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Here Comes The Sun


The level of awareness among Indian consumers about sun protection may vary across regions, but what seems to remain consistent is the ambiguity regarding SPF (sun protection factor) and its advantages, and a clear distinction between sun protection and ‘fairness’ creams.

With the onset of spring in India, personal care and skincare brands shake off their annual sabbatical and begin returning to mainstream advertising, given that over the last few years, icons extolling SPF have become a fixture on most modern skincare packaging. The SPF innovation is an evolution of the sunscreen, initially developed by cosmetic majors in the West catering to light skinned Caucasian skins, which are more vulnerable to sun damage, especially given their fondness for sunbathing and tanning. In theory, the SPF is a laboratory measure of the effectiveness of a sunscreen – the higher the SPF, the more protection the sunscreen offers against UV-B (the ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn).

SPF is the amount of UV radiation required to cause sunburn on the skin with the sunscreen on, relative to the amount required without the sunscreen. So, wearing a sunscreen with SPF 50, your skin will not burn until it has been exposed to 50 times the amount of the solar energy that would normally cause it to burn. The amount of solar energy

you are exposed to depends not only on the amount of time you spend in the sun, but also on the time of the day. This is because, during early morning and late afternoon, the sun’s radiation must pass through more of the earth’s atmosphere before it gets to you.

Not all sunscreens, though, impact every user in the same way. Benefits can vary widely, depending on:

• The skin type of the user.

• The amount applied and frequency re-application.

• Activities in which one engages (for instance, swimming leads to a loss of sunscreen from the skin).

• Amount of sunscreen the skin has absorbed.

Since light skin continues to be the skin tone of aspiration in many parts of India, many consumers tend to buy ‘whitening’ moisturisers with inbuilt SPF. However, just as in the trend of fairnss creams, does purchasing a product with an SPF indication also reflect yet another fad? Are consumers really abreast with the enhanced skin protection features that many SPFladen skincare products provide or purport to provide?

“The level of awareness among Indian consumers about the right amount of SPF is very low; most people don’t even know what SPF is and how long it lasts on the skin”, shares Vandana Sundra, marketing head, Eminence Organics. Most consumers in India have a  common misbelief that sunscreens are needed only in the summer or when one is being exposed to peak sunlight hours. But in reality, one needs sunscreen through the year, as the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays even in winters.

Blurred Comprehension

Sundra at Eminence Organics defines SPF as “the capability of protection of the skin from harmful effects of ultraviolet rays”.

“SPF is rated on a scale of increasing protectiveness – from 2 to 15 times. When applied on the skin, the chemical molecules form an invisible, protective layer that protects it from penetrating UV rays and Broad-Spectrum protects from both UV-B and UV-A rays.” According to experts, below is the formula to calculate SPF:

SPF = Duration till sunburn with

sun protection product

Duration till sunburn without

sun protection product

Experts from the beauty industry normally recommend SPF in the range of 15 to 40 for Indian skin tones.Elaborating on the measure of SPF for different skin tones in India, Sundra says, “SPF 30-32 is best for all skin tones in India. If your skin is very light, it would burn more quickly. Such skin tones rarely get a tan, they instead get burnt. It is best that people with very light skin get a product that is SPF 20- 30. The light skin type burns under the moderate range. One can experience gradual tanning in which one ends up with a light brownish shade. SPF 8-12 would be best for such skin types. Burning is something that dark skins need not worry about. For people with darker skins, it is recommended that they use sunscreen products with lower SPF.”

Explaining the term broadly, Charvi Gupta, VP, Technical Services and Products, Lotus Herbals, notes, “The sun protection factor means the amount of protection that a sunscreen provides. SPF numbers tell a person how much longer he/she can stay in the sun without burning while wearing sunscreen as opposed to not wearing any sun protection. For instance, if your skin usually burns in 10 minutes without any type of sun protection, then an SPF of 15 means you can stay in the sun 15 times longer (approximately twoand- a-half hours) until the skin begins to burn. In order to get the full protection time from the sunscreen, one must reapply it throughout the day as it can wear off because of perspiration and rubbing.”

