Formulating Better Beach Wear Sunscreens

Despite clear guidelines, few consumers are properly applying sunscreen or doing so at the correct intervals.  In fact, a 2012 study of almost 5,000 adults partaking in outdoor recreation found that only 4.4% of adults were in full compliance with American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) guidelines.  Only half of participants wore SPF 15+ sunscreen at all, and very few applied it properly or re-applied during the course of the day.1    

Dermatologists Recommend

  The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advocates that everyone should wear sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher each and every day that they will be outside. Additionally, to be AAD compliant, a sunscreen should have a broad spectrum claim and offer water or sweat resistance. With regards to application, the recommended procedure is to apply 1 oz of sunscreen at least 30 minutes before exposure to ensure good coverage, and to re-apply every 2 hours. While there are many reasons for consumers’ failure to comply with established guidelines, product sensoriality on and after application has been shown to be a key factor.  

Understanding Product Preference


A 2016 review of the top 1% of sunscreen products sold on found that “cosmetic elegance was the most cited positive feature associated with best-selling sunscreen products (61%) followed by product performance (45%).

When negative features were cited, patients mostly noted cosmetic elegance concerns (22%).”2 Looking further into consumer preferences, the researchers found that “rubs in well” and “positive tactile skin feel” were the most commonly mentioned positive attributes, while product residue and thickness were the most common negative cosmetics features.3 These facts really highlight the importance of sensory properties in consumer sun care preferences. Another study, looking at the way dermatologists themselves perceive, recommend, and personally use sunscreen found that “dermatologists used multiple sunscreen recommendation criteria including Sun Protection Factor (SPF) level (96%), broad spectrum protection (98%), cosmetic elegance and feel (85%), and photostability (68%).”4 This indicates that dermatologists also recognize the importance of sensory properties and understand the need for cosmetically elegant formulations to enhance consumer usage and compliance.  

The Role of Humidity on Sunscreen Sensoriality

  While it’s widely accepted that UV filters have a negative effect on the sensoriality of sun screen formulations, it is less known that the very environment in which sunscreens are applied has a negative effect on their sensory properties as well.  

Skin & Humidity

In a tropical environment, with a relative humidity level often over 80%, the skin becomes almost saturated with water. Heat causes sweating and pores can become clogged. The secretion of sebum is increases and the skin feels unpleasantly greasy, heavy, and thick. This is related to the high level of surface water.  Addition of a moisturizer or sunscreen increases this sensation by absorbing water from the ambient air.   Water attraction to skin in humid environments > The desire to apply product to the skin is diminished and the temptation to leave the skin bare is high. However, doing so leaves the skin fragile and without protection.  

Sunscreen & Humidity

A sensory study conducted by Gattefossé explored the effect of heat and humidity on the sensory properties of cosmetic formulations. Gattefossé’s in-house sensory panel tested classical emulsions and sunscreens in both temperate environment and in a controlled high-humidity environment. The results showed that tropical conditions can increase the tacky afterfeel of a sunscreen by as much as 85%, while increasing film residue by more than 50%.     Beach or sport sunscreens particularly are often applied in hot, humid environments – though heat and humidity can affect daily wear products during the summer months as well.   Because of this effect, it is necessary to consider environment when formulating these types of formulations, in order to maximize their sensory appeal and usage.  

Better Beach Wear Sunscreens with Emulium® Mellifera MB


Emulium® Mellifera MB auto-adapts to holiday locations all year long, making it possible to create formulations that consumers will want to use.

Tested in both temperate and humid environments, this natural emulsifier has been shown to limit the effects of humidity on the sensory properties of cosmetic formulations.  

3% Emulium® Mellifera MB – 1241-2.01 | 4% Emulium® Mellifera MB – 1284-1.08
  It has also been shown to reduce the negative sensory effects that UV filters can bring.
The introduction of UV filters to an Emulium® Mellifera formulation has little effect on the sensory properties.
  Creating sunscreens with better and more stable sensory properties can encourage customers to use the proper amount of product as well as to re-apply on a more regular basis.