Sign in

Sun Care in the 21st Century

Jeff Falk
  • Balancing performance with aesthetics is one of the greatest challenges of creating sun care products for the U.S. market.
  • As new UVA filters become approved, and regulated test methods drive improved performance in this area, the next generation of sun protection products is predicted to offer superior UVA protection.
  • Differences in global regulatory requirements are a challenge for anyone wanting to make “global” sunscreen formulations.

GCI magazine spoke with David Sutton, sun care marketing manager, Dow Personal Care, and Julian Hewitt, technical specialist for Croda Suncare & Biopolymers, about the challenges of creating sun care for today’s market.

GCI: What are the challenges of creating sun care ingredients, in general, for today’s market? Can the market, due to the delay of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) sunscreen monograph, have been categorized as one that was in flux? Is it now in a wait-and-see period? How does an ingredient manufacturer keep innovating in a market where there are questions about what will and won’t be required, by an authoritative/regulatory body, in a final product?

Sutton: One of the greatest challenges of creating sun care products for the U.S. market is balancing performance with aesthetics. With the proposed changes to the FDA’s sunscreen monograph still waiting approval, ingredient manufacturers can keep innovating and moving forward by addressing the performance/aesthetics challenge, and by providing brand owners with ingredients that can be used in support of other trends—such as the growing demand for finished products that can be labeled as “natural,” “organic” or “Ecocert-approved.”

Dow Personal Care, for example, recently added a new ZinClear IM product from Antaria Limited to its range of sun care technologies. ZinClear IM 50JJ is an Ecocert-approved product containing zinc oxide dispersed in jojoba ester.

Hewitt: I wouldn’t describe the sunscreen market as in a state of flux due to the delay in issuing the final monograph. Flux implies movement, whereas, if anything, we have the opposite. Many manufacturers are indeed in a wait-and-see mode, holding off on new developments until there is some more certainty on what requirements the new monograph will impose. This is a difficult situation for everyone in the market, whether finished product manufacturers or raw material suppliers, and bringing forth new innovations is indeed problematic when we don’t know what level of performance is required or what regulatory restrictions may be imposed (or lifted).

GCI: What will the release of the monograph mean to both ingredient suppliers and marketers? How will it impact consumers?

Sutton: It will likely result in significant reformulation activity. This will create both opportunities and challenges for suppliers and manufacturers. Formulators will need to work with more ingredients that serve multiple purposes. For example, rather than use a sunscreen active that works primarily in one range of the UV spectrum (i.e., organic UV filters), they’ll need to switch to ones that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide provides the broadest spectrum of coverage among UV filters currently approved by the FDA. This ingredient has, however, been a challenge for formulators in the past due to its whitening effect on the skin. [Dow Personal Care has created dispersions] that go on clear, so formulators can achieve broad-spectrum protection in sunscreens, color cosmetics and other daily wear products without the whitening effect. With respect to consumers, there will likely be some initial confusion, but, in the long run, consumers will have more information on product labels to guide their purchases—and ultimately more complete UV protection available from their sun care products.

Hewitt: The release of the monograph, when it happens, will likely create a new set of targets for both ingredient suppliers and finished product manufacturers. As for consumers, it is hoped that the new monograph will allow formulators the freedom to innovate and provide the type of formulations for U.S. consumers that have been enjoyed by consumers elsewhere in the world for several years.

GCI: How can an ingredient supplier help guide a marketer of sun care products during this period?

Sutton: The more information we can provide to our customers on formulation guidelines and in vitro and in vivo testing results, the more valuable we can be as a supplier to them. This is going to be a major change at a time when resources are limited due to economic and competitive pressures. Suppliers can play an important supportive role in helping sunscreen manufacturers formulate to the new regulations once they are announced.

Also, ingredient suppliers can support manufacturers by providing ingredient solutions that allow formulators to achieve higher SPF and UVA protection levels in more cost-effective ways. SPF boosters, for example, enable formulators to use less of the more expensive active ingredients while achieving the same performance results.

GCI: Can you predict what the next generation of sun protection products will look like, in terms of ingredients? With both UVA and UVB protection offered in one product becoming the expectation, what is next? Though most UVC is absorbed by stratospheric ozone, does it look likely that UVC may be addressed by sunscreen ingredients/products? Is the next horizon simply the boost of protection from UVA and UVB?

Sutton: It is likely that we will see even more combinations of actives to reach optimal (three- and four-star) performance under the new regulations. Zinc oxide will likely be one of the leading sunscreen ingredients, as it provides the broadest spectrum of coverage among currently FDA-approved sunscreen UV filters. It is also mineral-based, so it fits perfectly with the natural/organic trends driving today’s daily wear and cosmetic markets. Other key drivers will be safe, sustainable solutions and improved aesthetics and application ease.

