Reaching Potential Customers by Reviewing Untapped Sun Care: 4/5 of Japanese men do not know how to choose sunscreen

June 5, 2023

In May 2023, Kaori Kawabata, Beauty and Personal Care Analyst at Mintel, presented to the CITE JAPAN 2023 audience about suncare trends in Japan, specifically, comparing the Japanese and global markets and identifying future innovation opportunities for Japanese suncare brands.

Global Sun Care Market

The sun care market in 2020 was significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but in 2022 variations emerged across different regions,  with many countries showing a recovery trend. A comparison of the 10 leading countries’ 10-year market growth forecasts from 2018 to 2022, in terms of sales value, shows that China and the US are far ahead of the others.

Difference in purpose of use: UK and US for fear of skin cancer, Japan for cosmetic purposes 

According to the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), the Japanese sun care market in 2019 was concentrated on sunscreens; conversely, self-tanning accounted for half the market size of sunscreens in the UK.

According to Mintel research on current suncare trends in Japan, 60% of Japanese consumers surveyed use some form of sunscreen, which is lower than in the UK (71%) and the US (63%). This indicates that the purpose of sunscreen use differs between Japan and the UK and US.

While more than half of American and British consumers use sunscreen “to avoid skin cancer risk,” Japanese sunscreen users overwhelmingly say they use sunscreen “to prevent blemishes,” with low concern about skin cancer risk. This may be due to the ethnically low risk of skin cancer among the Japanese.

On the other hand, according to Mintel GNPD data, when looking at SPF values, which indicate UV-protection functions, the ratio of high SPF products is extremely high in Japan and South Korea, while it is not so high in Europe and the United States. It can be seen that preferences for sun care products differ greatly from country to country.

New product development in Japan leveraging untapped market opportunities

Kaori said, “With the upper limit of SPF value on the label and the lack of differentiation in this respect, I would like to point out two directions of product development that companies are focusing on. The first is to strengthen defensive functions, and the second is to strengthen cosmetic functions.”

With the Japanese sunscreen market matured and not expected to grow significantly in the near future, exploring the untapped suncare sector will lead to new business opportunities. Our consumer research reveals three key business opportunities for Japanese suncare brands. First, the main reason consumers are not using sunscreen is because they say it’s too much trouble, revealing an opportunity for brands to consider different formats and packaging to facilitate easy application and transportation. Second,  consumers say they want to be tanned as long as it does not harm the skin or body. This highlights an opportunity for self-tanning products in the Japanese market. Finally,  Japanese consumers are interested in minimizing damage from sunburn with after suncare products, creating an opening for brands to support after suncare product usage. 

Product Development for Japanese Men

Mintel research shows that a third (36%) of Japanese men use sunscreen, less than half the number of women (85%), indicating that there is a lot of room for new product innovation. The reason for this low usage rate can be attributed to the limited knowledge men possess about the suncare category (do not know how to choose 79%, do not know how to use 74%).

Kaori explained, “Our research indicates that many Japanese men understand the disadvantages of sunburns but do not know how to choose or use suncare products. This presents Japanese suncare brands with innovation and marketing opportunities to target the male suncare consumer, incorporating education and usage benefits into messaging.”

Long-Term Environmental Consideration

Finally, Kaori  touched on environmental consideration for the suncare category.

“In response to external factors such as the development of environmentally friendly laws, the Japanese sunscreen market has seen an increase in claims related to environmental friendliness over the past two years, according to Mintel GNPD data. A similar trend can be seen in South Korea, but there has been no significant change in China or Thailand. We expect this trend to further spread in Japan, as well as across Asia in the future. Although it will take time to become more environmentally conscious, it is a global effort, and consumer attitudes are expected to change, so long-term business opportunities can be expected.”

Kaori Kawabata
Kaori Kawabata

Associate Director, Research, Beauty and Personal Care, Japan

Kaori has experiences of working for beauty and marketing research industries. In beauty field, she developed both domestic and overseas market and her specialty was providing brand/product trainings. In research field, she worked in global teams, supporting world leading sports apparel/footwear brands. She likes to support clients by providing seminar and presentation.


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