The SPF Boom: Why Sun Care and Anti-Aging has Taken the Beauty World By Storm

Rosie Johns
by: Rosie Johns
Over the last few years, sun care has hit the spotlight within the beauty and skincare industries as the risks of damaging UV rays and sun exposure have become wider known. Protecting skin and looking for high SPF products are both rising trends, with search volumes reaching new heights in April 2021.

We analyse the rising popularity of  SPF (Sun Protection Factor), the effective ways brands have been cashing in on the trends, and  the issue of misinformation.

Why SPF Has Become a Skincare Essential

Sun protection has renewed importance – not simply as something to apply before sunbathing, but as a step  in your daily skincare routine. Consumers are increasingly interested in using anti-ageing and anti-pollution products on their skin, and SPF is a key consideration here.

Over the last five years, searches for SPF as a skincare product have been  growing and in the last 12 months specifically, the industry has seen the biggest spike in searches yet.

There are a number of reasons why more beauty consumers are becoming interested in SPF. Notably, with more information on skin damage and attitudes surrounding tanning changing, there has been an increased focus of anti-ageing and the role of SPF within the beauty industry itself. 

Brands have become increasingly vocal about the importance of protecting skin from the damage UV rays can do, as well as the impact of pollution on skin. Both of these environmental risks have become a focus for beauty brands, with anti-pollution and anti-ageing buzzwords maintaining consistent interest in skincare searches over the last 12 months.

The Coverup: Misinformation And Sunscreen

As with many topics, the increase in  information shared about sun protection has led to a rise in misinformation too. 

Some of the more common myths within the skincare industry are that people with darker skin don’t need to wear SPF, and that if you’re using foundation or moisturiser products with SPF in, you don’t need a separate application. Both of these assumptions are false, and many dermatologists are using their growing social following online to help debunk these kinds of falsehoods being spread among consumers.

Another myth is that chemical SPF is ‘bad’ for you and a more ‘clean’ or mineral-based SPF is better for you. According to dermatologist Dr Aegean Chan, there’s no such thing as ‘clean’ SPF as the main ingredients (zinc and titanium oxide) are not biodegradable. 

Focusing on the ingredients of SPF, another popular myth is that there are cruelty free SPF products available. All ingredients in SPF products have been previously tested on animals, according to Caroline Hirons, meaningbrands who label their SPF product as cruelty-free are misleading consumers.

Most recently, actor Gwenth Paltrow, who founded ‘clean living’ lifestyle company Goop, came under fire for an interview in which she claimed she only wore SPF suncream on parts of her face that caught the sun (cheeks, nose and chin) instead of the recommended dermatological approach – covering all skin exposed to the sun. There was a huge backlash to this interview, notably from Caroline Hirons, and a bigger conversation started on social media about the spreading of misinformation, particularly on the topic of SPF and skincare.

Surprisingly, the more recognised sunscreen brands have arguably overlooked the growing trends of face-specific SPF cream, allowing other skincare brands to launch sunscreen with a unique selling point.

So, which brands are dominating when it comes to SPF products? One surprising insight is, they’re not the sunscreen brands you might expect…

The Most Popular SPF Brands in 2021

Surprisingly, the more recognised sunscreen brands have arguably overlooked the growing trends of face-specific SPF cream, allowing other skincare brands to launch sunscreen with a unique selling point. The well-established sun cream brands, such as Ambre Solaire and Piz Buin, don’t make the list when it comes to the most-searched SPF products in 2021. The results suggest consumers are leaning toward more ‘professional’ or beauty-focused skincare products when it comes to SPF protection. 

Many of the top searched brands, such as Cerave and La Roche Possay, have already gained solid reputations for their expert products such as cleansers and serums. This indicates there is consumer demand for products from trusted skincare brands. In fact, all five of the most-searched SPF brands are arguably known within the industry for having iconic products that skincare consumers will be aware of already. 

As well as their established reputations for skincare, both the top searched brands label their SPF products as being ‘mineral’, which may appeal to consumers pursuing so-called ‘clean’ beauty, which continues to be a leading focus in the industry. 

‘Clean’ SPF and Sustainability

More brands are now using marketing buzzwords such as ‘clean’ or ‘mineral-based’ on SPF products, which has fueled debate around the topic of what ‘clean’ means, exactly. As there is now more awareness than ever before about the ingredients in skincare products, consumers are actively looking for alternatives that champion a ‘cleaner’ focus. 

In fact, mineral SPF searches are continuing to grow, as more brands opt to use ‘mineral’ in their marketing.

As we’ve previously touched on, many dermatologists dispute the ‘clean vs. toxic’ conversation in the skincare industry, particularly when it comes to SPF. However, brands are aware of the focus on sustainability from consumers, and many opt to label SPF products as being ‘clean’ or mineral-based to meet the demand for ‘greener’ skincare, regardless of this controversy.

With the focus on green skincare, consumers are more focused on sustainability, and with scientists raising concerns about the impact of sunscreens and chemicals on sea life, these are topical concerns. As an example, ingredients such as oxybenzone and zinc-oxide are prevalent in more traditional sunscreen products but have now been linked to having a negative impact on the environment, particularly with sea life.

Whether brands choose to market a more sustainably-focused SPF, or ‘clean’ and longer-lasting products, skin professionals are clear on one thing – the unique selling point ultimately needs to be the protection the product offers. The more informed consumers are about sun damage, the more they expect from skincare products.

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