Sunscreen revolution: Kiwi brand Skinnies says there’s ‘no going back’ from its waterless formulations

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Skinnies is pushing ahead with its international expansion. ©Skinnies
Skinnies is pushing ahead with its international expansion. ©Skinnies

Related tags Sun care New zealand waterless

New Zealand-based sun care brand Skinnies is pushing ahead with its international expansion in efforts to provide a waterless solution to the usability issues consumers face with conventional sunscreen.

The brand was founded in 2010 by Martha and Olly Van Arts, a couple with an active outdoor lifestyle that found using sunscreen a “horrible experience”.

“It was all about us solving the problem we disliked from our own consumer experience. We wanted to make a better alternative for us and our kids, one that would be efficient and effective, with less environmental impact,”​ said Martha Van Arts.

Van Arts, who has a background in science and environmental engineering, hypothesised that water-based formulations were ineffective.

“Typical sunscreens are made with 50% to 80% water need 20 minutes to dry while the water evaporates, and the film depth reduces by over half. Film formers can then re-emulsify with water or sweat so the sunscreen drips off.”

Over a period of two years, the couple worked with cosmetic chemists to develop Organogel, a waterless gel.

“The waterless Organogel is highly spreadable and forms a thin clear layer on top of your skin holding the UV actives in place. The way the UV filters are incorporated means they’re held in a uniform lattice structure as opposed to scattered in an emulsion It’s a completely new topical delivery mechanism for UV filters,”​ said Van Arts.

Formulating without water makes the formulation very concentrated and the company claims that a pea-sized amount is enough to cover the face, neck and ears.

Furthermore, it dries down quickly and is water-resistant. “Having a lipid-based formulation means it bonds to the top of your skin and the water beads off without interfering with the skin-gel bond… The gel also dries quickly and isn’t white or greasy,” ​said Van Arts.

Overcoming scepticism

Van Arts told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ that the biggest challenge the company continued to face is the consumers’ scepticism.

“People are so used to white, greasy, sticky sunscreen being the norm, coming out with a waterless formulation where less is more – where it’s essentially invisible and feels amazing on the skin – overcoming scepticism that it works has been our main challenge,” ​said Van Arts.

As such, the company ensures it can back up its claims with the help of clinical third-party testing.

“All the third-party laboratory testing and compliance is regulated for water-based sunscreens and Skinnies meet – and surpasses – all these regulations. The testing has subjective elements and while there are amendments to make the ISO procedures more impartial, only recently has testing become available to prove our pea-sized blob or less is more application,” ​said Van Arts.

She added that the company was currently waiting to test its products under a Hybrid Diffuse Reflectance Spectroscopy (HDRS) machine.

New markets to tap

Despite these hurdles, the business has been growing since it launched its first products, said Van Arts.

“Skinnies has grown a lot since our first summer in 2010 where we sold four times as much Skinnies as anticipated.”

The company has also expanded the business overseas to markets such as the US, Switzerland, and most recently Singapore.

These expansions are only the beginning for the brand and Van Arts believes there is a genuine need for its unique product.

She highlighted that during events and activations, consumers were often “blown away” ​by the unique texture of its sunscreens.

“Consumers are definitely seeking new textures and more innovative formulations. Skinnies is completely unique and quickly solves the problem that many people of all ages, skin types and nationalities dislike about sunscreen, so they are willing to try it and from that point, there’s really no going back.”

Moving forward, the company is also working on bringing new products with its Organogel technology to market.

“We’re excited to be bringing our next category out in body care very soon, with NPD already commenced on future categories that transfer the IP of the gel base into other exciting ranges.”

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