Hewitt: I would expect that the next generation of sun protection products will show rapid progression in offering superior UVA protection, as new UVA filters become approved and regulated test methods drive improved performance in this area. As for UVC, I don’t see this becoming a prevalent product claim in the foreseeable future. We are not exposed to any UVC at the Earth’s surface, so including UVC protection offers no real benefit.

GCI: With varying restrictions on sun protection ingredients globally, what are the challenges for ingredient suppliers and marketers looking to create sun protection products?

Sutton: It is very difficult to create global sunscreen formulations. This leads to multiple regional formulations, which increases cost and complexity, but, given the regulatory differences between regions, it seems unavoidable. [Dow Personal Care’s] global R&D network helps its customers address the unique needs of local markets. We stay on top of regulation changes so we can guide customers in combining ingredients that will deliver the desired performance while meeting regulatory requirements.

Hewitt: In terms of global requirements, this is indeed a challenge for anyone wanting to make “global” sunscreen formulations. Even when a formulation can be created that conforms to global restrictions in terms of active ingredients, testing and labeling requirements vary in different countries or regions, so the manufacturer is faced with having to conduct multiple performance tests and design numerous different labels in order to comply with the different regulations. Unfortunately, this situation is not likely to change any time soon.

GCI: At the 2009 Sunscreen Symposium, there were discussions about organic vs. inorganic systems, taking the photostability of UV filters into account, how substrate can affect the accuracy of UVA testing. What does the brand owner of a new sun protection line need to know about these issues?

Sutton: The brand owner will need guidance on how best to formulate through these challenges. The supplier who can help customers navigate through this difficult terrain will be appreciated.

Hewitt: With regard to photostability, testing substrate effects, etc., the key requirement for any established or new entrants in the sun care market is to ensure that they are familiar with the test protocols in the market(s) they intend to sell in, and what requirements these protocols impose on the product itself. Photostability, for example, is now an inherent requirement for almost all current or proposed UVA test methods, so the formulator must have an appreciation of how to optimize this in the formulation. The brand owner doesn’t necessarily need to know the technical details, but is responsible for ensuring that the proper tests are done and that products are labeled correctly.

GCI: At the Sunscreen Symposium, Dow Personal Care’s Chuck Jones presented on optimizing the efficiency of inorganic sunscreens. According to him, a conundrum exists between formulating to achieve a high SPF and maintaining good aesthetics. How does Dow address the growing need for higher SPF and the parallel demand for high-level aesthetics?

Sutton: Dow is addressing the growing need for products that provide higher SPF ratings while also having good aesthetic properties by exploring new combinations [of dispersions and boosters]. Inorganic UV filters such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to be less sticky, tacky, greasy, and can be used at higher usage levels than organic UV filters, so we are focusing the majority of our research on these.

As an inorganic UV filter booster, Dow Personal Care’s SolTerra Boost, for example, is naturally derived from cellulose, and can double the SPF rating of products by evenly distributing the active ingredients on the skin. It does not negatively affect the viscosity or aesthetics of formulations, which makes it an excellent choice for sun care products using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. SPF boosters [in Dow’s offerings] can be used in a variety of product forms—such as creams, lotions, sticks and sprays to enhance the sun protection factor of outdoor/beach wear, daily wear and color cosmetic products.

GCI: At the 2009 Sunscreen Symposium, it was noted that “the behavior of sunscreen products is not predictable from its individual ingredients.” What are the implications of this for marketers? Does this translate to lots of trial and error on formulas as new ingredients become available?

Hewitt: There is an element of truth in [that statement]. Certainly, the performance of a sunscreen product cannot reliably be predicted just from the active ingredients. SPF is strongly dependent on the formulation, in particular on the spreading and film-forming properties of the product. The experience of the sun care formulator is, therefore, invaluable in creating new products, and raw material suppliers should be contacted for advice on how to make the best of their ingredients. Croda, for example, has extensive documentation to assist formulators in using its inorganic sunscreen dispersions.

Related Content



The Many Faces of Sun Care

In its December 2008 series of reports on the sun care market, Euromonitor International noted that the market has been characterized by the entrance of beauty brand marketers not typically associated with sun care blurring the boundaries between sun care and other beauty segments. Subsequently, products with touted sun care properties have become more aligned with color cosmetics or skin care. Value-added benefits in the form of sun protection have morphed into primary claims in many products that could more appropriately be defined by another segment—i.e., skin care, color cosmetics, etc. Examples of new such products have come to the attention of GCI magazine.

