Sun Care Entering a Twilight Period?

  • Consumer segmentation has become increasingly important.
  • Increasingly higher SPFs available in skin care and makeup products requires sun care brands to compete on convenience and multifunctional benefits.
  • If sun care brands want consumers to use their products daily, they need to differentiate the efficacy and protection value of sun care products from the protection provided by multipurpose products, which do not provide UVA protection.

While sun care has been growing by an average of 6% in value over the past three years, this is a far cry from its pre-2008 growth rates of 8–9%. A slowdown in growth in Latin America, the segment’s fastest-growing region, as well as the ongoing economic strain on consumers in its largest region, Western Europe, has depressed sales. Furthermore, growing competition as other beauty categories have added sun protection to their offerings has partly nullified the years of consumer education that sun care brands have put into convincing consumers that they need to use sun protection on a daily basis.

2012: A Tough Year for Sun Care

Despite overall growth remaining stable at 6%, most regions saw a slowdown in 2012 compared to 2011, with the exceptions being the fast-growing Middle East and Africa (albeit from a low base) and Australasia. In Western Europe, a modest return to growth was met with optimism by sun care brands as many of the smaller sun care markets performed better in 2012, including the bleeding Greek market, which improved from a decline of 6% in 2011 to a decline of less than 2% in 2012. As there is still no light at the end of the Eurozone crisis tunnel, the sun care segment is still dependent on emerging markets for growth.

Sun Protection’s Dominance

Holding almost 90% of the market in value terms, sun protection’s dominance is unquestionable, and the category was also the best performer in 2012, growing by 7%. While after-sun improved its performance due to strong growth in emerging regions, self-tanning slowed down again globally due to a slowdown in growth of North America, its largest region, but growth remained static in Western Europe.

Convenience Leads Innovation

Unsurprisingly, sun protection continues to account for the lion’s share of new product innovation as sun care players continue to search for competitive advantage. The increasingly higher SPFs available in skin care as well as in makeup products are causing losses for sun care brands as many consumers prefer the textures/feel of skin care and makeup products to sun care products—and are more accustomed to using skin care and makeup on a daily basis. The convenience that a multifunctional product provides appears to be irresistible to time-strapped consumers. [For more on skin care products with sun protection properties, read “A Merging of Sun and Skin Care.”]

In terms of format, sprays continue to dominate, despite safety issues in the U.S., where Energizer Holdings’ Banana Boat recalled 23 of its aerosol formulas in 2012. This was after a number of consumers caught fire after coming into contact with sparks shortly after using the product. However, the convenience provided by the spray format—as well as increasing innovation to provide clearer and faster-drying formulas, and packaging capable of spraying while held upside down—is boosting this format’s popularity.

Other formats have been benefiting from the convenience factor too, with more companies launching foam products such as Coppertone’s Kids Wacky foam. Sticks are also popular with children due to being quick and easy to apply, as are wet-on applications, but traditional creams and lotions still have a viable place in the market. And dry oils are still benefiting from the increasing popularity of oils in hair care and skin care.

Finally, the growing availability of travel sizes is a further indication that convenience is the most important factor shaping the sun care market.

Niche Consumer Groups in the Spotlight

With competition running high in sun care, consumer segmentation has become increasingly important. There are now different products available specifically for babies rather than children, for athletes, for extreme sportsmen, for skiers, etc. Merck even launched a Coppertone sunscreen that is specifically for people with tattoos, meant to protect from burning as well as protect the tattoo from fading, as reflected in the product name, Tattoo Guard. Launches in 2012 also included products specifically for consumers with acne, as well as for those with sensitive skin.

UVA Dominates Regulations

Since January 2013, Japan has added a new protection rating for UVA, the PA++++, which is now the highest protection claim available. Many brands have jumped at the chance of offering new products with the higher protection—including Shiseido, Kanebo, Pola and Kosé. With fair skin regarded so highly in Asia-Pacific, as well as the increasing popularity of anti-aging products, consumers’ reactions toward the new level of protection are expected to be positive.

Furthermore, in 2012, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the regulatory body for sun protection in Australia, decided to allow the sale of SPF50 sun protection, provided the product has an accompanied higher level of UVA protection. Despite many of these products already being available, brands have been quick to relabel them and educate consumers about the higher protection. With one of the highest UV radiation levels in the world, sun protection is extremely important to Australians, and many have been upgrading their products to the highest possible protection.

Time for Action

While governments continue to educate consumers on the health dangers of prolonged sun exposure, it is up to sun care brands to educate consumers on the difference between their products and cosmetic products with sun protection as an added benefit. If sun care brands want consumers to use their products daily and not only when they are exposed to direct sunlight during holidays, vacations or while partaking in outdoor activities, they need to differentiate the efficacy and protection value of sun care products from the protection provided by multipurpose products.

Further education for consumers on the importance of daily UVA protection is also vital, as UVA is not as available in skin care and makeup.

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

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