The secret to anti-aging is no secret at all—in fact, it’s likely residing in your medicine cabinet right now. As any esthetician, dermatologist, or skincare lover will tell you, SPF is the gold-medal ingredient of choice and should be applied daily, regardless of the forecast. Are Americans eagerly adopting sun protection formulas into their health and wellness routines, or is sun safety only obliged by a careful sliver of the population? CivicScience dug in to find out who’s on board and how people are feeling towards all things SPF.

As a general overview, more than one-third of respondents have an established SPF usage ritual, though the majority of participants report only using sun protection products on rare occasions. 

While the latter figure may seem alarming, comparative context provides better insight into how attitudes toward SPF have changed over the past year. Overall sunscreen wearers have increased by five percentage points since 2021, which may be the result of increased interest in the skincare market and self-care practices brought on by the pandemic.

SPF formulas with lower protection have increased in popularity since last year as well. While over half of sunscreen wearers say they prefer formulations with 25+ protection, that figure has decreased by nearly ten points since 2021.

Concerns over the safety of traditional sunscreen formulas have also slightly increased since the last time CivicScience investigated the issue. This may partly explain why most Americans only scarcely use SPF.

Interest in mineral-based sunscreen is gently gaining traction. An alternative to worrisome, traditional suncare, this once-niche formulation is forging a path for itself in the market among DTC brands for ingredient-conscious consumers. As its availability grows, so might the population of those who have initially avoided using SPF over toxicity concerns.  

From a brand perspective, there was very little change in favorability over the last year, with the exception of Sun Bum. Respondents who love the brand doubled from 3% in 2021 to 6% in 2022, and those who simply ‘like’ Sun Bum also doubled from 5% to 10%. Favorability jumped for Australian Gold as well, with those who love their products tripling since our last poll.

For many, the best way to adopt a consistent SPF practice is to include the ingredient in products they’re already using. Daily sunscreen disciples most likely hail from the 35- to 54-year-old age bracket, while Gen Z boasts the greatest likelihood of wearing sunscreen at all, at the very least on a weekly cadence. This may be attributed to the popularity of skincare content on social media, plus a proactive attitude in preventing signs of aging through sun protection. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Respondents who use SPF products tend to identify as female, though that doesn’t completely discount male participation. One-fifth of daily sun-protection product users are male, and that involvement figure increases as the frequency of usage decreases.

Exercise enthusiasts are also loyal SPF consumers; participants with a regular, multiple-times-per-week fitness routine are far more likely to use sunscreen than those who are less active. This suggests a connection between sun protection and whole-body wellness.

We noted in our most recent skincare study that cosmetics are embracing skincare-focused ingredients such as SPF in an attempt to close the widening gap between the beauty and makeup spaces. Experience with SPF-infused cosmetics is polarized; one-quarter of respondents have tried and loved them, while slightly more than one-third are flat-out uninterested with no intent to experiment. 

Gen X and Baby Boomers are the diehards of the ‘tried and liked it’ crowd, while curiosity in exploring sun-protective makeup echoes most within Gen Z. Marketing this type of product may still have a ways to go, given that anywhere from one-quarter to over one-half of participants from each generational demographic claim they’re not the least bit interested in SPF makeup.

Makeup users at large are overwhelmingly open to trying SPF cosmetics as they continue becoming more popular. Only one-quarter of makeup-wearing respondents want nothing to do with sun protection in this category.

As far as social media usage goes, Instagram users are far more likely to have tried SPF makeup than non-users. However, there’s still a significant amount of interest among non-users in using these products.

While the necessity of SPF in daily life isn’t changing anytime soon, openness to regularly using sun-protection products is on the rise. The cosmetics industry is getting in on the action with overall positive acclaim from respondents which signals promise for the trend, especially in the seasons ahead. Not ready to let the sun set on this study? Explore how your business insights can be made in the shade by requesting a demo here.