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With May being National Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month and May 27 being National Sunscreen Day, CivicScience took a closer look at today’s top sunscreen trends, from usage to sentiment. Here are three key insights from the CivicScience InsightStore™:

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1. Sunscreen usage has become more prominent over the last decade.

More Americans are wearing SPF now than they did nearly a decade ago. CivicScience’s ongoing tracking shows that three-quarters of U.S. adults 18+ report wearing sunscreen, compared to 69% in 2015. This is likely a result of dermatologists increasingly advocating for daily sunscreen usage and educating consumers on the harmful effects of UV rays, such as skin cancer.

However, the percentage of Americans who wear sunscreen is down from 2022 (79%), when consumers reported getting outdoors more often than before the pandemic. 

2. However, Americans are wearing SPF less frequently than they used to.

Among those who wear sunscreen, 18% wear it daily, and 17% wear SPF weekly – with daily usage down five percentage points from last year. A plurality of those who wear sunscreen say they rarely wear it (45%), representing a three percentage point increase from last year.

Unsurprisingly, those who wear sunscreen daily are most likely to reapply it. Nearly a third reapply once a day and a larger percentage (41%) reapply two or more times a day. Whereas, the majority of those who ‘rarely’ wear sunscreen are not reapplying it throughout the day.*

3. Americans are growing more concerned about the ingredients in SPF products.

Despite sunscreen usage collectively being up over a decade, fewer are wearing it often. One potential reason why Americans may opt to wear sunscreen less often is concern for the potential adverse effects of wearing it. In recent years, SPF became a controversial topic, when the FDA pushed for more research on ingredients found in mineral and chemical sunscreens. In the same year, brand recalls made headlines and there was an overall push toward reef-safe sunscreen – ultimately influencing sentiments on sunscreen usage.

CivicScience data show an increasing concern among consumers about sunscreen’s effects on their health. Currently, 23% of U.S. adults believe certain sunscreen products are toxic to their health, up from 17% in 2021. However, the majority don’t find sunscreen harmful or have an opinion on it.

Recent reports also indicate that other countries have better sunscreen products for blocking UV rays that can cause skin cancer and lead to aging than the U.S. That said, though, a strong majority of Americans (81%) think that sunscreen is at least ‘somewhat’ effective in preventing sunburn and skin cancer, and 11% think it’s not effective at all (the remaining 8% have no opinion).**

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More Insights from the CivicScience InsightStore™

Here are some additional insights on sunscreen usage:  

  • An increasing number of Americans are using tanning oil or lotion. Forty-four percent of Americans use tanning oil or lotion compared to 39% who said the same last year. Plus, an additional 7% haven’t used it, but intend to use it. 
  • Among a range of popular sunscreen brands, Coppertone takes the top spot with 59% liking the brand, similar to last year. Banana Boat (55%) and Hawaiian Tropic (45%) come in second and third place. 
  • Six in ten Americans wear SPF 25 or higher, which is down slightly from nearly a decade ago. 
  • Consumers are most likely to buy sunscreen from big-box stores such as Target and Walmart (36%) and drug stores (25%). Department (e.g., Nordstrom) and specialty (e.g., Sephora) stores are less popular for buying SPF, with 6% buying from these retailers. 

Overall, the collective use of sunscreen has grown over the last decade; however, most people ‘rarely’ apply it at all. This could be the result of roughly one-quarter of consumers believing certain SPF chemicals are toxic to their health. Instead, CivicScience data points out that an increasing number of Americans are buying tanning oil and lotions and applying a lower level of SPF than they used to – trends that could continue to take shape as summer fully sets in. 

Interested in seeing more insights like these or tapping into the power of CivicScience’s database of over 500K polling questions? Connect with us here.

*n=345 from 5/20/2024 to 5/21/2024

**n=1,431 from 5/20/2024 to 5/21/2024