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Increase in Sale of Sunscreen and Tanning Products Reported

April 15, 1986|BOB SIPCHEN

In the past 10 years, dozens of new sunscreens and tan-promoting products have been battling for shelf space in supermarkets and pharmacies. According to Charles H. Kline & Co. Inc., a New York market research and consulting firm, retail sales for three categories of products--tanning products, quick tan and after-sun-exposure products, and sunscreens and sunblocks--were about $350 million last year. (Other industry estimates put the figure around $200 million.)

Although tan-promoting products are still the biggest sellers, sales of sunscreens and sunblocks are increasing at twice the rate of the rest of the market, a Kline spokesman said.

As the industry defines them, sunscreens are products with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 5 or higher, while sunblocks have an SPF of 15 or above. Simply stated, SPF is the added amount of time it takes for a person of a given skin type to receive a minimum sunburn with a product.

The Food and Drug Administration, working with the industry, is currently developing a report which will define and regulate sunscreens and sunblocks. The FDA is recommending a standardized scale, which would list products only as SPF 2, 4, 6, 8, or 15, and no higher. "As I understand it, 15 allows no sun penetration," said a spokesman at the FDA. As for the growing crop of products that advertise SPFs as high as 30, he said, "Apparently that's like having something that's blacker than black."

There is, however, some contention about that scale. Dr. Kays Kaidbey, an adjunct associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, said that because a product's SPF is tested under artificial conditions, the numbers "are a bit on the high side, adding that "a total block does not exist yet."

For a product to be effective, it must stay on, dermatologists point out. Several companies are closely guarding formulas which they contend will keep a product effective after as much as 80 minutes of swimming. Other companies are talking about adding vitamins to their products.

And while researchers are fretting over ways to make their products invisible, the hot trend for next summer may be a throwback to the old days, when surfers and lifeguards could be identified by the white zinc oxide smeared on their noses. A company called Ambassador Enterprises in Gardena is marketing zinc oxide in various bright shades, under the name Zinka, a product that appears to be catching on with the under-21 surf crowd.

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