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Sun Care: To Scent or Not to Scent

By: Nancy C. Hayden
Posted: December 7, 2009, from the December 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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But when strategizing brand positioning, fragrance (or lack there of) remains something to consider. The fragrance can definitely help the appeal of the product and elevate the experience, and, because UVA/UVB protection is serious business today, making the right decision can mean success or failure.

Banana Boat, for example, seeks to evoke a tropical island feel, and fruity notes such as mango, melon, coconut and banana work toward that goal. Sweet fruitiness is used to connote a tropical experience. Thus, most products in the Banana Boat line carry a fragrance. Kiss My Face’s SPF 30 product, on the other hand, claims to be the least innocuous choice for consumers with sensitive skin, and, therefore, does not incorporate fragrance. The absence of fragrance in certain products in the brand’s product line supports the “for sensitive” skin positioning goals.

Whether sun care products are minimally fragranced or fragranced to evoke a sensory connection, there are notes to avoid. Avoid some of the volatile citrus notes, spice notes, eugenols [clove-derived essential oils], geraniols [a fragrant liquid unsaturated alcohol], hydroxycitronellals [a natural component of citrus derived essential oils], and oak and tree mosses. Essential oils also add instability. Fruity notes tend to work well as do the lavenders and woody notes, and there are so many synthetic fragrance materials available today that are much more stable in formulas. Generally, a level of 0.5% and below of fragrance in a formula has predictable interactions and results. Of course, there should be extensive stability testing at various temperature levels, and fragrance suppliers must have bases submitted to them for fragrance incorporation and evaluation—for both esthetics and stability and compatibility in the base formula. So much is known about the deleterious effects of the sun on skin, and, therefore, the use of fragrance in sun care products should enhance the performance of the product—simply, to amplify the desire to use sun care and make sun protection a pleasant, fragrant experience. It is the marketer’s challenge to create desire, position an impactful brand and select a compatible, stable and integral fragrance.

Nancy C. Hayden is a chemist and a pharmacist with more than 30 years in the fragrance industry. She worked as a nose for Jovan from the company’s beginnings and as fragrance director for Jovan Beecham until 1988. Currently, she is a consultant to the fragrance and cosmetics industries.