When Vacation sunscreen co-founders Lach Hall and Dakota Green were working remotely in Mexico a few years ago, slathered in SPF and sipping pina coladas poolside, they wondered why sunscreen was so boring given that the environments it’s used in are anything but. “That was the catalyst,” says Hall over Zoom from Miami against the backdrop of a pool. “And from there we looked into the category and realized that sunscreen did actually used to be a hell of a lot more fun in the ’80s, ’70s, ’60s and ’50s.” Once the ’90s hit and the dangers of tanning started to become more apparent, the industry shifted. “The products and the messaging became a lot more clinical.”

Knowing that these days most people are dutiful about protecting their skin, they created Vacation in 2019 and marketed the brand with a throwback ’80s aesthetic. “Our version of that fun [product] is what we call ‘leisure-enhancing sunscreen,’” says Hall. “Our personal Instagram feeds and our wardrobes look very similar to the Vacation [aesthetic], so we’ve actually been living in this world.” (The brand brought on the third founder and fellow ’80s enthusiast, Marty Bell, in 2020.)

They wanted Vacation to be a transportive experience, taking users to an all-inclusive resort. To do that, they enlisted perfumers Carlos Huber and Rodrigo Flores-Roux, who developed a scent that includes notes of swimsuit Lycra, pool water, coconut, banana and bergamot. The packaging—from the fonts to the colours to the textures—evokes the ’80s. Beyond the Classic Lotion, there’s Baby Oil (a nod to the way people used to coat themselves in it to tan) and Classic Whip, which dispenses like whipped cream, a dessert staple of the era. Their most recent launch is Orange Gelée, a reimagined version of Bain de Soleil’s tanning product of the same name, which was discontinued in 2019. “We thought, ‘Someone should bring that back—why not us?’” says Hall. It had a 15,000-person wait-list shortly after it was announced last fall.

Vacation Baby Oil SPF 30, $29

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Over in Australia, Ava Chandler and Rebecca Jefferd felt a similar impetus when they conceived their sunscreen brand, Ultra Violette, which launched in Canada this past spring. They met at beauty retailer Mecca and saw that though the Australian government was diligent about national campaigns around sun safety, messaging to the beauty customer was lacking. “I thought, ‘Why are we doing a retinol campaign and not telling people that they need to buy sunscreen?’” says Chandler. “That beauty customer I saw at Mecca wasn’t really being told that they need to wear [sunscreen] every day.”

The challenge they saw with existing sunscreens was that aside from the product feeling like a chore to apply, it also felt very basic and functional. Their goal was to make theirs a premium product that works well under makeup, has a beautiful texture and is also fun. Their initial formulas were made by a chemist who is a woman and therefore better understood the need to test the sunscreens under makeup as well as in tandem with any other skincare consumers might be using.

Chandler and Jefferd launched Ultra Violette online in 2019 with three sunscreens in Yves Klein-blue tubes with neon-pastel text—the colours are a nod to the packaging of the zinc sticks applied to Aussie kids by their parents. They offer both mineral and chemical formulas as well as various textures, including a light cream, a lotion and a fluid called Queen Screen that’s similar to sunscreens found in Asia. “It has a watery kind of finish,” says Chandler. “It’s great for humid climates or people who don’t like the feeling of sunscreen.” But their hero product is Supreme Screen, which they’ve never reformulated. “We have a lot of customers who use it as a three-in-one moisturizer, SPF and primer,” says Chandler. “It makes your makeup last longer, and you can get away with wearing it as the only thing on your face if you are a bit of a lo-fi person.”

Ultra Violette Supreme Hydrating Facial Screen SPF 50, $48.50

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Speaking of makeup, Supergoop!, an American sunscreen brand launched by Holly Thaggard in 2007, makes SPF-spiked makeup—and not the usual SPF-15 foundation, which doesn’t provide enough protection. Glowscreen SPF 40, a bestseller, acts as a makeup primer, is tinted for a bit of sheer coverage and includes niacinamide and hyaluronic acid for skincare benefits. “We want to infuse SPF into existing skincare and makeup routines,” says Thaggard. “Our goal is for our customers to have a full face of makeup with SPF that is seamless to apply.”

Like the previously mentioned founders, Thaggard was prompted to make sunscreen more wearable after noticing that most were “icky, sticky and pasty and only associated with the summer months.” She also understood that the language around it needed to change. “I knew that I wanted the brand’s voice to be playful in order to [be able to] educate people without instilling fear—it was this idea of being ‘serious with a smile’ that really came through in how we talked about all things SPF.”

For the founders of Vacation, a real test of their product’s success was whether customers would actually pose with their sunscreen. “To our delight, we get on average five million earned views a week on TikTok from people posting content about our products,” says Hall. “And [we’ve had] something like 200,000 Instagram mentions in the past few years. And this is [from] all demographics—[including] guys, which we get a kick out of since they’ve been notoriously bad about wearing sunscreen.”

The reframing of sunscreen seems to be changing negative consumer relationships with it, much to the delight of dermatologists. “They just love the fact that we’re actually making something that’s fashionable and fun and enjoyable,” says Hall. “Something to look forward to that’s not a chore.”

Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40, $52