What’s Hot in Sunscreen Now


SPF’s moment in the sun shows no sign of setting.

If brands like Coola and Supergoop helped consumers consider sunscreen as more than just a drug-store standby, today, labels like Vacation, Ultra Violette, and Beauty of Joseon are cementing its status as a market-driving beauty product. In 2023, the volume of Google searches for skincare with SPF increased by over 63 percent — more than any other searched skin claim, according to consumer data analytics firm Spate. Meanwhile, Prime Matter Labs, a US-based cosmetic manufacturer specialising in sun care, says 2023 was a record year for sunscreen requests from both new and existing clients. Social media-forward beauty labels including Naked Sundays, Sol de Janeiro, and Kosas all have launched SPF products within the past 12 months.

Because SPF’s beautified reinvention is years underway, online conversation around sunscreen today is more sophisticated, focusing on insider nuances in both cosmetic finishes and technical benefits. That increased knowledge has sparked US interest in foreign formulas, where there are limits on FDA-approved filters. Sunscreens with newer filters from Korean brands Beauty of Joseon, Round Lab, Tocobo, and Isntree, which are available to US shoppers through third-party sellers on Amazon, have gone viral on TikTok, producing a robust counterfeit market.

“When I started practising 20 years ago, patients would still tan and say they knew they should wear sunscreen but didn’t [wear it],” says New York City dermatologist Cybele Fishman, MD. “I now hear young women say ‘I’m obsessed with my sunscreen’ or ‘I never go in the sun’ or ‘I use moisturiser with sunscreen and then put sunscreen on top of that.’”

At the same time, however, anti-sunscreen discourse online is brewing. Content creators and some celebrities spread misinformation that sunscreen is “toxic” and can cause hormone disruption and cancer, and that the sun has natural healing capabilities that should never be blocked.

“There’s a lot of viral noise about the anti-sunscreen movement and there’s a side of the internet that subscribes to that, too,” says Bec Jefferd, co-founder of Australian sunscreen brand Ultra Violette. ” It’s a viral topic no matter which way you look at it.”

Sunscreen proponents far outnumber the naysayers, and that means for beauty brands, getting sunscreen right can come with rewards, even in a category with notoriously expensive upfront costs. Just look at Vacation, the three-year-old US sunscreen brand, which anticipates sales will hit over $40 million in 2024, more than double what it did in 2023. Three-year-old Australian sunscreen brand Naked Sundays sales grew 800 percent in 2023; it immediately sold out of three months’ worth of stock after launching in Target in March. Brands are seeing these sorts of boom moments thanks to innovation in texture and meeting the needs of more educated sunscreen consumers.

“We’re not in a world where people just care about brand or celebrity endorsement anymore,” said Charlotte Palermino, the founder of the skincare brand Dieux and a New York City-based beauty influencer, adding that her content around sunscreen is among her most popular. “What’s making it cool, more than anything, is that it works.”

Foreign Formulas Turn Heads

With American beauty labels facing greater restrictions in developing sunscreens, consumers are more frequently turning to foreign formulas, particularly those from Japan and South Korea, in search of high-tech broad-spectrum protection, tack-free texture, and white-cast-free products.

The trend has been building for a while — Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence, a chemical sunscreen made in Japan, emerged as a Reddit favourite six years ago, and US consumers were able to get it on Amazon or at K-beauty stores. (Last year, Bioré, owned by Japanese cosmetics company Kao, launched a US-compliant version of the viral Aqua Rich sunscreen.)

Current buzzy discoveries from Asia include Tocobo Bio Watery Sun Cream, Haruharu Wonder Black Rice Moisture Airyfit Daily Sunscreen, Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun: Rice + Probiotics, and Skin1004 Madagascar Centella Hyalu-Cica Water-fit Sun Serum. Though they’re not technically approved for sale in the US and Canada, third-party retailers like Amazon, Stylevana, TikTok Shop, and StyleKorean provide access to innovation from overseas.

However, because these products can sometimes enter the US with little oversight, the market is also rife with counterfeits, which are well documented on TikTok. (Palermino’s video on the subject has more than 18 million views). And unless a foreign brand makes a formula specifically for the US, retailers like Sephora, Ulta, and Target have no way to take advantage of the demand.

Still, that hasn’t done much to deter interest, and Australian brands appear to be the next to benefit, as brands from the continent gain traction. In the five years since Ulta Violette was founded, it has launched in the UK, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

“It’s so hard to get a product formulated and approved here,” said Ava Matthews, co-founder of Ultra Violette, which will launch in the US in 2025 after debuting in Canada this spring. “It’s almost like if you can make it in Australia you can make it anywhere.”

Unique Finishes and Textures

According to Spate, the top two fastest-growing sunscreen trends on Google are all about texture: water-based sunscreen, which has a light gel texture and absorbs quickly, and sunscreen balm, which includes thick, rich formulas for the face as well as those specifically for lips.

“New and different textures and applications are popular as brands are looking to differentiate,” said Jennifer Hurtikant, chief science officer of Prime Matter Labs. “Jellies seem to be super hot. The texture is cooling because it contains so much water and flashes off, so it’s a total experience.” She points to the new Glossier Invisible Shield SPF 50 as an example.

Other texture innovations like the playful whipped cream aerosol of Vacation Classic Whip and the serum-like Ultra Violette Queen Screen have been catnip online — TikTok videos with sunscreen serum hashtags have grown 574.9 percent since last year. Last month, Vacation launched Orange Gelée, a revival of a discontinued, cult-loved Bain de Soleil tanning product, recreated with input from original Orange Gelée consumers. The launch had a 15,000 person waitlist and sold out in three days.

Tinted formulas are also hot: When it launched in March of this year, Supergoop Protec(Tint) Daily Skin Tint SPF 50 was up more than 260 percent from its forecast and sold out in every Sephora across America. Its four-year-old tinted illuminating formula, Glowscreen, has a cameo in the recent Sabrina Carpenter music video for “Espresso.” Mineral sunscreens also continue to be of interest — Google searches are up 27.5 percent year-over-year — and labs are spiking formulas with non-filter ingredients called “boosters” to create versions that don’t leave a white cast.

“There are a lot of technologies that quench energy in a different way [other than FDA-approved filters],” says Hurtikant. “That can lead to lowering the mineral content, and because of the way we designed the formula, you’re still getting full coverage.”

Consumers also want products that tell them more about how their sunscreens work: Small UV cameras that connect to content creators’ cell phones help demonstrate that a product contains sun protection have been trending on TikTok. One-year-old US sunscreen brand Pavise — a biotech skincare brand that uses diamond-augmented zinc oxide — jumped on the trend by launching their own $176 UV camera along with its SPF debut. Top-performing videos and comments about sunscreen even police application doses.

And more innovation is likely on the horizon: A new filter, bemotrizinol, may be approved by the FDA as soon as 2025, which would be the first in the US in more than 20 years.

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