leaving the white residues left by most mineral protections.

Protectors against blue light emitted for example by screens, to prevent the appearance of spots or wrinkles. The Good Habit brand has developed a range of products only aimed at protecting against this type of radiation.

main image: @lukeyd_w

Trends that are breaking into the sun protection category in the U.S.Alexandre López
Senior Manager