Sun Shining on Sun Care

  • Nearly 80% ($1.3 billion) of growth in the next five years will derive from the Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions.
  • While the popularity of private label may have risen as a result of the economic recession, consumers appear to be satisfied with these products, and even as the economy improves, private label continues to gain ground.
  • Driven by greater demand for convenience and ease of application, spray formats remain the most popular, with an average growth rate of 34% since 2005.
  • >As skin care brands offer more multifunctional sun protection/skin products, the blurring of the boundaries may also benefit sun care as they offer more skin care benefits.
  • In addition to sun care-to-skin care crossovers and vice versa, hair care offers potential for further cross-category expansion.

The global sun care market continued to grow steadily in 2011—in fact, at a similar rate to the previous year (6%) despite the turbulent economic climate in Western Europe, its strongest market. Increased awareness of the danger to health from sunburnt skin has been a key growth driver in Latin America and Asia-Pacific. As a result, nearly 80% ($1.3 billion) of growth in the next five years will derive from these regions. North America is projected to continue to grow steadily, but its saturated market is predicted to contribute only around $250 million to the global sun care market by 2016. While Western Europe is set to remain flat to 2016, according to Euromonitor International, it will nevertheless retain its position as the leading region by value.

Weakening Growth in the West as Private Label Gains

Western Europe, which accounted for a third of global sun care sales in 2011, posted a decline in value for the first time since 2004. Spain, its largest market, continued to contract due to economic difficulties, as well as a further private label penetration, currently standing at 20% and rising. While the popularity of private label may have risen as a result of the economic recession, consumers appear to be satisfied with these products, and even in the U.S., where the economy has improved, private label continues to gain ground, leading to weaker value growth in 2011. 

Latin America the Star Performer

Latin America was the fastest-growing region in sun care in 2011, posting a 17% increase in sales on the previous year. According to Euromonitor International, its strong growth is expected to continue, and by 2016, the region is set to become the second largest sun care market, overtaking both North America and Asia-Pacific. Brazil, the leading country by value for sun protection, saw strong growth across all categories, posting a staggering 23% increase in self-tanning. This rise in self-tanning shows that despite Brazilians’ concerns about sun damage (nearly 40% of sun protection products used offer SPF over 30), they still favor tanned skin. St. Tropez’s recent decision to launch in Brazil is indicative of the country’s status as an up-and-coming self-tanning market, despite its sunny weather.

Diversification Beyond SPF

The recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cap on SPF and new regulations on broad-spectrum coverage are prompting companies to find new ways to increase their competitive advantage and differentiate. Some brands are targeting specific consumer groups like children or athletes while others are adding extra benefits such as moisturizing, hypoallergenic and anti-aging properties. 

Merck’s Coppertone is introducing two new lines—the Coppertone Sport Pro Series and Coppertone Wet ‘N Clear. The former is a line specifically designed for athletes as the sunscreen stays on the skin even with heavy sweating and does not run. The latter is a product designed specifically for children, and can be applied directly to wet skin. It is also transparent, moisturizes and is water-resistant. Neutrogena has also launched products specifically for sports enthusiasts as well as a line for babies, while Lancaster offers a line designed for men.

U.K. retailer Boots’ private label Soltan has brought many hypoallergenic products for both children and adults to the market. Boots is also launching its first high SPF dry oil, with an SPF of 50+ to target consumers who prefer the ease of application and transparency of oil but without compromising protection. 

Many brands are increasingly seeking inspiration from skin care and are using natural ingredients or formulations for specific skin problems. Korres’ Yoghurt Sunscreen line and La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios AC SPF 30 Extreme Fluid, which is dermatologically tested on acne-prone skin, are prime examples of this trend.

Convenience Beats Nano Controversy

Driven by greater demand for convenience and ease of application, spray formats remain the most popular, with an average growth rate of 34% since 2005. New innovations like continuous sprays and upside-down packaging have continued to grow in popularity. The ease of application of spray formats appears to be countering rising concerns about their use of nanoparticles and the possible dangers associated with inhaling them. However, some companies are already reacting to this by bringing out nano-free products and providing the FDA with research to prove their products are safe for consumers.

