The State of SPF: Buyers & Brands Will Bet On Bulk

August 5, 2022

The Conditions

The heat is on: consumers are tightening their purse strings in the current economic climate, leading them to number crunching, as they try to make their newfound sunscreen habits cost-effective.

Regardless of the varied industry recommendations, one thing is for certain: to attain adequate SPF protection you need to focus on volume and frequency (typically 2 finger-lengths for your face and neck).[1,2]

Consumers have long lamented that “quality” sunscreens they prefer tend to be on the smaller side. These are typically East Asian sunscreens, which are less likely to cause eye-stinging and layer well with traditional skincare products.

A Reddit user divulged that they go through about 10 bottles of Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen per year, which can cost up to $295 annually, for Americans importing the product from Korea.[3] And that’s only accounting for facial and neck sunscreen. Price ends up being a major factor in how sunscreens are actually deployed in an individual’s routine, with users often opting for more expensive, user-friendly formulas around their eyes, and using a less expensive product on the rest of their face and neck.[4]

As inflation persists through 2022, consumers are adjusting spending behaviors to save on essential items.[5] While self-care items and services are perceived as safe from being “cut” from personal budgets,[6] brands will need to work harder to keep SPF high in the product pecking order.

The Predictions

In the face of curbed spending, we anticipate these pricing and packaging strategies shaping up, as brands tout SPF as an essential luxury (not a basic need to be easily downgraded):

1. Transparency On Number of Applications Per Unit

Given the frequency of application recommended by dermatologists, brands will speak more openly amount the amount of applications within each container, while strategizing pricing around what their target customer can afford. In surveying new SPF launches of 2022, we saw that most lotion or cream formula products offer about a month’s worth of applications within a single unit (we assume that users are only applying these types of products once per day, during their AM routine).[7,8,9,10]

At the prestige price point, the annual cost of using facial sunscreen twice daily can be as high as $1,440 per year.

Upstart brands are already discussing pricing openly: Habit sunscreen openly shares that their spray bottle contains approximately 30 applications,[11] while the founders of Kinship outline that their vision of Gen Z “buying in bulk” is what informed the creation and pricing of their hero sunscreen, Kinship Self Reflect Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 32, which rings up at $26 for 1.75 ounces.[12]  

2. More Promotional Discounts and Commitments

What determines how cost-effective a product is? Promos, of course. Beloved by shoppers for generations.

In the form of member-only rewards, subscriptions and promo codes—all devices that effectively lower the final checkout price of an individual unit of a cosmetic product, decreasing the net price per individual SPF product.

Rewards programs in particular are picking up speed again (the last big surge being Glossier’s personalized referral links). The strategy directly panders to the Gen Z beauty demographic, a group that is enthusiastic about sun care and deeply price-conscious when shopping, looking to invest in their chosen brands for the long-term.[13,14]

Many of these promotional methods involve making a long-term commitment, as is the case with buying in bulk, subscriptions, or being a member of a rewards program. This commitment goes hand-in-hand with the value-focused headspace of Millennial and Gen Z beauty consumers.[15]

3. SPF-Specific Kits and Bundles

Brands targeting 40-and-under consumers are offering packaged sets that include at least one SPF sunscreen product, structuring the bundles around daily essentials. Ever the industry standard for deals, Glossier offers The Renew + Protect Duo (one of two sets that include their beloved Invisible Shield sunscreen), boasting $10 savings (~17%) on both their retinoid and sunscreen products.[16]

This strategy will parlay well into holiday sets for 2022, as people continue to use SPF daily, outside of the summer season.

4. Clear Expiration Date Labelling

A product's usability is a ticking clock, and it's expiration date will affect a consumer’s willingness to purchase more units up-front. No one wants products that went bad before you had a chance to use them, no matter how good the steal.

We’ll see more of an emphasis on labelling product batch information, including clear context around on the expiration date, and science-backed tips on how to tell if a product is expired.[17] Beauty boutiques like oo35mm in New York City have been ahead on expiration messaging, noting that when products are out of stock, it’s because they order limited quantities to serve products at optimal freshness.[18]

After the SPF recalls[19] of summer 2021, we also anticipate that brands will be forthcoming about where the product formula and packaging are made for specific batches of product, so that consumers can readily access supply chain information (this can be viewed as insurance against future production issues, and can help build trust).

Phew. SPF pricing have you sweating yet? Tell us your thoughts on Twitter or Instagram for a chance to be featured in our future installments of The State of SPF. See you in the DMs.


1. Fifty Shades of Snail. "Sunscreen." Fifty Shades of Snail,

2. Ko, Stephen. "Sunscreen dosing. Teaspoons, shotglasses, and fingers…are we using too much?" Kind of Stephen, 9 August 2021,

3. YesStyle. "Kao - Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ 50g." YesStyle,

4. r/AsianBeauty. "How many sunscreen bottles do you go through in a year?" Reddit, June 2022,

5. Alldredge, Kari and Tamara Charm, Eric Falardeau, Kelsey Robinson. "How US consumers are feeling, shopping, and spending—and what it means for companies." McKinsey, 4 May 2022,

6. Retail Brew. "This or that?" Retail Brew, 5 July 2022,

7. Tatcha. "The Silk Sunscreen." Tatcha,

8. Humanrace. “Ozone SPF 30 Protection Set.” Humanrace,

9. Cocokind. "Silk SPF." Cocokind,

10. Cocokind. "Daily SPF." Cocokind,

11. King, Rachel. "The sunscreen brand that went viral on TikTok." Fortune, 15 June 2021,

12. “Kinship’s Alison Haljun and Christin Powell: ‘A lot of people told us not to do Gen Z.’” The Glossy Beauty Podcast, Apple Podcasts, 30 December 2021,

13. Ruff, Corinne. "Price and rewards are crucial to Gen Zers and young millennials." Retail Dive, 26 February 2019,

14. Bissell, Tilden. "The TikTok-Hyped Skin Care Products That Actually Work." W Magazine, 21 January 2021,

15. Morosini, Daniela. "How beauty brands can cultivate hyper-loyal customers." Vogue Business, 23 August 2021,

16. Glossier. "Sets." Glossier,

17. Ko, Stephen. "When Good Products Split Up." The Klog,

18. "oo35mm." oo35mm,

19. Consumer Reports. "Aveeno and Neutrogena Spray Sunscreens Recalled Due to Low Levels of Benzene, a Carcinogen." Consumer Reports,'%20Coppertone%20has%20also%20recalled%20sunscreens%20that%20contain%20benzene.&text=Update%3A%20On%20Sept.,that%20these%20products%20contain%20benzene.


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