Even Eyeshadow Has SPF Now. Why Sun Care Is Poised to Transform High-end Beauty

March 18, 2019, 7:19 PM UTC
Ted + Chelsea Cavanaugh

Sun care is growing faster than skincare. The prestige beauty market saw a 29% surge in dollars spent on skincare with SPF last year—surpassing the other 97% of the skincare market by both dollars and units, according to NPD beauty industry analyst Larissa Jensen.

Analysts agree: consumers are into sun care.

Supergoop founder Holly Thaggard.

Supergoop is one company ready to capitalize on the trend. Unlike the rest of prestige beauty, Supergoop is entirely devoted to sun protection. Launched in 2007 by Holly Thaggard, a forceful and passionate advocate for skin cancer prevention, the brand now sells 23 different kinds of SPF products, and is matched in its sun care focus only by Coola, a similar SPF-focused brand. The company took in over $40 million in revenue in 2018, a number it revealed for the first time to Fortune, twice as much as in 2017.

But Supergoop has a trick up its sleeve that the brand hopes will even further distinguish how serious it is about SPF. This week, it launched a product called Shimmershade—a glittery eyeshadow infused with SPF 30. It might not sound that different for a brand that already puts SPF of at least 30 in every product, but it’s a technical challenge that analysts credit as a game-changer for the beauty and sunscreen markets. “I would consider it a disrupter,” says Alison Gaither, a beauty and personal care analyst at market research firm Mintel.

It’s more than the novelty of SPF in color makeup—rather than skincare products—that makes this product launch a milestone for the brand. Think about applying sunscreen: what gets avoided? “People purposefully avoid SPF around their eyes,” says Thaggard. “It’s one of the first places that shows signs of aging and one of the first places that dermatologists find skin cancer.”

The eyeshadow has been in development for more than three years, complicated by the brand’s avoidance of common sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone—a standard that is now being extended to other brands by new FDA regulations—as well as the need for a formula that wouldn’t crease or create an oily appearance, and the challenge of getting color to stay put and layer well under other makeup.

“I have scoured the global market,” Thaggard says. “Nobody’s ever done this before.”

The eyeshadow’s arrival is a sign of Supergoop’s next phase—and the continuation of a shift in sun care, away from the Coppertones of the world and toward the indie, ingredient-conscious brands. While prestige sun care experienced 29% growth last year, the $1.4 billion sun care market as a whole is only forecasted to grow 2% from 2020 to 2021, according to Mintel. That sluggish growth can be attributed to a slowdown facing the mass brands—the sunscreen you buy at the drugstore on your way to the beach—even as the brands you buy at places like Sephora are gaining market share. Consumers are gravitating toward everyday sun protection—especially multi-benefit products, like moisturizers with SPF, says Anagha Hanumante, beauty analyst for CB Insights, who calls this phenomenon the “skinification of sun care.”

Supergoop president Amanda Baldwin.

Supergoop’s growth has been helmed by Amanda Baldwin, the brand’s president, who joined in 2016 after a career in both finance and at Estee Lauder and LVMH. Baldwin oversees the business from the brand’s bright yellow New York offices, while Thaggard focuses on the product in Texas. Baldwin joined the company seeking the challenge of growing a niche company after putting in her time at the beauty giants.

Baldwin compares the explosion of SPF products over the past several years to the face mask craze: a product that was off the radar for Fortune 500 beauty until, suddenly, it was everywhere. In this analogy, Supergoop is the boutique brand—the one that brings the new category to the attention of the masses, eventually loses some share to the big-box version, but maintains its cred as the place to go for those in the know.

But here’s where SPF differs from specialized products like face masks: it’s not about convincing consumers to latch onto a new product. Instead, the company’s challenge is taking a product that consumers once slathered on just three months a year and transforming it into a daily habit. That’s why Supergoop has its 23 options—for one consumer, the moisturizer might be what gets her to make SPF a staple of her routine. For another, it’ll be a traditional sunscreen. And of course, for someone, it might be the eyeshadow.

“We’re not doing this just because gee, it’s fun to have a color product,” Baldwin says. Although, of course, it is.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

LeadershipBroadsheetDiversity and InclusionCareersVenture Capital