Bottles that can be used upside down are another interesting development, as they are perceived to enhance dispensability and are therefore a greener alternative to top closure bottles. Neutrogena’s Wet Skin and Ultimate Sport use this type of packaging to facilitate application. The stick is another popular format, and is considered convenient for use on children—as seen in Boots’ Soltan Kids line. Coppertone uses foam formulations in both its Sports Series, as well as its new Water Babies series, as an alternative to spray for people who are concerned about the health dangers posed by spray formulations. Foams also are growing in popularity in many beauty categories, from hair colorants and bath and shower to skin care. 

Blurring the Boundaries of Sun Care

Prompted by recent developments such as the introduction of blemish balm (BB) creams in Western Europe and North America and the rising demand for multifunctional products, many skin care brands have continued to look for greater alignment with sun protection. A tendency toward higher SPFs can also be seen, as exemplified by Clinique’s BB cream and the latest Olay Regenerist line, both with an SPF 30.

Multifunctional skin care products could pose a threat to the sun care market as consumers are more accustomed to using them on a daily basis, and they benefit from lighter textures than sunscreens. However, the SPF in these products is much more diluted than in sunscreen products, thus a lot more is needed for the UV protection stated to be effective. Furthermore, consumers do not usually reapply these products and are therefore not as protected from UV rays as they may think. 

This blurring of the boundaries works both ways, with many sun care products now offering skin care benefits. These usually take the form of anti-aging, moisturizing and protection from environmental factors. Estée Lauder has gone one step further by introducing a sun repairing serum, Re-Nutriv Sun Supreme Rescue Serum, which helps repair the skin from damage caused by the sun but can also be used before sunscreen for extra hydration. The convergence between skin care and sun care is expected to continue, and brands that operate across both categories will have to find the right balance to ensure that there is no detrimental cannibalization of sales.

Hair care also offers potential for further cross-category expansion. As hair care is the largest beauty category in Brazil, with nearly 100% of sales accounted for by mass products, lower- to mid-priced brands that incorporate sun protection features could potentially do well in this market. Examples of such combination products are already available from premium and salon exclusive brands such as Clarins, Korres, Kérastase, Aveda and L’Oréal Professionnel. Currently, mass beauty players appear to be concentrating on protecting colored hair from fading instead of introducing products that provide sun protection for the scalp and hair. 

Digital Innovation

As more and more companies are announcing their digital incentives, the use of the Internet as an educational tool as well as a communication platform cannot be underestimated. Sun care players are continually investing in educational campaigns to inform consumers about the health dangers of inadequate sun protection, and the Internet, as well as other digital platforms, is becoming an increasingly popular tool to achieve this. 

Most of the major brands carry either SPF guidelines or a UV index of some form on their websites to explain what type of sun protection to use and how much. Furthermore, brands such as Coppertone and Neutrogena have dedicated websites to explain the new FDA regulations and their implications for users. 

Many brands are also exploring social media and smartphone applications to reach out to consumers and get their message across. La Roche-Posay, Nivea, Lancaster and Oriflame all offer sun guide apps that consumers can download for free on their smartphones. These provide SPF guidance as well as facts about sun protection. As Internet and smartphone penetration is steadily increasing in both Asia-Pacific and Latin America, using this platform to educate consumers could prove to be an easier and cheaper alternative to reach a wider audience in these regions. 

Looking forward, the sun care market will continue to be pressured by skin care as more and more skin care products incorporate UV protection into their offerings. Further diversification of sun care products, with added properties and more convenient formulations, will be needed to counteract the challenge. More importantly, to ensure further penetration, brands need to continue to educate consumers about the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, particularly in low-income markets where the sun is strong but sun protection is still considered a luxury. 

Nicole Tyrimou is a Euromonitor International beauty and personal care analyst.

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