Spate report reveals consumer search trends in sunscreen, sun care & tanning product categories

By Cassandra Stern

- Last updated on GMT

“Brands can learn from consumer language to uncover claims and concerns to highlight in upcoming formulations and marketing strategies,” said Yarden Horwitz, Spate Co-founder.  © Guido Mieth Getty Images
“Brands can learn from consumer language to uncover claims and concerns to highlight in upcoming formulations and marketing strategies,” said Yarden Horwitz, Spate Co-founder. © Guido Mieth Getty Images

Related tags Sun care products consumer insight trends

The consumer trend data intelligence platform’s report brings insight into trending products and brands in these industry product spaces which can be used to drive innovation into future product research, development, and formulation processes.

Earlier this year, consumer trend data intelligence platform Spate published its Sun Care Trends Report​, highlighting the “latest trends in sun care, including innovative solutions for face, body, and scalp sun protection that offer additional skincare and makeup-related benefits​.” As noted in the report, “the sun care and tanning categories have always been key aspects of the skincare industry, with an average of 4.1 million searches each month​,” and the report offers detailed insights into consumer preferences for product format launches and other aspects of the category.  

To compile the Sun Care Trends Report, Spate analysts use publicly available consumer search data consisting of over twenty billion search signals and queries typed into internet search bars by consumers, which are interpreted by unsupervised machine learning to identify trend clusters. The report examined search trends in the sunscreen, tanning, and sun care product categories.  

CosmeticsDesign spoke with Yarden Horwitz, Spate Co-founder, about the results revealed in the report, including how cosmetics and personal care product manufacturers and suppliers can develop new sun care product formulations.  

Consumer search data insights on sun screen products  

‘Sunscreen stick’ is the sunscreen product trend driving the largest positive search volume change within the category and experiencing the strongest year-over-year growth in the last 12 months, according to the report. While it did not have the highest total search volume of any term in the category, ‘sunscreen stick’ has experienced an 8,300 increase in overall searches in the period, accounting for a 64.9% increase YOY.  

Out of all the terms in the sunscreen category ranked by increase in average search volume, ‘mineral sunscreen’ had the highest total search volume at 65,200 searches, which is a 10.6% YOY increase. Other high volume product searches included ‘sunscreen spray’ at 46,400 searches, ‘baby sunscreen’ at 42,700 searches, and ‘tinted sunscreen’ at 39,000 searches.  

For the terms included in the sunscreen category ranked by strongest growth over the past 12 months when compared to the previous 12-month period, ‘sunscreen lip balm’ ranked second highest in YOY growth percentage behind ‘sunscreen stick’ at 33% growth. The third highest ranked search term in this category is ‘gel sunscreen’ at 23.1% YOY growth, followed by ‘SPF tinted moisturizer’ at 20.2% and ‘tinted sunscreen’ at 19% growth YOY.  

Horwitz shared, “today's consumers expect full-body protection against the sun, and by focusing on developing specialized sun protection products for these unique areas, brands will better serve today’s consumers' needs​.” Further, she added, “convenience and multifunctionality is key when it comes to sun care​,” and illustrated that “sunscreen sticks and powder sunscreen are gaining popularity, and consumers are increasingly interested in SPF products that provide makeup and skincare benefits​.”  

In the report, analyst, trend reporter, and co-host of the beauty podcast Gloss Angels Kirbie Johnson said, “consumers want easy, transportable ways to reapply facial sunscreen easily on top of their makeup or throughout the day, which has been an educational talking point proliferated by dermatologists and cosmetic chemists online​.” She added, “they’re also now savvy and interested enough to want to reapply their sunscreen on-the-go because reapplication is key for protection​.”  

Product offering diversification  

These insights are reflected in the diversity of sunscreen products represented in trending sun care product search categories, and Horwitz explaining that “brands should consider ways to serve the growing demand for multifunctional products that offer convenience and address aging concerns, while also providing a radiant complexion​.” For example, the ‘sunscreen stick’ “is a convenient and easy-to-use format in sun protection products showing high year-over-year growth​,” and “as consumers search for specific SPF levels such as SPF 30 and SPF 50, they are also looking for a sunscreen stick that can provide them with that glowing complexion​.”  

