Challenges in Sun Care Formulating

Sun care is a constant among dynamic consumer trends, whether in the form of anti-aging and even skin tone products; as an added benefit to color cosmetics; or as straightforward sunscreens for both skin and hair. However, this category still poses several issues to product developers. Cosmetics & Toiletries (C&T) recently asked its audience, “What are the biggest challenges when sun care formulating?” Following are your responses—many of which you might expect. Join our LinkedIn Group to add to this discussion.

“Achieving what marketing wants while complying with regulations and making sunscreens aesthetically pleasing (so consumers will use them).”

“The lack of international harmonization in UV filters, UVA testing and labeling.”

“Obtaining affordable SPF and now, spectrum testing.” And in relation to testing, “Achieving a critical wavelength of 370 nm (required by the [US Food and Drug Administration] FDA in order to make a broad-spectrum claim) when avobenzone cannot be used.” Although another reader noted, “Photostability with avobenzone has become a minor issue with the new photostabilizing materials available.”

“The sometimes contradicting combination of requirements by customers;” for example: meeting the targeted claim within the cost parameters, in formulations that also boost efficacy and appeal sensory-wise to the consumer. In addition, there is the need for product differentiation, e.g., with non-UV filter ingredients.

“The very limited number of FDA-approved sunscreens available to the formulator. In the USA, there are 16 approved sunscreen actives (of which nine are practical to use in formulations), compared to more than 40 in the EU and Japan.” Another reader added, “The slow (read: nonexistent) process to get other sunscreen actives approved—even those that have many years of safe and effective use in every other major market in the world, i.e., Tinosorb M&S from BASF.”

And it’s not just the number of sunscreens, but also their combinations. “The FDA does not allow the combination of the two approved primary UVA absorbing sunscreens zinc oxide and avobenzone in the same formulation.”

These issues are not new, so why are they not yet resolved? Perhaps because regulations and consumer demand are moving targets, which are difficult to hit. In addition, the methods to test for SPF are unrealistic, as renowned sun protection expert Brian Diffey, PhD, will discuss in the February 2012 issue of C&T. So how can sun care formulators develop products to hit these moving targets? Since consumer fears and safety concerns underlie most regulatory action, one could theoretically remain a step ahead by predicting consumer behavior. I do not own a crystal ball and my tarot deck is a bit dusty, so I cannot tell you what consumers will do or want next.

I can tell you, though, that products that gain the most consumer attention stand out by incorporating step-change innovations. So where are these innovations found? I think the answer lies in looking beyond the obvious or known, and not just at successes, but also failures. Take one of my favorite failure-based successes: champagne. While attempts initially were made to remove its dancing bubbles, once they gained consumer acceptance, demand for the product remained steady and has since the 17th century. Imagine product loyalty like that.

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