Shining the Light

With the growing communication media and its effective use in educating consumers in recent years, a lot of awareness has been generated among consumers. “Consumers are now more aware of the harmful effects of UV rays Gupta agrees. “Higher awareness has translated to higher offtakes for sun protection products, but growth is in initial phases. At the retail end, we generate awareness in the form of our ‘safe sun’ leaflets, which help to propagate information on the need for sun protection. We also share this knowledge through magazine advertorials and direct interaction with consumers through our beauty advisors placed at various stores.”

While action in the branded skincare category has warmed up over the last three years across all sub-ranges, there is specifically great movement in SPF-enriched prod products and variants. The players offering sunscreen products India include Dabur India, India, Lotus Herbals, Zydus Wellness, Nivea, Hindustan Unilever Proctor & Gamble’s Olay

The recent launches include Dabur India’s Dabur Uveda, an Ayurvedic skincare brand rolled out in 2009. The Dabur Uveda range was launched with products including moisturising face wash, clarifying face wash, complete fairness cream with SPF 20 and two-in-one moisturiser containing SPF 8, priced from Rs 50-118.

In 2007, Proctor & Gamble launched Olay Total Effects with VitaNiacin. The company says it a breakthrough anti-aging moisturiser containing the patented Vitaniacin formulation – an exclusive anti-aging combination of niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Vitamin E and Pro-Vitamin B5 (panthenol), in addition to sunscreen protection, making it ideal for Indian skin types. Olay Total Effects comes in convenient, easy-to-squeeze pump jars in two variants – Normal with UV (SPF 15) and Normal Non-UV, and Gentle with UV (SPF 15) and Gentle Non-UV – carrying either a light, fresh scent, or none at all.

Zydus Wellness, a company focussed on health foods and wellness products under its EverYuth brand, this year launched EverYuth Menz, a skincare range for men. Under its men’s range, EverYuth offers EverYuth Sun Block Lotion with SPF 30. Under its Sun Care range, the brand offers sunscreens with SPF 15 And SPF 30.

Sunscreens and moisturisers contaning SPF under the Neutrogena brand include Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture SPF 15, Neutrogena Age Shield Sunblock SPF 30, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 50, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist SPF 30 and Neutrogena Lip Moisturizer with SPF 15.

Lotus Herbals, one of the leading companies in the skin and haircare segment, under its ‘sun care’ range, offers three subranges – Absolute, Men and Safe Sun. The Lotus Safe Sun Absolute range offers four products ranging from SPF 20-30. The Safe Sun for Men with SPF 30 is the only product from Lotus for sunstressed males. The Safe Sun range includes 10 sunscreens ranging from SPF 20-50. Lotus recently launched Floral Stay, an all new long-lasting lip colour, with SPF 10.

Jolen Inc, a US-based company and one of the leading producers of skincare beauty products, launched its products in India in 2004 through a partnership with Kundan Group. Right now Jolen’s only sunscreen product includes Jolen Sun Screen Lotion with SPF 15.

Despite various media campaigns to create awareness at a mass market level, a large number of Indian consumers still suffer from the myth that SPF-enriched/sunscreen products are meant only for summer use. Also, as summer approaches, most brands tweak their advertising campaigns and packaging strategies to focus on SPF as the central plank. “In our country we have more months of summer than of winter; some manufacturers and marketers do sync their strategies with this seasonality. But yes, there is still a myth of SPF being a summer-only feature. Gradually, however, the concept is changing as knowledge spreads,” Gupta says.

“About 60 percent of our revenue of Safe Sun products comes from summer sales,” she adds. Upon being asked about the percentage contribution of sunscreen product ranges to total sales, Gupta informs it’s less than 25 percent.

Most analysts believe the Indian marketplace is characterised by a unique ambiguity – that of the blurred line between fairness creams and SPF-enriched products. Sharing her views on the same, Gupta says, “SPF products and fairness products are very clearly two different concepts. While both these concepts have generated their own demand in recent times, sharing knowledge and creating awareness can help marketing SPF products in a more effective manner.”

In recent years, many brands have implemented changes in packaging and marketing strategies of sunscreens. According to Gupta, packaging innovation will be a key driver in the skincare aisle’s expansion, particularly with respect to ‘refreshing’ the offer and helping upgrade brand image and acceptance.