Pharmacy U

Sun’s up! Time to talk sun care with your patients


Sun care is a hot topic for Laura Weyland. “You bet it is,” says the pharmacist/owner of a 10,000-sq. ft. Shoppers Drug Mart in downtown Toronto.


By Jack Kohane

Illustration by Martin Bregman

“Sun care is a substantial part of our seasonal sales, consistently performing well for us every year. A big reason is that as consumers become more aware of the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, the more they use sun care products.”

Weyland believes the sun care category is a perfect fit for pharmacy, providing an important point of interaction between pharmacist and patient. “People are confused by so many products in this category. Many have existing skin conditions – acne, metabolic issues, increasing skin sensitivity caused by antibiotics or blood pressure medications, and they need to know which sun protection to use. Patients ask us for specifics about the ingredients, how much or how little sunscreen to apply, and how often. They ask our opinion about what might be best for their skin type. We help patients make the right decision for their needs.”

Year-round sun care

When it comes to the question of sun care’s seasonality, Vincent Maupu, brand director for La Roche-Posay, insists, “It is no longer only a spring and summer category, but rather year-round.”

Though most sun care sales in Canada are concentrated in a few warm months, Maupu points out that even the winter sun’s UV rays can damage the skin. “Pharmacists can educate their patients that sun protection is a year-round necessity. Sun care sales offer lots of room to grow,” he comments.

Innovation in sun care

Another key driver in the sun care category is innovation. Each year brings a host of new product launches and as the weather heats up, La Roche-Posay is breaking into the wearable electronics game with a stretchable skin sensor that tells wearers exactly how much UV exposure they’re getting. The heart-shaped “My UV Patch” is a thin sticker — half the thickness of a strand of hair. “When you apply it, it becomes like a second skin,” explains Maupu. “The patch is being given to patients at no cost by pharmacists and dermatologists, but it’s definitely not gimmicky.”

The patch can be applied anywhere on exposed skin, and sunscreen can be applied over it. A heart on the sticker comprises 16 different boxes that change colour when exposed to UV rays. The idea is that this information helps the wearer take preventive measures. It adjusts to the wearer’s skin type, is disposable and can be worn up to five days.

High SPFs are in

One the biggest trends in sun care is high SPF products. According to John Thompson, brand manager, sun care at Johnson & Johnson Inc., the makers of the Aveeno sun care and Neutrogena sunscreen lines, SPF products that are higher than 46 now represent about two-thirds of the mass sun care category. “And that grew by double-digits in 2015, outpacing growth of lower SPF sunscreens,” he says.

Over half of all mass sunscreen sales in 2015 (totalling more than $100 million) were through the drug channel. “Portable, easy-to-use formats made for travel are another growing trend,” notes Thompson, adding that Neutrogena’s new 42g Face and Body Stick Sunscreen (SPF 50) is designed to be purse and airport friendly (lotions under 100 mL in size).

Consumers like convenient formats

Convenience is a hallmark of the sun care category. Alex Grey, senior brand manager, Sun Care (the Coppertone line) for Bayer, states, “Products such as sticks and sprays that make it easy for the Canadian consumer to use sunscreen anywhere and anytime are in demand.” Grey cites data showing that the sun care category as a whole rose by three percent last year, but that the tanning-specific products (oils, for example) decreased by seven percent. “We are seeing more segmentation of products, targeted to specific audiences being clustered together, such as sun care for women or babies and children. Women are increasingly asking for products just for them. That’s why we developed our newest line, Clearly Sheer, designed with women’s needs in mind.”

Weyland expects this to be a sizzling year for sun care. “Everyone needs to apply some sun protection and do it more often…doing nothing is no longer an option.”


Top takeaways

  • Help your customers understand their skin types. Not all sun care products will work the same for everyone. Many people have pre-existing skin conditions.
  • Find out what Rx and OTCs your patients are taking. Meds can interact with sun care products, making them less effective.
  • Encourage year-round sun care product use. Even in the cooler months, skin can suffer from UV rays.
  • Set up both seasonal and year-round sun care displays. This category is full of innovation. Make sure your customers see and understand it.


Snapshot of the sun care category

38% of Canadians don’t reapply their sunscreen (Source: Sun Protection Canadian Usage & Attitudes Study IFOP, 2013).

Although sun protection should be applied every day even when it is rainy or snowy to avoid the UVA and UVB radiation, Canadian consumers are still lacking knowledge, and most of them will use sun care products only during sunny days (Source: Euromonitor Sun Care in Canada report, 2015).

Over 90% of Canadians use sunscreen and 83% of Canadians protect themselves from the sun (Source: La Roche-Posay & Ipsos study, 2015).

It is increasingly common for sun care products to include additional ingredients, such as palmitoyl tri-peptide-5, vitamin B3 and ginkgo biloba nut extract, to provide added value, especially regarding anti-aging (Source: Euromonitor Sun Care in Canada report, 2015).

As the multitasking beauty products gain more popularity, supported by the active product development and market strategy, there are growing numbers of skin care products as well as colour cosmetics products adding SPF properties (Source: Euromonitor Sun Care in Canada report, 2015).