The report also illustrates another example in ‘SPF tinted moisturizers’ which are described as combining “the benefits of a lightweight moisturizer, a sheer foundation, and a sunscreen, providing a convenient product for consumers​.” The report reflects that “searches demonstrate a desire for a product that creates a radiant yet non-greasy look suitable for oily or combination skin consumers, and sun protection is a key benefit in this category, as it helps prevent accelerated aging, with a particular focus on concerns surrounding aging and mature skin​.”

Therefore, “brands can focus on offering a range of SPF options while helping to create a healthy, youthful look​” to align with data-backed consumer search results.  

To further use this data effectively, the report noted that “brands must not only offer effective products, but also be informative about the proper application, benefits, and even limitations of products while coming up with solutions to common issues​.” Therefore, Johnson recommended, “brands should create content that teaches people how to reapply SPF without disturbing makeup​.”  

She added that brands “can also share information about product usage, reapplication, and filter benefits​.” For example, she said, “they can share that mineral sunscreen may suit those with sensitive skin better in some instances​.”  

Additional revelations in tanning & sun care product categories   

The tanning product search term that demonstrated the most significant YOY growth over the last 12 months is ‘tanning gel’ with a 104.5% increase.  

While there has been less overall growth and diversity in tanning category trends and “tanning products have lower search volumes and growth rates compared to sun protection products, there is still a positive trend​,” noted the report. Further, the report affirmed that “consumers are now seeking tanning products that offer SPF or sunscreen to achieve a sun-kissed glow while being protected from sun damage​,” and identified several trending brands with significant YOY consumer search increases in the sun care and tanning product categories.  

Horwitz noted that in the brand consumer search data results, “international sunscreen brands, especially Asian Beauty brands, are no longer niche​.” For example, she illustrated, “brands like Beauty of Joseon, Carroten, and Isntree were previously a trend only among a small group of beauty junkies who regularly crawled Reddit or Asian Beauty retailers, but now, these international brands are taking US consumer searches by storm​.”  

The data reflects these findings, with several brands standing out with significant YOY growth percentages. As Horwitz mentioned, Beauty of Joseon showed a dramatic 824.5% YOY increase in search results over the previous 12 months, and Carroten showed a 249.3% increase in search results in the same period. Additionally, Cay Skin showed a 321.8% increase YOY in the sun care and tanning category for consumer search terms.  

From these results, Johnson noted in the report that “education is key for sun care brands​,” which can take away from the data the importance of being “transparent about mineral sunscreens, white casts, and offer solutions for darker skin tones​.” For example, Johnson shared, “brands like Kinlo and Cay Skin created by Naomi Osaka and Winnie Harlow, respectively, cater to melanated skin tones​.” Further, she added, “these brands highlight the shift towards sun protection being a priority for previously overlooked demographics, who are eager to find truly invisible, non-irritating protection​.”  

Application of data results & moving forward  

Overall, cosmetics and personal care product industry manufacturers, suppliers, and CPG brands can best use the consumer product search data insights gleaned from this report in their research, development, and formulation processes in a myriad of ways moving forward. As Horwitz shared, “brands can learn from consumer language to uncover claims and concerns to highlight in upcoming formulations and marketing strategies​.”  

For example, she illustrated, the data reveals “sunscreen is often seen as a functional product, but consumers are increasingly concerned with its form, seeking formulas that are as cosmetically elegant as they are effective​.”  

Additionally, she noted, the consumer brand search trend data can be similarly useful to manufacturers and suppliers in the cosmetics and personal beauty care product industries. She further explained that “the growing interest in Asian sunscreens shows how the US lacks modern UV filters available in other countries​,” adding that “brands have an opportunity to lobby for modernization of sunscreen technology within the US​” to further advance and innovated in the sunscreen, sun care, and tanning product categories moving forward.   

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