While the 2005 figure was a new high, the category has been up and down for several years now, with sales at $72 million in 2002, $66 million in '03 and $68 million in '04, according to the ACNielsen data.
The researcher attributes the decline in part to consumers' confusion over safety issues. Most sunless products use DHA (dihydroxyacetone) as their coloring agent, and although the FDA has declared the chemical safe for topical application, the risks of inhaling it while using spray-on products are unknown.
On the other hand, sales may also be "migrating to department stores, specialty shops, salons and even [Wal-Mart]," notes Phil Lempert, in the Food Marketing Institute's Facts, Figures & the Future newsletter.
Certainly, the number and types of sunless products continues to multiply with every passing month.
Since Johnson & Johnson created the new niche of self-tanning moisturizers in May 2005 with the launch of its immediately successful Holiday Skin, both major and secondary brands have launched their own variations. These products tan slowly over time and repeated application, and therefore tend to have lower DHA levels--advantageous for achieving a streak-free effect, as well as perhaps reassuring health-conscious consumers.
Moisturizer-cum-tanner brands such as Neutrogena Summer Glow are helping to keep J&J's own Neutrogena division in the lead within the overall self-tanning category, with a total market share of nearly 24% across its sunless offerings as of last year, according to Euromonitor International data. Dove, Olay and Clarins launched entries in the combination product niche during the past two years, and in recent months, Banana Boat, Au Courant and countless others have thrown their hats in the ring.
New sunless innovations keep coming. L'Oreal's Dermo-Expertise Sublime Bronze products, which exfoliate as well as tan, came on strong after its launch in 2004, and had a 16.6% share as of last year, according to EI.
Many of the sunless launches in the last year, in particular, have fruit or other natural essences to cater to consumers' growing interest in healthier, more environmentally friendly ingredients. (One example: Chanel's Soleil Identite, which includes White Lilly moisturizing extracts.)
Sunless products for men, such as Nivea for Men Summer Look, are also proliferating.
Recent sales swings for the overall category clearly aren't deterring marketers.
Further, while the category may see some slowing of the initial spurt in growth now that the novelty factor is cooling a bit, growth will still be very, very healthy, thanks to growing concerns about skin cancer and aging.
Mintel International estimates that sunless products overall jumped by 248% between 2004 and 2006, to $185 million. Tanners grew 203%, to $106 million, but moisturizers were the big breakouts, leaping by over 1,000%, to $56 million.
Global Information, Inc. projects that the category will grow by 170%, to reach $500 million by 2011.