Gen Z and Millennials drive surge in sun protection market with focus on anti-aging

By Cassandra Stern

- Last updated on GMT

“Beyond the well-known link between unprotected sun exposure and damage to skin health, the beauty and skin care industry's focus on education and wellness has become inclusive of skin protection,” said Joan Li, Senior Analyst, Beauty and Personal Care at Mintel. © AleksandarNakic Getty Images
“Beyond the well-known link between unprotected sun exposure and damage to skin health, the beauty and skin care industry's focus on education and wellness has become inclusive of skin protection,” said Joan Li, Senior Analyst, Beauty and Personal Care at Mintel. © AleksandarNakic Getty Images

Related tags Sun protection Sun care Skin care

A recent Mintel report reveals that increased awareness of 'long-term impacts of sun exposure,' as well as a focus on product efficacy are influencing the growing demand for sun protection products by younger US consumers.

A recent Mintel report has revealed that “over a third (35%) of Gen Z consumers and almost half (47%) of Millennial consumers, who are using more skin protection than last year, are more concerned about aging than they were a year ago.” This data reflects more significant trends in the US sun protection market, which, as market research firm Statista reports, is currently “experiencing a surge in demand for natural and eco-friendly sunscreen products.”

The Mintel report further details that “three-quarters of Millennials (74%) and two-thirds of Gen Z (64%) trust traditional sunscreen over new beauty and personal care (BPC) products with SPF integrated into them,” and “almost half (48%) of US consumers, aged 18+, said that they use makeup products with SPF in them daily.”

To learn more about the shifting dynamics of the relationship between younger US consumers and the sun protection market sector, we spoke with Joan Li, Senior Analyst, Beauty and Personal Care at Mintel, for her insights and takeaways from the report.

Key drivers

“The increased interest and usage of sun care and skin care products, specifically among younger generations, can be largely attributed to heightened awareness of the long-term impacts of sun exposure and a broader understanding of skin care health,” Li began.

Awareness has continued to become more pervasive and understanding of skin care health concerns has become more mainstream, mainly due to “social media and influencer marketing,” she explained, which “have played pivotal roles in educating these demographics, making sun protection part of a holistic approach to wellness and self-care.”

In addition to social media playing a significant role in consumer education on sun care protection, and “beyond the well-known link between unprotected sun exposure and damage to skin health," the beauty and skin care industry's focus on education and wellness has become inclusive of skin protection, said Li.

The skin care industry has responded by focusing on “the development of multifunctional BPC products that combine sun protection with other skincare and beauty benefits,” which “has made it easier and more appealing for consumers to incorporate skin protection into their daily routines.”

Concerns regarding sun protection are intrinsically linked to concerns regarding aging. The anti-aging skin care market size in the US last year exceeded one billion dollars, according to Statista, which is mainly being driven by “attention toward aging [which] has led consumers to invest in products that offer long-term, preventative benefits, including sunscreens that effectively protect against UVA and UVB rays,” Li explained.

She continued, “a growing demand for sunscreens that combine traditional sun protection with additional age-defense protections against blue light exposure, pollutants, and oxidative stress,” reflecting a shifting mindset toward skin care product purchasing behavior.  

Product impact

Performance and efficacy, key trends in the skin care space in 2024, are especially influential with Millennial and Gen Z consumers of sun protection products.

“Despite the influx of beauty and personal care products with SPF, trust in traditional sunscreen lies in consumers' core expectation for sunscreen: effective protection,” Li shared, adding that “at the end of the day, Millennial and Gen Z consumers are still primarily motivated by protection against cancer and signs of aging, relying on experienced players in the category to effectively deliver this protection and provide peace of mind.”

This includes “the prevalence of BPC products with SPF,” Li stated, which “is likely driven by convenience and holistic health motivations, more so than sun protection alone.”

In addition to products that effectively protect the skin from sun damage, the use of self-tanning products that mimic a suntan without sun exposure is also on the rise, and “self-tanner usage amongst adult US consumers has risen by nearly double from 8% in 2023 to 13% in 2024” according to the Mintel report.

Regarding this increase, Li explained that “we suspect that the rise in self-tanner usage is driven by continued interest in glowing, sun-kissed complexions without the damaging effects of UV rays,” as “self-tanners have evolved to provide more natural-looking results and offer added skincare benefits, making them increasingly compatible with regular skincare and body care routines.”

Market evolution

“Looking ahead, the sun care and skin care market is poised for continued growth and innovation,” Li concluded.

As reported by Statista, the sun protection market in the US “is projected to experience an annual growth rate of 1.78% (CAGR 2024-2028),” and “consumer demand for products that offer both protection and skin health benefits will drive the development of advanced offerings,” she shared.

Further, Li added, “the emphasis on good-for-you ingredients and inclusivity will further shape product offerings, catering to a broad spectrum of consumer needs and preferences,” as “education and advocacy around sun safety and skincare health will remain central, reinforcing the importance of sun protection in overall wellness.”                                                                                 

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