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Are You Screaming for This Whipped Cream Sunscreen?

HealthAre You Screaming for This Whipped Cream Sunscreen?

Last week, on a family vacation at a resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., Alexa Johnson grabbed a canister containing a substance that looked like whipped cream, felt like whipped cream and made the same whooshing sound as whipped cream. But it wasn’t whipped cream at all. It was sunscreen.

Her children, 9 and 6, immediately extended their hands, then smeared generous helpings all over their arms and legs.

“It looked ridiculous,” said Ms. Johnson, a 37-year-old brand consultant who lives in Seattle. “We were all laughing.”

That is sort of the point. Marty Bell, a partner at Vacation, a sunscreen company based in Miami, which released Classic Whip sunscreen in August 2022, said the idea came out of a brainstorming session that wandered onto the topic of foods.

“We couldn’t stop laughing at the idea of a whipped cream sunscreen,” he said. “There’s something incredibly nostalgic and playful about whipped cream,” he said, adding that the team “became determined to find a way to replicate that whole experience with sunscreen.”

Applying sunscreen can be a laborious summertime chore, especially for parents trying to corral kids, a cohort notorious for their objections to sun protection. Brands like Supergoop, EVY Technology and Vacation have each produced a mousse product that aims to put fun in the sun(screen).

Every summer, such a product seems to have a moment on social media. Last August, Kim Kardashian anointed Classic Whip, which retails for $22 a bottle, “insane”; videos mentioning the product still rack up five million views a week on TikTok, according to Vacation. (In some of the more absurd videos, people can be seen trying to eat it — something you absolutely shouldn’t do, Mr. Bell said.)

Holly Thaggard, the founder of Supergoop, which began to sell a mousse sunscreen in 2017, said it’s essential to make applying sunscreen something people want to do.

“We need more people to find this fun, playful spirit in an activity that is saving the world from cancer,” she said.

Indeed, the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, a risk that can be reduced by wearing sunscreen.

“The mousse sunscreens are a novel formulation of the past three or four years, and they’ve kind of gone viral. The whipped one especially gets a lot of hype,” said Dr. Sheilagh Maguiness, a pediatric dermatologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “Anything that is novel that will make people use sunscreen and get excited about it is a win.”

She added that this is especially true with teenagers, who have been subjected to a great deal of misinformation about sunscreen and skin cancer.

“I think this is great for them,” Dr. Maguiness said.

With spray-on sunscreens, “you don’t know exactly how much is going on your skin,” Dr. Maguiness said. But many people rub mousse in fully. The downside, however, is that it can be tricky to know how much to use. “The mousse isn’t quite as thick as cream or lotion, so it can be hard to tell how much you need to get on to get that protection.” She said to consult the bottle for guidance.

Ms. Thaggard of Supergoop said she had gotten the idea for a whipped sunscreen after watching her children at a party. “I was sitting there watching these kids cover themselves in shaving cream, thinking it was the most fun activity ever,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘If only this could be sunscreen, no one would ever get sunburned.’”

Many of the popular mousse sunscreens, including Vacation’s and Supergoop’s, are chemical sunscreens, not mineral sunscreens, the former of which can raise environmental red flags, Dr. Maguiness said. “Chemical sunscreens have their own baggage to carry these days because there are some of them that are not considered reef safe.”

Douglas Jessmer, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the most important thing an environmentally conscious consumer can do is check the ingredients in any chemical sunscreen to determine if any of them harm marine life; a list of those ingredients can be found on the National Ocean Service’s website.

Jennifer Brady, 36, a publicist who lives in Brooklyn, felt very popular on the beach of East Hampton, N.Y., last weekend when she tried her whipped cream sunscreen for the first time: “People came up to me and were like, ‘What is this? Can I try it?’”

She said the experience had made her reflect on how far sun protection has come.

“In the early 2000s, people were addicted to their tanning beds,” she said. “Now, we have this product that isn’t just going to protect me from a sunburn, but it also looks cool and attracts attention.”

In summary, Ms. Brady said, “it gives off a vibe.”

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