July 2, 2024

Who loves the sun?

Who loves the sun?

Summer's finally here and so is the infinite variety of sunscreen options, mineral, eco-friendly, reef-safe, water resistant, broad spectrum, coming in spray, stick, gel and powder.

Launched in August 2023, LE RUB has entered a crowded market, with a distinctive brand proposition, summed up in three words: "the Good Life".
Of course, the new range ticks all the right boxes – science-backed formulae made from ocean-safe, locally sourced ingredients – but what's interesting is the brand's ability to break with traditional category codes and create an atmosphere all its own.

Le Rub

Suncare usually focuses on the dangers of sun exposure, resulting in claims emphasizing protection (SPF, scope, stability, patented shielding technologies). Eco-friendliness and ease of use tend to follow (innovative formats, water resistance, non-sticky, invisible products, etc.).

Sensory aspects and pleasure generally come last. They are suggested through wording such as "velvet, milky, delicious lotions" and through packaging designs featuring deep, rich colours and glossy textures, mainly by brands bridging the gap between beauty and skincare like Nuxe or Caudalie vs. dermatolological, French pharmacy brands. Payot's Sunny range, launched in 2019 and now discontinued, was an interesting exception.


Yet, things seem to change, both in the way sun exposure is presented and in the way the notion of pleasure is (re)gaining ground in the category.
I recently received an email from La Maison Biologique Recherche promoting its suncare range and inviting customers to "make the sun their ally", contrasting for instance with Sothys' s warning ("Because sun exposure is not without risk for the skin's youth capital")

Maison Biologique Recherche

Earlier this year, Laboratoires de Biarritz unveiled its "sensorial suncare" combining protection, care and enhanced sensations, i.e. a "satin finish" and ingredients setting the user's "mind adrift to exotic locales".

Heat, travel, faraway destinations, beach towels and tan lines: these are some of the images conjured up by Le Rub's identity and communication. The brand's Instagram feed is a collection of retro film grain pictures that capture the glamour of 1970s beach life in iconic settings, from Capri to Ischia:
"Immerse yourself in Mediterranean chic, where crystal-clear waters meet good vibes. Sip cocktails, bask under the vibrant umbrellas, and capture the essence of a bygone era against the backdrop of the beautiful Faraglioni rocks."

Le Rub

Beyond geocultural appeal – nothing beats the Mediterranean imagery to conjure up the atmosphere of an indulgent, sophisticated summer, c.f. Jacquemus pop up stores –, Le Rub offers the possibility to travel to a time when sunbathing was just another carefree, highly sensorial activity:
"Golden days that never end. The scent of salt on unwashed hair. Electric in the air. Remember? Le Rub was created to bring you that feeling all year round, with beautifully designed daily sunscreen. Say hello to featherweight formulas that put the scent in sensual. Unbeatable SPF protection."

So far, very few suncare brands have capitalized on that space, where sun exposure is a multidimensional, pleasurable experience, a way of reconnecting with nature, with physical sensations and with an idealized past.

In France, Mimitika (a brand "for sun lovers") and SeventyOne Percent ("Sunshine state of mind") have but the best example remains Vacation. A viral sensation since the launch of its Whipped Cream ("dessert for your skin") and its offbeat, sun-soaked, 80's retro brand world inspired by Miami Vice, the US brand has succeeded in its ambition to make suncare fun again with its "Leisure-Enhancing Sunscreen™" ranges.


We looked at the history of sunscreen and realized that it was a lot more fun in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Once the conversation about the dangers of tanning became more frequent in the ‘90s, the whole category shifted to being more clinical. Everybody's on board with wanting to protect their skin now and we know the dangers of skin cancer and sun exposure. So we reference ‘80s aesthetics to harken back to that time when sunscreen was more fun.”
Founder Lach Hall. Source: Forbes

To summon up that particular time – the evocative superpower of scent! –, the company has collaborated with the best perfumers to develop a unique fragrance combining "classic sunscreen notes of coconut, banana, pineapple, orange blossom, with classic poolside notes featuring pool water, pool toys and swimsuit lycra".
The signature scent, which was designed "to immerse the wearer in the inimitable sunscreen experience, wherever they may be" is available as an Eau de Toilette – another fragrance, "After Sun" was released earlier this year.

Nostalgia + indulgence + fun + safety = a formula for success

With its recent brand refresh, Coola affirms its identity as a lifestyle brand inspired by the coastal aesthethic of Southern California but also conveys an 80's mood (colours and gradients) and emphasizes its efforts to "engage the senses" – on a website whose visual identity and typeface feel very close to that of Vacation.


Bioré's Aqua Rich UV, which has been a classic in Japan for years and was launched in Europe in Spring 2023, employs similar codes in its campaign and on its packaging (a blue gradient combined with a pearlescent feel and a handwritten typeface reminiscent of the 80's), perfect for a lazy, stylish afternoon by the pool.


As the Anti-Sunscreen TikTok trend is gaining ground, maybe reinjecting a bit of glam into the category is the best thing to do to encourage younger consumers, who have not lived the golden age of sun tanning (yet), to use sunscreen.

Swimsuit... check, shades... check, summery scent that makes you feel like a model from the fabulous 80's... check.