More ecoconscious, more careful with ingredients, more protective of the environment… today’s consumers have quickly changed expectations. And as they are faced with this new equation, i.e. provide more performance with cleaner and cleaner formulas, brands and laboratories constantly look for more innovation, in particular as regards UV filters, key elements in these formulas.

There are two UV filter families: chemical and mineral filters. But they both involve constraints,” explains Ludivine Burlot, R&D Director of Laboratoire Shadeline, specialized in the formulation of dermocosmetics and sun products.

Two of the most common chemical filters are controversial. “Brands ask us to develop formulas without using these controversial materials, if possible, i.e. octocrylene and OMC (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate or Octyl methoxycinnamate), because they are the most disparaged chemical filters for being endocrine disruptors, although they are authorized by regulations,” confirms Justine Alexandre, Marketing Project Manager of Alpol Cosmétique.

Formulation: a real headache

To cope with this constraint, formulators have been working on alternatives in line with a protective efficacy objective. “There are other filters available, but they are more expensive, because they are more recent, and we have been studying different combinations mainly focused on efficacy, but also on the naturalness aspect. Sometimes it is preferable to choose a better SPF over naturalness, because protection is the main criterion. Guaranteeing a satisfactory SPF is a priority for us,” adds the Alpol Cosmétique expert.

Providing efficient, natural, healthy protection also requires using mineral filters, provided they are free from any nanoparticles, a category consumers are wary about.

However, these mineral filters tend to offer less sensoriality. As they are very heavy, the titanium and zinc molecules used create a white colour on the skin, which is difficult to prevent without compromising on naturalness.

Non-nano mineral filters are those that best meet the naturalness, efficacy, and safety demand. White traces are inherent to them, but thanks to our expertise, we can formulate products with pleasant, easy-to-spread textures. And it is also possible to incorporate chemical filters that leave no doubt. They are not all bad,” explains Ludivine Burlot.

So, for now, the consensus would involve a combination of non-controversial chemical filters and mineral filters.

The environmental issue

The will to minimize the impact of products on aquatic environments adds even more difficulty. This recent, but strong consumer expectation is now driving innovation.

Given the ever-increasing demand, in 2015, Alpol Cosmétique set up a research and innovation group on sun care, which identified three main ocean-friendly principles: reinforced waterproofness, so that the formula does not flow into the ocean, biodegradable formulas, and fewer endocrine disruptor residues likely to cause fish feminization.

Within this context, the brand SeventyOnePercent created ten years ago by two surfers, Raphaël Vannier and Marc Levy, develops environmentally friendly, technical sun products adapted to their sport.

We wanted to go natural, but not to the detriment of sun protection,” explains Raphaël Vannier. Initially, the brand entered the surf market with a small range of water-resistant products free from any controversial filters, based on a very pragmatic principle: products “which stay on the skin instead of ending up in the water”.

In 2018, the range was reformulated based on new technical advances and adapted to the general public. “Our definition of clean beauty makes us constantly question ourselves. There is no such thing as a perfect product. If you introduce a foreign body to the ocean, it is hard to say there will be no impact. So, we minimize our products dissolving in water by making them hyper-water-resistant,” adds Raphaël Vannier.

New developments combining organic and mineral filters are anhydrous products or oily formulas based on a rational choice of filters. “We endeavour to use as few filters as possible in our formulas, while providing an SPF50+. We aim to offer the best-adapted product at a given time,” says the co-founder.

With ten references, reinforced distribution, an online store and a strong presence on Instagram, SeventyOnePercent is pretty successful. The products are 80% to 100% natural and available in three shades: invisible, white (surfers/sportsmen are not bothered at all by this effect) or coloured (more playful for children).

Our success is due to the fact that we deal with this issue in a different way, playing on transparency in our messages. We do not pretend to make the best product, but we try to offer the best-adapted. We also need to adopt less inhibited communication to keep enjoying our time in the sun as a moment of pleasure,” says Raphaël Vannier.

Fewer filters?

As there are no “ideal” alternatives to sun filters, laboratories have been working on reducing their quantity for the same result. For example, in collaboration with the other laboratories of the Anjac Health & Beauty group, which they belong to, Laboratoire Shadeline has been working on a patented natural molecular complex: SPF Boost. This complex of natural ingredients multiplies the power of chemical and mineral filters to reduce the quantity used, without compromising on the efficacy of an SPF50+ formula, while preserving great sensoriality. Laboratoires Shadeline, Sicaf, and Innovi, the ingredient’s inventor, are still in the development phase, but SPF Boost should be marketed this year.

“Because it involves a public health issue, sun protection is getting more and more widely used everywhere in our environment, even on a daily basis. So, filters should not be the only answer to protection. We need to adopt new habits. We have also been working on filter-free formulas, which will take more time,” concludes Ludivine Burlot.