SPF is coming to everything

Consumers can now find SPF in their foundations, highlighters—and even hair serums.
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Ilia Beauty

4 min read

It’s a typical beach day: The sun is shining, the sea is warm, and the sand is making its way into every bag you brought. You pull out your sunscreen with SPF 50, ready to reapply—and then your SPF chapstick and your SPF hairspray.

Welcome to summer 2022, where everything has SPF.

“As the American consumer becomes more invested in skin care and this whole idea of wellness and health as beauty, it’s just going to bolster the category,” explained Manola Soler, senior director at Alvarez & Marsal, adding that searches for SPF increased year over year over the past five years."

“We’re seeing [sunscreen] stand out as its own category,” Soler told Retail Brew. “We’re seeing its premiumization.”

  • The latest SPF report by DataWeave put SPF product availability just under 80% through July of this year, indicating consistent availability in products. The report concluded that consumers were purchasing SPF items not just during summer months but throughout the year for everyday wear.

For all your needs

Take Ilia Beauty, for instance, the clean-beauty brand recently acquired by French investment firm, Famille C Venture. After developing a following for its skin-tint serum—priced at $48 and loaded with SPF and hyaluronic acid—the company recently debuted a Vitamin C serum with SPF 40 retailing for $64.

  • Although the product has been around for only about a month, Ilia Beauty said it was sold out at Sephora for a week when it first debuted.

Ultimately, Ilia Beauty saw a gap in the market for SPF products that combined several benefits of healthier skin and protection from the sun, Kym Davis, the company’s VP of product development, told Retail Brew.

Founder Sasha Plavsic “likes to think about products in terms of, ‘What problem am I going to solve?’” Davis explained. “For her it was about, ‘How can I get multiple benefits into one formula, including my SPF protection?’”

  • Ilia Beauty enlisted a chemist who "specializes in SPF  technologies for creating its all-in-one formulations, declining to give further details on its product plans.

Blow-dried and protected

Beyond makeup, hair-care brands are also digging into SPF and definitely not willing to brush past it. Swedish hair-care brand Sachajuan, for instance, introduced one of its first SPF products, a hair styling cream. And sunscreen fave Supergoop has its Poof Part Powder Sunscreen, a powdered formula to protect the scalp from the UV rays.

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Goldilocks, a luxury hair-care label founded in 2022, is also working on a mineral SPF 30 product meant to be applied both to colored hair and hair extensions.

“What’s also interesting is that SPF [products for skin care] actually [don’t] work on hair itself… SPF only is effective on skin because it’s made for the dermis,” Devin Graciano, hair stylist and head of product development at Goldilocks, told us. “So we do have a focus on products with natural UV protection. All of our hair care is focused on more of the UV protectant, because that’s going to be the direct factor in preserving the integrity of the hair itself.”

Soler calls these innovations the “skinification of hair”—and she expects there’s more to come. “Pretty much the way you think about your skin [as] something that can be nourished and replenished,” she explained.

What’s next?

SPF will most likely become a freestanding category of its own within skin care, which offers a growth opportunity for beauty brands that haven’t necessarily experimented with the space, according to Soler.Alvarez & Marsel’s latest annual beauty survey found that customers were “craving” innovation and were eager to try new products.

  • About 90% of those surveyed said having tried a new makeup brand last year and were 2.6x more likely to try new beauty brands if there was product innovation.

“People are just kind of hungry to test and try new things kind of across the board across demographics,” Soler said, adding that another factor that’s driving the desire for newness is a “sense of value.”

“Value doesn’t necessarily have to be cheap pricing, but if you can get a foundation that maybe has 50 SPF, and it becomes a little bit of a two-in-one product, then there’s a kind of consumer-perceived value there and also a simplification of routine,” she said.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.