Targeted Care in Color

Sunforgettable SPF 30 Eyescreen by Colorescience Pro ( is a powder SPF protection specifically for the eye area designed to protect, diffuse and accentuate.

The sheer pink, light-diffusing powder plays tricks on the eyes, according to the company, camouflaging dark circles and giving fine lines a soft focus while touting an SPF 30 rating.

Sun Block in a Pill

GliSODin Skin Nutrients Advanced Skin Brightening Formula ( is claimed to enhance the strength of topical sunscreens. It is said to have photo-protective and anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the skin and reduce inflammation caused by UV exposure and oxidative stress. Citing consumers’ propensity for insufficient sunscreen application and poor compliance with application directions, the product—because it does not depend on the adequacy of topical application—is claimed to be both effective and complementary to topical products. It is also claimed to even out pigmentation.

For the Beach and with a Twist

Tropical Seas ( introduced a line of “reef safe” sunscreens claimed to biodegrade in ocean water, thus protecting fragile subsurface ecosystems. The Beach Buff “Reef Safe” sunscreen line also received an official endorsement from the American Lifeguard Association, and found success on shelf. The company followed up with additional testing that claims to show 99% of the Beach Buff sunscreens also biodegrade in river and lake water in less than 90 days.

Sunscreen Symposium: In Brief

The theme of the Florida chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ (FLSCC) 12th Sunscreen Symposium, “Perpetuating Beauty through Protection,” was at the forefront of three days of lectures.

Among the highlights, Craig Bonda (HallStar Personal Care) noted that “the behavior of sunscreen products is not predictable from its individual ingredients.”

Julian Hewitt (Croda), who delved into formulation strategies to meet differing global UVA requirements, noted that while SPF tests are similar worldwide, UVA testing differs greatly. Hewitt, among others, noted his anticipation of the new monograph from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “I feel sorry for sun care formulators in the United States,” said Hewitt, who added there are few usable UV filters in the United States.

David Steinberg (Steinberg & Associates) opened with suggestions for changes he would make to the FDA monograph. He also suggested removing number and star rating systems, as well the words “low,” “medium,” “high” or “very high” that indicate levels of UV protection.

A full report is available at

Another Viewpoint on Sunning

“If you protect the skin from the sun using SPF, are you causing a larger health issue?” asks San-Mar Laboratories’ Frank Penna. “What of the controversy of vitamin D deficiency in one of three women—in part because SPF prohibits the body’s production of vitamin D.”

Penna and company believe the future in sun care lies in “intelligent sun exposure,” and San-Mar is completing work on an SPF product that will allow the body to produce vitamin D while protecting from UVA and UVB overexposure.

“Nature provided our bodies with melanin, the best protection from sun damage,” says Penna. “The key is short exposure to the sun (10 to 15 minutes a day), allowing the melanin in the body to bloom and providing a ‘healthy tan’ to simultaneously stimulate vitamin D production. SPF 15 (UVA and UVB) should be applied after the initial 10- to 15-minute exposure to the sun for long-term protection.”

Niche Marketing in Sun Care

In a number of recent reports, Euromonitor International has noted that segmentation and narrowly defined positioning are, increasingly, drivers of growth in a number of market categories.

Two of the more interesting efforts to narrow the target for sunscreen consumers—one because of the size of the potential segment; the other for, simply, the unusual positioning—are Race Face sunscreen and Will Ferrell’s Sexy Hot Tan, Sun Stroke and Forbidden Fruit SPF 30 sunscreens.

NASCAR fans can choose their SPF and bottle size as well as their favorite driver number and bottle design with Race Face sunscreen. Launched by Agility Sports, the line was created to appeal to the estimated 75 million race fans. In addition to availability in different formats and sizes, the bottles showcase the most coveted drivers—including Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Jimmy Johnson.

The company also provides an assortment of custom-produced sunscreens that facilitate branding within and to niche markets—as well as for promotions.

Agility Sports first needed to secure licensing, creating a handful of products to send for approval of NASCAR. The company worked with its production partners—sister companies CL&D Graphics and CL&D Digital—to print 40 shrink sleeve varieties to present, and then assembled and filled bottles to pitch for shelf space to potential retail partners. There were design changes and additions along the way, and now Graphics has full production runs on nearly all of the items presented for license.

Launched in May 2009, 10,000 units of Will Ferrell’s Sexy Hot Tan, Sun Stroke and Forbidden Fruit SPF 30 sunscreens moved in two months. The line is positioned as a charitable sunscreen line that “provides sun protection, laughs and college scholarship money for cancer survivors.”

The line was launched on Amazon and through

Next image >