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Formulating for the Chinese consumer - The science of sun care formulation development

When it come to the design of sun protection products for the Chinese consumer, formulators face a unique challenge; to create high performance, multi-functional formulations with superior cosmetic elegance, whilst adhering to stringent regulatory requirements that are continually evolving.

To assist formulators in meeting the challenges they face in developing new sun care and skin care products for the China market, we have created a new brochure to help guide your sun care formulation development. This blog explores some of the key considerations, including selection of the most suitable sunscreen UV filter and emulsion delivery systems. Read on to learn more!
solar formulating for china happy women outside sunlight in background
Sun care is the one of the fastest growing sectors of the global personal care market, with increased awareness of skin cancer and skin aging caused by UV radiation. Sun protection products are evolving and UV protection claims are now often incorporated into many other types of personal care products, such as daily skin care and colour cosmetics, in a bid to deliver complete skin protection all year round.

Chinese consumers are increasingly aware of the possible harmful elements of sunlight, as well as light sources from indoor lighting, and the impact that this can have on their skin health. In addition to UV rays from the sun, consumers now look for products that can protect their skin against High Energy Visible (HEV) light, often referred to as blue light, and infrared radiation, all of which are implicated as contributors to photoaging and long-term damage to the skin. This has led to demands for broad-spectrum and holistic solutions that address the daily needs of different lifestyles.

The expectations of Chinese consumers for sun protection products include:

High performance – efficient and improved sun protection with high SPF and UVA protection

Long-lasting protection – reduces the frequency of re-application

Sensory and aesthetics – a transparent formulation with a light, non-greasy after feel is essential

Ease of use – focus on convenience with products that are portable and easy to reapply, such as sticks or spray formats

Multi-functional skin care – daily wear products must incorporate SPF claims as well as additional benefits, such as pollution protection, moisturisation, anti-aging, brightening and suitability for sensitive skin

New consumer groups that are seeking differentiated solar protection products have also emerged and are expanding rapidly:

On the go – additional protection against environmental pollutants and aggressors, with portable formats that are convenient and easy to re-apply

Male – gender-specific products that cater to individual needs, particularly for men where daily sun protection compliance is generally low

Baby and child – mild and safe products that are compliant with China’s specific regulatory requirements

Skin concerns – solutions for sensitive and irritated skin, with multi-functional products that can both soothe and protect the skin

When designing sun protection products to meet the expectations of the Chinese consumer, there are a number of considerations to make in terms of formulation design.

Selecting your UV Filters

UV filters are at the heart of every sun protection product, so the first decision for the formulator is whether to use organic or inorganic UV filters, or a combination of both. This decision can be influenced by:
Regulatory considerations
Efficacy of the UV actives
Desired sensory of the final formulations

Organic vs Inorganic

Although organic, or chemical, UV filters have long been utilised in sunscreen products due to their efficiency and transparency on the skin, China has witnessed a rise in demand for inorganic, also known as physical or mineral, UV filters, which includes ingredients such as Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide. This is due to their positive connotations in relation to safety and mildness, making them ideal choices for people with sensitive skin or products designed for babies and children.

Titanium dioxide has traditionally provided mainly UVB attenuation, and combined with its historical reputation of whitening on the skin, it was not usually favoured as a single UV active in a sunscreen formulation. However, technology advancements in recent years has led to new generation Titanium dioxide UV filters available on the market that make transparent, mineral only, high SPF and broad spectrum protection products a reality. The Solaveil Clarus CT range includes dispersions and powders that offer excellent transparency on the skin whilst maintaining SPF efficacy, thanks to their smaller, optimised particle size. Solaveil CT-200 offers a light skin feel in formulation, perfect for daily wear products. Where additional UVA protection is required, the Solaveil SpeXtra XT range is the ideal choice. This range of ingredients can be more whitening on the skin due to a wider particle size distribution, so are more suited to colour cosmetic formulations where transparency is not essential. Solaveil XT-40W is one example and can be combined with iron oxides or effect pigments to provide skin coverage without the need for pigmentary titanium dioxide.

Zinc oxide can offer broad spectrum protection across not only UVA, but also UVB regions. Smaller particle sizes are widely used in sun and skin care products, as these offer the added benefit of transparency when applied to the skin. Solaveil Clarus CZ dispersions, such as Solaveil CZ-300, perfectly fit this market need. For customers looking for larger particle sizes, Croda offers the Solaveil MicNo range which is based on patented platelet-shaped particles that maintain formulation transparency, one such product is Solaveil MZ3-300.

Combining UV filters

It is possible to utilise inorganic filters in both phases of an emulsion to maximise. Our Solaveil Clarus Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide dispersions are a great combination to achieve optimum SPF and UVA efficacy, whilst maintaining excellent transparency on the skin.

Inorganic UV filters can also be combined with organic UV filters to achieve high SPF performance. By exploiting this synergy to create a biphasal formulation, higher solids loading can be achieved, with less interaction with organic UV filters. Aqueous Titanium dioxide dispersions such as Solaveil CT-12W can be a great option when included in the water phase as they will not interact with organic UV filters included in the oil phase. This also allows the oil phase to be optimised by the formulator to provide the skin feel of choice and optimise the solubility of actives, such as solid organic UV filters.

Emulsion delivery system

Emulsions, whether lotions, creams or sprays, are the most common format for solar protection products, as they offer the best rheology to form a good film on the skin. They allow oily products to be applied to the skin in an elegant manner, as well as incompatible ingredients to be formulated together. Emulsions offer formulation flexibility as the viscosity, skin feel, and appearance can easily be modified depending on the emulsion type used.

Water-in-oil (W/O) emulsions can offer more efficient UV performance due to their ability to form a more consistent film on the skin. This type of emulsion can deliver a heavier, richer sensory experience, which is perhaps more suited to people with drier skin types with added moisturisation benefits.

Oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions allow for greater formulation flexibility and deliver lighter aesthetics, which is perfect for daily wear skin protection products.

Water-in-silicone (W/Si) emulsions are a popular choice in Asia due to their ability to create light and low viscosity formulations that are easy to apply and pleasant to wear.

I have covered just some of the main considerations when designing sun protection products for the China market, but there are a number of other important aspects to consider in the design of your formulation:

Regulatory landscape – sunscreen products are classed as special cosmetics in China and as such need to be registered with the NMPA (National Medical Products Administration) who regulate cosmetic products before the product can enter the China market. There are also specific requirements for testing SPF and UVA efficacy, and for products designed for babies and children.

Rheology and film formation – achieving optimum performance in a sunscreen formulation requires the UV filters to be distributed as evenly as possible over the skin surface, which is heavily dependant on the formulation rheology and film forming properties, so considering how additional ingredients will impact the rheological behaviour of your formulation is essential.

Water resistance – this is a key requirement to ensure maximum and long lasting protection from the sun.

Sensory and aesthetics – consumer experience upon first application of a sunscreen plays a key role in the perception of the quality and efficacy of the product. Compliance amongst consumers varies greatly in terms of re-application, so ensuring a sunscreen is pleasant to apply and wear is essential, particularly for daily wear or hybrid colour cosmetic products

Our solar experts have collated an in depth look into the science of sun defence, specifically focussed on the unique requirements of the China market. Whether you are a new formulator in China looking for guidance on your latest sun care formulation development, or you are looking for more insight into the requirements of the Chinese market and consumer, download a copy of our new brochure now to learn more and discover our top formulating tips. 

The science of solar protection - Formulating for China brochure

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