5 Big Issues When Developing Sunscreens

There is no doubt that prolonged sun exposure leads to premature ageing of the skin and can cause some skin cancers. Reducing one’s exposure to the sun not only provides anti-ageing protection, but also reduces the risk of developing certain types of skin cancers over a lifetime.




Products with sunscreens as a secondary function are becoming more commonplace, while primary sunscreen products now promote very high SPF ratings to offer consumers greater sun protection when applied properly. However, the development of sunscreens is not as simple as developing other basic skin care products… there are additional costs involved during development, efficacy and stability testing, additional time needed for development and to allow for the testing conducted, multi-country compliance requirements, and aesthetic and stability requirements which must be met.

Here are some FREE videos you might also find helpful if considering developing a sunscreen for your brand:

This report looks at 5 Big Issues When Developing Sunscreens so you can be properly informed and aware of just why developing sunscreens is such a complex and time-consuming exercise!


Big Issue #1: Regulatory issues

Unlike basic skin care products, sunscreen products are regulated differently in different countries around the world, and their labelling and registration requirements differ also. This means it is difficult to create a multi-country compliant sunscreen formula, and even more difficult to create a multi-country compliant label.

Some countries view sunscreens as cosmetics while others view them as quasi-drugs or drugs. Some UV filters are permitted in some countries and not in others; and many common UV filters have different input limits in different countries as well.

No matter where you are planning to sell your sunscreen product, you will need to get its local compliance checked before putting it on the market to ensure your product, its labelling and the way you want to market it are compliant.


Big issue #2: Additional time

Getting the right skin feel from your allowed and desired ingredients can be challenging with UV filters – uncoated powders generally feel quite chalky, while oil soluble agents can leave you with a product that feels too greasy. Extra time will be spent in the formulation development stage to get the formula feeling the way you want it, and then it can proceed to the next stage… development of a suitable formula and samples to suit your brief can realistically take up to 3 months.

Before you can put your sunscreen product on the market, you will need to have established its SPF using country-appropriate testing; and you will need to have established its shelf life by conducting at least 6 months accelerated stability testing on the finished product in its final packaging. This testing requires pilot batches of product to be made which can also be held up by waiting for raw materials to arrive… waiting for raw materials and a pilot batch can realistically take around 12 weeks (or sometimes more); and then you have to wait for SPF results and favourable stability results. This stage can realistically take around 9 – 10 months, and you haven’t even had any commercial product manufactured yet!

Big issue #3: Additional costs

Extra development and the uniqueness of a formula will cost more than a basic skin care product - but this is just the tip of the iceberg compared to SPF testing costs, especially if you are having product tested to suit multiple countries AND water resistance. Don’t forget you also have Preservative Efficacy Testing costs, stability testing costs (including assays for Therapeutic Goods/Drug products) and regulatory costs associated with listing/registering the product to various country requirements. You also need to consider multi-country labels and packaging, and the cost of manufacturing the product itself. All of these additional costs can add significantly to up-front costs, especially when you are realistically looking at a good 12 – 18 months from the concept date to actually get product manufactured and then out to market (if all goes well!)

Having a sunscreen in a product range is highly desirable for a lot of brands; just make sure you are aware of the costs involved before you start on the process so you are aware of what you will be up for along the way.


Big issue #4: Stability

Formulating stable sunscreens with a high SPF that actually feel nice can be challenging. The higher the SPF required, the more UV filters that must be used… the more UV filters that are used, the less ‘room’ there is in the formula for aesthetically pleasing ingredients and even less ‘room’ there is to incorporate stability enhancing factors.

Your sunscreen needs to have good stability – it needs to demonstrate a consumer accepted shelf life of at least 2 years (or preferably more) otherwise you could have product being sent back, or worse, resulting in a product recall, if it becomes unstable. You need to have at least accelerated stability data to support your shelf life BEFORE you put product onto the market. This is a requirement in many countries but also makes good commercial sense – these products are generally inherently unstable because of the quantity of UV filters used and an unstable sunscreen is as worthless as not using one at all. Putting consumer safety at risk by not conducting at least accelerated stability testing is putting your company at risk of a recall and litigation… so allow a suitable budget and time for development of a good, stable formula and accelerated stability testing. Stability testing, like regulatory compliance, should be seen as a necessary cost of normal development – the costs of ensuring compliance are not that big compared to the alternative - there is nothing cheap about a product recall.


Big issue #5: Aesthetics

Getting the product to look, feel and smell the way you want it to can be difficult. It can be made even harder when you don’t want to use certain types of UV filters and have strict company rules about what can and can’t be used in the finished product e.g. organic or natural ingredient philosophies. Some features of these products, for example, 4 hours water resistance, may simply not be achievable if you won’t allow the formulator to use the types of ingredients that are necessary to achieve this.

Suitable aesthetics can often be achieved but there may be times where your ideal simply isn’t achievable because of ingredient restrictions, regulatory requirements, stability requirements and/or your company philosophy. Make sure you work with your formulator to resolve the issues that can be resolved and you may need to rethink those which can’t. There is an ever increasing number of aesthetic and stability enhancing materials available; good innovation could give you what you are looking for in the finished product with just a little more development time.



The Institute of Personal Care Science can teach you how to develop your sunscreen formula, ensuring regulatory compliance in various countries and co-ordinating stability. Thanks to our Certificate in Advanced Cosmetic Science or Diploma in Personal Care Formulations, learn how to formulate the right way specific to your needs at a time and place that suits you – ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

Our Diploma of Personal Care Formulation (course code 10788NAT)  is the most comprehensive training, on completion you are a Qualified Cosmetic Chemist; this is the best choice if you are looking for a job in the industry or if you have your own brand and want to be a qualified Cosmetic Chemist.

Our Certificate in Advanced Cosmetic Science is a rapid, professional level training (cosmeceutical and salon products) ideal for focused training in Cosmetic Science or for your own brand where you don’t need to call yourself a Cosmetic Chemist but still want true professional level training.

Contact us for more information: info@personalcarescience.com.au