Sun care product sales have expanded nearly every year during the past half century
as consumers learn the importance of proper UV protection.
Tom Branna • Editorial Director
MARKETERS often bemoan the idea that consumers still don’t understand the dangers of getting too much sun. But take a look back at sun care market coverage during past 50
years and it’s clear that consumers have gotten the message, and that
means the segment should enjoy a bright future.
The ancient Egyptians and the forward-thinking French, as it
turns out, didn’t invent every essential beauty product! No, when it
comes to sun care, a Swiss mountain climber and a US airman were
the first to create shelter from the sun’s burning rays and, as a result,
the modern sun care market isn’t much older than HAPPI itself.
Back in 1938, a Swiss chemistry student named Franz Greiter suffered sunburn while climbing Mount Piz Buin on the Swiss-Austrian
border and set out to invent an effective sunscreen. A few years later,
in 1944, Airman Benjamin Green, who also happened to be a pharmacist, used a greasy substance called“red vet pet” (red veterinary
petrolatum) to protect himself and other soldiers from ultraviolet rays
during World War II.
After the war, Green mixed red vet pet with cocoa butter and coconut oil into a product that ultimately became Coppertone suntan
cream. Meanwhile, Greiter’s creation, called Gletscher Crème (Glacier
Cream), reached the market under the brand Piz Buin, and is still sold
today around the world.
Greiter went even further with his sun protection innovations. In
1962, he introduced sun protection factor (SPF), which remains the
standard for measuring the effectiveness of sunscreen when applied
at an even rate of 2 milligrams per square centimeter.
By the time HAPPI arrived on the scene in 1964, cocoa butter-based
formulas that were richer and more moisturizing than baby oil, became standard in tanning lotions in the US. Around this time, pop
culture became heavily influenced by the beach lifestyle that was popularized in song (think tunes such as“Surfin’Safari”and“Surfer Girl”)
and film (“The Endless Summer”and“Beach Blanket Bingo”).
1978 and Beyond
Storm clouds formed over the sun care industry when the US Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Advanced Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking on August 25, 1978. The Proposed Rule was
made“to establish conditions for the safety, effectiveness and labeling
of over-the-counter sunscreen drug products.”
And yet, while the industry submitted comments per FDA’s re-
quest, it wasn’t until May 12, 1993, that a Tentative Final Monograph
was issued. Nearly two decades later, the first-ever sunscreen Final
Rule in the US went into effect on Dec. 17, 2012. But even the
long-awaited Rule should not be confused with the illusive Final
Monograph, which still has yet to be issued.
While marketers and their suppliers have waited on FDA, they’ve
forged ahead with new concepts in sun care protection.
For example, in 1980, Coppertone developed the first UVA/UVB
sunscreen, and by 1985 the US market for sun care products had
reached $340 million (retail), according to Kline & Co. That year,
Schering-Plough (which owned Coppertone at the time) defined the
typical“sun active”consumer as:
• Female, 13 to 49 years-old;
• Wants to tan, but carefully, with protection;
• Wants natural moisturizers; and
• Has skin types that require a variety of sun protection factors.
Back then, the footrace to higher SPFs was already underway,
as Ken Klein, then of Van Dyk and now chairman of Cosmetech
Laboratories, noted, “as far as SPF is concerned, its become a ‘
horsepower race,’ with more and more interest in SPFs up to 15.”
If SPF 15 represented a lot of horsepower back in the mid-1980s,
what’s to make of the triple-digit SPF protection that’s become so
common since the turn of the century? Left to right: Coppertone, then and now.