Natural ingredients, apparel accessories and cooler headwear top trends to ward off the sun.

By Courtney Holden

Long gone are the days of lathering up with baby oil before an afternoon at the community pool. Today’s consumers understand the dangers of too much sun, and they’re actively taking steps to prevent it.

“People in general are much more aware of their skin and melanoma,” said Lisa Day, sales, development and support for Glacier Glove. “They want to cover up, whether it be men or women.”

As a result, the sun protection category is exploding with a range of new products and buzzwords that are more than just buzz. Retailers should keep an eye on mineral-based sunscreens that guard skin from harmful rays without all the “yucky stuff,” accessory items like sun sleeves and sun gloves outfitted with UPF 50+ ratings, and playful summer hats that offer needed protection without skimping on style. Bottom line, these lotions and layers enable consumers to hit the crag, trail or fishing hole without worrying about the long-term danger of skin cancer.

“All we want you to do is get out there and have fun, and if this helps you do it, great,” said Jordan Wand, VP product & marketing for Outdoor Research, which has invested heavily of late in its sun protection lines of hats and


Columbia Men’s and Women’s Pilsner Peak Short Sleeve Shirt Photo courtesy Columbia

According to SSI Data, sales of Sunblock/Tanning are up nearly 20 percent in units and 10.5 percent in dollars for the trailing 52 weeks, suggesting consumers are increasingly heeding doctor’s warnings.

Sunscreens Go Au Natural
When we take a product and smear it all over our bodies, it just makes sense that we want it to be free of toxins. Consumers are waking up to that fact, as companies report an increased demand within the active lifestyle space for sunscreens that rely on minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide rather than oxybenzone and other potentially dangerous substances. Oxybenzone, for example, has been linked to hormone disruption and potentially to cell damage that may lead to skin cancer. At the same time, consumers expect that product to perform.

“People want high-performance products that they can rely on in the most extreme conditions on earth, yet they also want healthy recipes, without the crappy, harmful ingredients,” said Joshua Tree Skin Care President and CEO David Lawrence.

Brands like All Good and Sol Sunguard up the ante by avoiding ingredients known to damage coral reefs.

Moisturizing properties have also become a must with companies adding in organic oils and waxes, as well as olive oil and shea butter to recondition the skin as it gets exposed to punishing wind and sun. Kiss My Face capitalizes on the cooling properties of aloe and cucumber, which offer a touch of relief from the heat.

Photo courtesy All Good and Caroline Woodham

Accessories Provide Additional Protection
Sun sleeves, sun gloves and neck gaiters may look like a gimmick (and a dorky one at that), but keep that skepticism at bay. These stealthy mega-sellers of late have been flying off the shelves, brands and retailers report, leading to more competition in the space.

“People love the notion of being able to take their favorite shirt or their favorite apparel and turn it into a piece that they can wear all the time,” Outdoor Research’s Wand said. “By using [those favorites] with these sleeves or gloves, now they have full coverage.”

The accessories’ more practical benefits: They pack away easily, provide instant protection and there’s no need to reapply after a few hours in the elements. High UPF ratings have also become a mainstay in more traditional summer apparel. “In past seasons, many people saw UPF protection as simply a ‘nice-to-have feature’ in a shirt, but today, more and more people are specifically looking for sun-protective benefits, and it’s become a critical feature for them and their families,” said Woody Blackford, Columbia’s VP of design and innovation.

Now brands are pairing those sun-deterring properties with additional cooling benefits. In addition to moisture-wicking fabrics and ventilating armhole gussets, garments are often treated with xylitol, a naturally occurring chemical — also used in chewing gum — that reacts with moisture to create a cooling sensation.

“Sun protection plus enhanced cooling technology seemed like a natural fit,” said ExOfficio Design Materials Manger Johanna Rundquist. “First, we provided protection from the sun. Then we wanted to increase the wearer’s thermal comfort by keeping them cooler so they can enjoy the outdoors longer on their trip.”

Photo courtesy Chaos Headwear

Photo courtesy Chaos Headwear

Pack And Play With Summer Headwear
Head toppers have always offered protection for the face and eyes, but now they’re upping their equity with added cooling features. Look for perforated side panels, which create constant airflow around the crown, and wicking sweatbands that keep moisture off the forehead. Packability is another must-have in headwear, and you’ll find more brands incorporating a foldable brim in their ball cap silhouettes. Even straw hats are crushable now thanks to a cotton/polyester composition.

Best of all, brands like Chaos and Sunday Afternoons are incorporating 40+ UPF properties into more stylish designs like buckets and straws.
“There’s a move toward hats that are sun protective and yet can be worn all the time, so that you’re not having to switch from a protective hat to a stylish one,” said Karen Phelps, marketing manager at Sunday Afternoons. “By bumping up the style points, you’re more likely to wear it, thus improving sun protection.”

Lead photo courtesy ExOfficio