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Sunscreen is emerging as an important step in many Americans’ skincare routines. Today, its marketed benefits go beyond protecting the skin against harmful UV rays; it helps restore damaged skin, promotes anti-aging, and reduces the risk of skin cancer. Consequently, dermatologists are increasingly advocating for people to wear sunscreen every day, as well as bringing to light discussions about environmental considerations (e.g. reef safe) and mineral versus chemical SPFs. 

With growing importance and the first day of summer around the corner, CivicScience took a pulse on American sunscreen habits. Here are key insights generated from the CivicScience InsightStore.

1. Women are much more likely to wear SPF daily.

While skincare routines look different among Americans today, dermatologists recommend everyone should wear SPF daily, 365 days a year, for cancer prevention. According to the latest CivicScience data, 17% of U.S. adults wear it daily – up from 13% last year. Twelve percent say they use sunscreen weekly, but most wear it monthly/rarely (50%). Additionally, 21% never wear sunscreen, eclipsing the percentage of daily users.

Women are four times as likely to wear SPF daily than men (32% vs. 8%) – men are more than twice as likely not to wear it at all. One reason for this distinction is that women are much more likely than men to have a daily skincare routine and feel more comfortable knowing which skincare products to use.

Gen Z adults aged 18-24 are the most likely to use SPF in general. However, when it comes to daily usage, adults under the age of 55 are nearly equally likely to wear it daily (about 19%). Adults aged 55+ are the most likely to say they never wear SPF (27%).

In addition to daily SPF application, dermatologists recommend reapplying sunscreen, especially when swimming or spending time outdoors. Among those who wear sunscreen, 35% say they reapply once per day, 27% do so at least twice a day, and 37% say they never reapply (n=1,856).

2. Consumers are wearing higher SPF levels compared to last year, with levels influencing tanning oil usage.

SPF level is another important sunscreen consideration. Some experts recommend wearing higher levels of SPF, while others suggest lower levels and applying more frequently. Data show that nearly two-thirds of sunscreen users reach for SPF 25 or greater (65%), up seven percentage points from last year. The remaining percentage say they wear less than SPF 25 (24%) or they use whatever level is handed to them (11%) (n=2,334). 

SPF level is also an indicator of tanning oil usage. Overall, 39% of U.S. adults say they’ve used tanning oil products (n=3,112), but this figure jumps to 55% among those who wear less than SPF 25. SPF 25+ users are also more likely than the Gen Pop to use tanning products but on a smaller scale (45%) than those who wear lower SPF levels. Conversely, consumers who are unsure which level of SPF they use (21%) are the least likely to use tanning products.

3. Coppertone is the most favorable among consumers, and usage has grown from last year.

A close look at six sunscreen brands shows that Coppertone is most favorable among U.S. households (58%). Coppertone was also the most favorable sunscreen brand in 2022, and its favorability increased by five percentage points from last year. Consumers are also largely favorable to Banana Boat (56%) and Hawaiian Tropic (48%). 

Brands such as Sun Bum and Blue Lizard aren’t as popular among consumers, but Sun Bum’s favorability increased by three percentage points from 2022.

Consumers are buying sunscreen from big-box retailers the most. When asked where they’ve purchased SPF products over the last six months, big-box retailers took first place (33%) among sunscreen users, followed by drugstores/pharmacies (25%), and ‘other’ (16%). Conversely, specialty stores (e.g. Sephora) and outlet stores (e.g. TJ Maxx) were the least common retailer to shop for sunscreen among users (5%) (n=3,151).

Additional sunscreen insights: makeup SPF, consumer sentiment, and more.

Here are a few other key trends derived from the CivicScience InsightStore:

  • Interest in mineral sunscreen – which uses titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as the active ingredient – has grown since last year. The percentage who are ‘very interested’ increased from 13% to 15%, and those ‘somewhat interested’ rose from 31% to 33% in 2023 (n=2,700). 
  • Trending now: SPF makeup. CivicScience data has shown that skincare is a growing industry among consumers, and many makeup brands have offered SPF products to cater to both skincare and makeup needs. Recent data show that nearly two-thirds of Americans who wear makeup say they’ve tried SPF makeup, such as tinted moisturizers and foundations containing sunscreen. It is particularly trending among adults aged 35-44, but Gen Z adults aged 18-24 are the biggest intenders.
  • Interest in Supergoop – a popular skincare brand with UV protection in all of its products – has grown over the last two years. Currently, 12% of consumers have used Supergoop products or intend to (n=4,375) – up from 4% in 2021. Brand awareness has also grown – 74% have never heard of the brand, compared to 81% in 2021. 
  • Concerns vary when it comes to the safety of traditional sunscreen formulas. There’s been increased discussion about sunscreen safety over the last few years, and CivicScience data show that 20% believe traditional sunscreens are toxic to their health, compared to 41% who say they don’t think it’s detrimental (39% are unsure) (n=5,501).
  • Sunscreen concerns skew more toward environmental concerns (e.g. reef-safe products) than health concerns. Data show that a slightly larger percentage say traditional sunscreen is toxic to the environment, compared to 33% who don’t think it is detrimental (44% are unsure) (n=5,720).
  • Spray or lotion sunscreen? Those who wear sunscreen are more likely to prefer lotion over spray sunscreen (52% versus. 48%) (n=2,343). 
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