Online sunscreen purchases: Impact of product characteristics and marketing claims

Giselle Prado, Ashley E. Ederle, Shawhin R.K. Shahriari, Ryan M. Svoboda, Aaron S. Farberg, Darrell S. Rigel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Sunscreens, unlike prescription medications, are purchased by consumers directly from retailers. The proportion of online sunscreen sales is increasing. It is therefore important for dermatologists to know what factors influence online sunscreen purchases to optimize appropriate recommendations. Methods: Data on the top 100 best-selling sunscreens from an online retailer were collected. Variables included cost, formulation, product claims, ingredients, consumer ratings, and number of reviews. Ordinal logistic regression was used to analyze the impact of collected variables on position on the best-seller list. Results: Ninety-six of the 100 search results could be defined as actual sunscreens with a total of 41 788 reviews. The median price per ounce was $3.02 (range $0.34-$309.18). The most popular formulations were lotions. The most common unregulated claim was “non-greasy” found in 57.3% of sunscreens. For 26 unregulated product claims analyzed, the mean number of claims per sunscreen was 5.2. Using an ordinal regression model, the following factors were found to significantly influence sunscreen sales: number of reviews, the claim “decreases the risk of skin cancer and early aging,” and the presence of six or more unregulated claims. Conclusions: Multiple sunscreen options exist for consumers with varying price points, active ingredients, and formulations. Consumers who purchase online prefer sunscreens with a higher number of reviews and more unregulated marketing claims. FDA-regulated claims such as “decreases the risk of skin cancer and early aging” are not as impactful in this purchasing cohort. To facilitate usage, dermatologists should be cognizant of factors that influence sunscreen selection among this group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-343
Number of pages5
JournalPhotodermatology Photoimmunology and Photomedicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • marketing claims
  • online purchasing
  • sunscreen


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