Technical and Business Development Director for Personal Care at IMCD Danielle Wheeler, who was in the suncare industry prior to her current position, said non-SPF protective products are where most innovation is happening today because they are far less regulated.
Organic sunscreen, previously known as chemical sunscreen, absorbs UV radiation to protect the skin. Inorganic sunscreen, previously known as physical sunscreen, reflects UV radiation to protect the skin.
Across suncare, blue light and pollution protection, though, Wheeler said esthetically pleasing formulas are key to getting consumer engagement, whether it’s combating the white caste of inorganic sunscreen or making anti-pollution products comfortable on the skin.
“A lot of our supplier partners are launching new bioactives to address the effects of blue light or high energy visible light, not just SPF,” Wheeler said. “I see a lot of advancements in plant-derived ingredients combating those types of things.”
Room for SPF innovation is limited in the US
SPF is among the most FDA-regulated areas of cosmetics, and in the US there are fewer approved ingredients compared to other markets, Wheeler said.
“Anywhere outside of the US you have a huge playbox of ingredients,” Wheeler said. “That’s unfortunate for us in the US because I think it’s really limited us in the innovations we can do in SPF inorganic products. In the US we don’t keep up with the science with that.”
The limit on inorganic SPF ingredients is unfortunate considering Wheeler said interest in the products is increasing among their clients.
Despite the limitation on ingredient innovation, there is room for inclusion innovations. Sunscreen consumers today aren’t only fair-skinned people looking to prevent burning, but a broad range of skin tones wanting protection from the dangers of UV and for anti-aging purposes.
Wheeler said the esthetics of sunscreen formulas can be improved to accommodate those consumers, preventing a white caste or even adding a tint for both cosmetic and other potential protective benefits.
Non-SPF protection products are in demand, have space for innovation
With consumers spending a massive amount of time in front of screens, Wheeler said their clients have been asking for more blue light protective products. It’s important to include actives that address multiple possible impacts, like skin, DNA, collagen and even melanin damage.
Additionally, she said consumers approach blue light products more as a treatment than with an SPF product. Wheeler has seen blue light serums and sprays the most.
Esthetics are also important in pollution protection, as most of the products in the area are types of barriers to prevent pollutants from penetrating the skin. Among recent innovations, Wheeler said she’s most interested in Mimiskin, which is a barrier that allows breathability of the skin.
In developing pollution protectant products, she said it’s important to be specific about what types of pollutants you want to protect against. Different chemicals, particulates and even smokes can require different cosmetic characteristics.
Across the protective categories, Wheeler said a distributor like IMCD can be helpful in developing products, particularly with SPF in the US, because they have access to a broader range of research and expertise in the developing field.