How the sun care sector is changing: What you need to know

Since their first commercial introduction in the 1930s, sun care products have remained relatively unchanged. Now however, as consumers gain more insight and knowledge into what they’re actually putting on their skin, these products’ integration into everyday beauty regimens is sparking innovation in the sector.

Primarily driven by inclusivity, environmental impact, and safety-conscious consumers wanting to adopt a more holistic approach to sun care protection, this category is undoubtedly and rapidly seeing many changes. Here’s what you need to know.

A holistic approach to sun care

While more people are learning how important it is to use the highest possible SPF protection (currently SPF 50+), they are also becoming more mindful of other important factors, such as how much sunscreen they should apply, how often they should apply it, what other ingredients the sunscreen contains, and if they actually understand the type of protection available.

However, according to Ella Baché national training manager, Gina Cook, there is still a lot of misunderstanding surrounding sun protection. One of the most important factors we should know is that Broad Spectrum SPF offers protection against both UVA and UVB radiation. SPF on its own is referring to the measurement of protection against UVB only – so be sure to follow one that has broad spectrum protection.

“Coverage, application and consistency of a sunscreen are important factors when it comes to getting the best protection from the SPF you are using,” Cook told BD. “A lot of people will wait until they feel burning or see their skin turning pink. Damage at this stage is already occurring. Apply 20 minutes prior to sun exposure. The reapplication of SPF every two hours is essential, plus if you have been in the water or are in the water for some time – take note to re-apply as soon as you get out or make a point of getting out to re-apply.”

BD recommends: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion SPF 50+, Skinsmiths Daily Defence Sunscreen SPF50+, Surf Life Saving SPF50 Sunscreen Bottle, Banana Boat Dry Balance Lotion SPF 50+ and Natio Daily Defence Face Moisturiser SPF 50+.

Health-conscious consumers

As consumers learn more about the health benefits of avoiding and embracing certain ingredients, they are becoming more health-conscious than ever before.

In fact, a scientific study published by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently made global headlines after discovering that some chemicals in sunscreen are being absorbed into the bloodstream, with blood samples showing levels of certain ingredients exceeding thresholds recommended for toxicology testing.

And while there is no current evidence that these chemicals are in fact harmful, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends opting for mineral-based products that use minerals as their active ingredients. This ensures the product sits on top of the skin to form a physical barrier against the sun’s damaging rays, without absorbing into the skin.

BD recommends: Lovely by Skin Institute Overall Sun Protection – SPF30 – Body, Snowberry Everyday SPF15 Natural Sunscreen, Arbonne Intelligence - Pollution Defense CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30, Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 and Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30.


According to a report by Marine Life – a marine conservation non profit organisation – one of the largest and most permanent contributors to ocean pollution is sunscreen. In 2015, it was estimated that approximately 14 million kilograms of sunscreen makes its way into the world’s coral reefs each year, causing irreversible damage.

In recent times, there has also been backlash against ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been discovered as the main culprits when it comes to ocean pollution. Traditionally staples of chemical sunscreens, research now suggests these ingredients have the potential to harm sea coral in devastating ways, including the altering of their DNA and making them more susceptible to bleaching. 

Cosmetics and skincare formulator, Stephen Alain Ko, said the reason behind this still isn’t completely clear, “but increased water temperatures and disruption in the local ecosystem – both worsened by climate change – are important cofactors and very likely to be accelerating the process."

These findings have again resulted in brands placing greater emphasis on sunscreens that avoid harmful ingredients, with consumers also feeling a moral obligation to follow suit.

One brand protecting both our skin and the ocean this spring and summer is NIVEA, whose SUN PROTECT & MOISTURE RANGE continues to provide the same high-level protection and moisturising formula that Aussies know and love, with the added bonus of protecting our environment. The range is certified Ocean Respect, meaning it is 100% compliant with the Hawaii Reef Bill and is readily biodegradable.

BD recommends: Snowberry Everyday SPF30 Natural Sunscreen, Osmosis Protect, Clarins HydraQuench Tinted Moisturiser SPF6 and Essano Rosehip Pure Defence SPF15 Moisturiser.

Shining a light on inclusivity

Back in 2016, Unsun Cosmetics was born after much frustration with the lack of options within the world of clean sunscreen products for women of colour. The brand was created to provide clean, no-residue options that were kind to users, as well as the environment. And ever since, discourse about inclusive sun care has been steadily increasing worldwide. 

Change such as this comes despite the common misconception that those with darker skin tones are not susceptible to sun damage. But as skin protectant brand, Black Girl Sunscreen, said "It is a myth that people of colour don't need to wear sunscreen. This misconception may have to do with much of the advertising and public awareness campaigns [around sun protection] being geared towards fair-skinned individuals. However, people of colour are also at risk of getting skin cancer, despite additional melanin in the skin."

And while people of colour are less likely to develop melanoma, they are more likely to receive a poor prognosis due to the mainstream narrative about monitoring for skin changes and seeking medical advice being heavily geared towards the caucasian population.

Beyond lack of education, another obstacle has been the formulations of inclusive sun care products. Many have not been created with diverse skin tones in mind, leaving behind a white residue or blue hue on darker skin. In response, brands such as SKINCEUTICALS have been forgoing traditional cream-based SPF formats, instead creating clear gels that completely disappear once applied. “It has a chemical filter system and no tint, so it is about as universal as it can get,’ SkinCeuticals global manager, Leslie Harris, said.

BD recommends: Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30, Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense SPF30, La Roche-Posay Uvidea XL Melt-in Cream SPF50 and Shiseido Perfect UV Protector Multi Defense.