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Fast and simple with multiple benefits: What men want from a sun care product

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Nobody likes to talk about skin cancer, but the fact is there were over 280,000 cases of skin melanoma worldwide in 2018. More than 150,000 of these cases were in men[1]​, and the death rate in males is continuing to rise[2]​. Despite these statistics, men are less likely than women to connect with skin melanoma awareness and prevention campaigns[3]​. So how can we convince men to use more personal care products with SPF protection?

DSM wanted to analyze sun protection habits, understand the male perspective and develop appropriate solutions, so it conducted new quantitative and qualitative consumer studies. Researchers set up three focus groups consisting of men who use personal care cosmetic products but no SPF protection. Each group had six to seven respondents in each of DSM’s four primary target countries – the US, Brazil, China and France. The DSM team conducted interviews to gain insights on the barriers men face when using sunscreen and their behaviors regarding use of cosmetics and SPF products. Armed with this knowledge, DSM then presented ten different sunscreen concepts to the focus groups, based on the responses to the interviews, and asked for their feedback.

Short-term view prevents long-term gain

DSM found that men tend to take a short-term view when it comes to the use of cosmetic products; their priority is to fix problems rather than prevent them. In other words, men are more likely to apply moisturizers once they feel their skin tightening than to buy and apply personal care cosmetic products on a regular basis. Unlike women, men do not find or seek pleasure in caring for their skin. Instead, they want beauty and personal care products to be fast and easy to use, with multiple benefits[4]​, such as hydrating, soothing and calming properties[5]​.

One size does not fit all

The study findings also revealed that barriers to sunscreen use differ depending on the market, suggesting that sun care product benefits need to be tailored to different regions. For example, French men are interested in tanning and believe that using an SPF product would prevent this. Conversely, young men in China either use products with very high SPF or stay away from the sun because a fair skin complexion is seen as attractive in their culture. Men in the US only associate sun care with the beach and vacations, so feel little need to apply it daily, especially as some think living in an urban area means less exposure to the sun. Similarly, Brazilian men feel that sunscreen is only needed at the beach, but they tend to use products they believe will make immediate, short-term improvements to their appearance.

(Mis)understanding SPF

DSM’s research also indicated that men have a very basic understanding of SPF and are not aware of products offering SPF protection beyond traditional sunscreens[6]​. They know being in the sun is risky, but they would rather deal with any unwanted consequences later. Negative experiences with sunscreen in childhood have also left a lasting impression – men associate sunscreen with greasy and oily product feel, unabsorbant properties and multiple reapplications for little perceived benefit[7]​. Some respondents, for example, say they still experience sunburn despite using an SPF product, while others believe they cannot tan if they apply sunscreen.


Multiple benefits in a minimalistic and masculine package

Packaging can also be a barrier, as men sometimes fail to connect with it, perceiving it as childish and cheap[8]​. DSM’s survey found that men associate blue, orange and pink packaging with family-oriented products, while in their minds sun symbols on labels imply a beach-only sunscreen. Researchers also found men would be more likely to purchase a multiple-benefit, daily-use skincare product with a dark color scheme and minimalistic and chic packaging design, as this would be viewed as a premium masculine product. Beach care packaging, by contrast, should be more science-focused with a clean color scheme.

Three winning sun care formulations

The researchers also requested feedback on ten different sunscreen formulation concepts for beach and daily usage. The focus groups gave their opinions on the products’ positioning and the look and feel of the packaging. Of these ten concepts, three stood out and DSM’s application experts have translated these into efficient sunscreen formulations:

  • Bi My Buddy! SPF 30​, an innovative sun care spray with a non-greasy, refreshing sensation. This light texture, bi-phase lotion contains aloe vera to keep skin hydrated. The product is transparent, rendering white marks a thing of the past. The focus groups thought the spray would be easily absorbed and liked the masculine design of the packaging.
  • 3-in-1 Aftershave & Face Moisturizer with SPF 30​, a light formula that combines the soothing benefits of aftershave with moisturization and SPF 30. The combination of multiple skin benefits and protection against the appearance of wrinkles and dark spots caused by UV damage were really appealing to the focus groups[9]​.
  • Xpress Sun Defense Essence SPF 30​, a lightweight sun care formulation with high sun protection in practical and portable metal packaging. The product absorbs into the skin quickly and leaves a soft and dry touch. The format and packaging were praised by the focus groups, who were confident the cream would not feel greasy or leave white marks. 

Shifting mindsets through education

Over time, the sun care market has changed. Long gone are sticky, greasy sunscreen formulations, as countless innovations have brought SPF products into the 21st​ century. DSM aims to shift mindsets toward prevention through education and the availability of SPF products with an appealing sensation that consumers like to use. Men in particular need to see real, short- and long-term benefits in using SPF – such as slowing down premature aging – as sun protection alone will not suffice. The only way to change attitudes is through clear messaging and reassurance about how products feel on the skin.

Sunscreen for men… but styled at women

Women use more sunscreen than men[10]​ and are more likely than men to examine their skin and visit the doctor for regular check-ups[11]​. This makes them key influencers in raising awareness of skin melanoma, modeling sun-smart behavior and boosting male use of SPF products. In-store promotions aimed at women could be used as an opportunity to educate both sexes about sun protection and to showcase products aimed at men. Examples of promotional items could include attaching sunscreen samples for men to female beauty products, or gift packs promoting men’s essential skin care – with an extra shot of SPF for good measure.




[4]​ DSM consumer study

[5]​ DSM consumer study

[6]​ DSM consumer study

[7]​ DSM consumer study

[8]​ DSM consumer study

[9]​ Formulation under development

[10]​ DSM Skin Cancer Survey – 2017


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