Sales are soaring with the trend to higher factors says Sarah Hardcastle Consumers are finally starting to get the message about the importance of protecting themselves from the sun's harmful rays. 

This can be seen in the massive 21.8% rise in the £140.5m suncare market in the last year and in the areas which are growing the fastest ­ high factor sun protection and self-tanning products. Product manager Gayle Harrison of market leader Ambre Solaire says the trend is to higher factors with factor 15 and above now accounting for over 60% of the market, though factor 8 (and less) remain popular lines. 

Leading budget brand Malibu reports sales of its factor 15-30 products rising 28% in the last year, while its factor 8-12 lines have grown less strongly at 14%. But the biggest uplift has been in factor 30 and above for kids ­ Malibu's factor 30 kids product rising 46% ­ as parents become increasingly aware of the importance of adequately protecting young skins. 

Coloured products have become very popular because they are fun for kids to apply and show parents areas that have ­ and haven't ­ been covered. Nivea says its children's range grew 107% in 2001 largely due to the success of its vibrant green Coloured Spray SPF30. A factor 20 version has been launched for this season. 

Looking at overall trends, sprays are gaining ground because of their convenience. Nivea says its sprays range increased 62% last year. Creams are declining as better textures become available, while sun milks still account for two thirds of the market. 

The other big development is the introduction of additional benefits, such as sun moisturisers with firming to improve skin elasticity, sun protection with anti-ageing properties, and aftersun balms with insect repellents and self-tanning ingredients to extend a natural tan's lifespan. RoC brand manager Andrew Roberts says skincare technology is increasingly being used in suncare to create a new generation of products. Its Minesol range, for example, has enhanced stay-on properties so products are less easily rubbed off and are active for longer and leave less residue on the skin so they can be used under make-up. In this buoyant market, innovation is rife, with lots of new lines appearing this season. Nivea's includes sun protectors with anti-ageing and firming, and aftersuns with insect repellent and tan prolonging properties. Ambre Solaire has three new ultra-light, low factor milks, a high factor protection spray, and an aftersun going into store this month. And Malibu has new budget priced factor 30 protection lotion and an insect repellent spray. Simple has introduced new sun protectors in five factors up to 50, plus aftersun available exclusively at Boots. 

Also competing for shelf space will be Banta, a new range of non-greasy sun lotions and gels in funky packaging targeted at the youth market from Faulding Consumer UK. The supplier hopes to repeat the brand's success in Australia where it has gained 13% share in under two years. And Trustin Unimerchantd is extending Banana Boat, claimed to be the second largest US brand, with a new line of high factor sprays for kids and adults. Though suncare may be doing well, its performance pales into insignificant compared to the runaway success of self-tanning which soared 55% last year [TNS Superpanel] and looks set to do even better this year. 

Piz Buin marketing manager Paul Linton says sales increased 20% in the first quarter of 2002. "It's being fuelled by the fashion for tanned skin, fears about sunbathing, and the dramatic improvement in these products. Used correctly, modern self-tanners can produce a really natural looking tan." Self-tanners are being rapidly added to every brand's range, the latest being the new aerosol No Streaks Bronzer from Ambre Solaire, and Piz Buin's revamped and extended Self Tan range.