On-demand webinar recording + transcript

Join Solésence skin and sun experts Kevin Cureton, Chief Operating Officer, and Yoana Dvorzsak, Director of Product and Component Development, for a dive into what makes a sun care product inclusive. (Hint: it goes beyond shade matching.)

Register to watch the recording of this 30-minute webinar on-demand. Scroll down for the full transcript.

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Over this 30-minute lunch hour webinar, our hosts have discussed:

  1. The importance of your team
  2. The Fitzpatrick skin types
  3. How sun and skin care claims must adjust to suit BIPOC health & beauty concerns

Zoom Webinar
Register to watch here

Tuesday, January 26th
12:00pm cst


Headshot of Kevin Cureton, Chief Operating Officer, Solésence

Kevin Cureton
Chief Operating Officer

Yoana Dvorzsak
Director of Product and Component Development


A 30-minute webinar and Q&A with skin and sun experts Kevin Cureton, Chief Operating Officer, and Yoana Dvorzsak, Director of Product and Component Development.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 12pm CDT.


Kevin Cureton: Hello everyone! We are happy to join you on a snowy day here in Chicagoland to talk about inclusive sun care. We’re going to give a couple minutes to let everyone who’s signed up join in, and then we’ll get started shortly with hopefully an interesting and compelling conversation that will lead to some questions that you all might have relative to inclusive sun care. 

Yoana Dvorzsak: Hello everybody from me as well! As you can see you can answer – I’m sorry – you can ask any of your questions in the chat, we’ll try to address that in our Q&A session towards the end of the presentation. 

Kevin: Great, great. So again, just by way of introduction, I’m Kevin Cureton, I’m the Chief Operating Officer for Solesence, and my partner in crime— 

Yoana: I’m Yoana Dvorzsak, Director of Product and Component Development at Solesence.

Kevin: And so, as many of you know who are joining us today, we are really specialists in beauty products for — in the beauty product space but for products that have UV or environmental protection. And we felt like the conversation around inclusivity is really an important one to our world, quite honestly, but also specifically to the beauty industry. And we’re in a position, we think, to uniquely address that conversation — and felt like it was a good way for us to launch this year’s series of webinars that we’ll be providing — by starting with this subject. It’s one that we think has lots of different layers to it, but we’ll begin where, really, we think everything should begin — of course, as product developers — and that’s with product. So, Yoana, when you think about developing an inclusive sun care product, tell us a little bit about how you approach that.

Yoana: So, developing inclusive products has been something that’s been dear to our hearts ever since we really started Solésence, and especially because where we live in our world with our non-nano SPF included in every single product that we make, that definitely was a challenge from the very beginning, that we have been trying to solve in many different ways. Initially we started creating universal tints, so a lot of our skin care products do have an untinted and a tinted version, where the tinted version doesn’t really give you any coverage on skin or any makeup application, but it really was developed in order to address that inclusivity, to address deeper skin tones. Especially when we talk about skin tones 4, 5 and 6 on the Fitzpatrick scale. 

We do have approximately 17 people right now that are trained panelists, and every single formula that we develop goes through most of our panel. It is a little more challenging nowadays since we are all at different places, and it’s not as easy as it used to be where you’d gather everybody in the room, everybody gives you their opinion and their rating, and then you go about it. However, we do manage to still go through that process as it is critical. We actually go outside of our trained panelists to a number of people as well. We actually include everybody in the facility that is really part of development and, quite frankly, part of making some of the decisions on “how do we approach a sunscreen that is made for skin types 1-6?” where that whitening, and that ghosting effect can be quite challenging. As we have evolved, we have developed technologies to address that outside of a tint, but that has been part of our approach. 

The challenges come not only from having skin types 1-6 but also undertones. All the different skin types have undertones, so a type 2 or a type 4 can have a cooler or a warmer skin tone; they can have dry skin, oily skin, combination skin. So, we try to take that into consideration when we take feedback from our panelists and include folks really throughout the facility as part of development.

Kevin: So really the development isn’t strictly focused on the Fitzpatrick scale but it’s really including other factors related to the skin type — is that what you’re saying? 

Yoana: Yes, absolutely. There’re so many factors that we take into consideration when developing a product: how it goes into the skin, the break of the product, the dry down, the after feel — we have quite an extensive questionnaire. That is part of the training, really, to make sure we all speak the same language and we assess the products the same way, and we communicate the challenges that we’re seeing during development the same way. 

Kevin: Okay. So, let’s spend a little bit of time, let’s go back because one of the subjects of inclusivity really deals with different skin tones, not as much textures and those differences, but skin tones. Let’s talk about the Fitzpatrick scale. And lots of people are familiar with it, why don’t you give us some thoughts relative to what that scale is and then how we utilize it in our development efforts. 

Yoana: So, I’m sure most people are aware of the Fitzpatrick scale but from my research it has been around from approximately 1975 and it is a way to really classify the skin types and tones before and after they are exposed to UV. So, there’s different characteristics, how they get described — so there are six different skin types, but as we know the skin is definitely way more complex than that as we were just speaking about undertones, skin types. So, a different product can feel and look, because of your oily skin or your dry skin, completely different. That’s in terms of not just texture but in terms of ghosting and how minerals really play into development and throughout different skin tones. 

Kevin: So, one of the big challenges related to inclusive sun care is the idea that a lot of the mineral-based sunscreens that are available, or beauty products that are available, haven’t really been accessible to people of color because of the ghosting, because of the appearance on skin after application. So, there’s been a pretty heavy emphasis and reliance on chemical sunscreens, which give more transparency, but, as we know, have other issues that they bring along with them, in terms of potential irritation and, quite honestly, other question marks related to absorption through skin and what that might mean in your body, which is still to be determined. So, within that whole equation, we have this challenge of mineral sunscreens and addressing the darker ends of the Fitzpatrick scale. Is that the only challenge that we see when we’re building these products? Or do you ever see, for example, ghosting on fairer skin?

Yoana: Absolutely, we do see ghosting. We know some products are stable because we have seen unstable products and we know what they look like even on skin type 1 versus skin type 4. They could be ghosting at any level of your skin tone really. So, there are many different factors that play into that. Really the emollient package, the formulation, many people relate to the refractive index of the materials you use in the formula to, as I was mentioning, different undertones as well that could play a major factor. So, we try to include as many people as possible when we do perform these panels, even sometimes outside of the trained panelists. And we walk them through: What are we looking for? What are we trying to achieve? And why is it important for them to participate as well in these panels? 

Kevin: That’s great. Well, we’re glad there are already some questions and conversations starting so we’ll certainly make sure we have time to get to some of those. One of the questions that did come up was related to a question we received earlier. I think you’ve alluded to it, but maybe let’s just specifically answer it. And that was this question of “Many mineral sun care products claim to be clear but fail to match these claims. Are tinted products still the way forward for skin tone ranges? Or is there something else on the horizon?” And so that’s really this idea of “what’s next?” and the what’s next question has a lot of layers to it. One is, when we think about minerals — minerals are not all created equal in terms of particle size, in terms of performance. That becomes one element. And then the other element is that even with those available non-nano sunscreen materials, those still don’t offer the transparency. So maybe you want to comment a little on what is next within the Solésence portfolio specifically.

Yoana: As I mentioned earlier it has been really dear to our hearts to make products that are for everyone. And that’s been our goal since the inception of Solésence, now five years — rewind the tape a little bit — five years ago. So, what we found, we obviously look for solutions outside of our doors but also inside our facility as well, as we cannot find them sometimes on the market. So, what we’ve tried to do is really optimize the performance of the zinc oxide we use. So, then we can take the approach “less is more.” So, a lot of times in my conversations with our brand partners it does come up: “How come I’m seeing you’re only using 12% zinc oxide, but then a lot of sunscreens on the market, really skin care or beauty products, are, in terms of mineral content, way above that?” Well, we try to optimize the particle, as Kevin was mentioning, the particle size and particle distribution — all of that. So, we can really optimize the formula. This question doesn’t really have a simple answer but really the optimization comes on many different levels. So, it’s on the particle, it’s on the coating, it’s how it gets dispersed, it’s really the complimentary emulsifier or emollients we use in order to really optimize this at each step. So then when we get to the end of the product, yes, we can use less, we can see less ghosting, but still have superior protection and still achieve all the important claims for consumers such as SPF 50, 80-minute and 40-minute water resistance — things that are hard to achieve without ghosting. 

Kevin: And those characteristics— it’s really important for us to clarify based upon one of the questions that’s coming in — is that yes, all of Solesence products are non-nano mineral sunscreens. And what Yoana is leading to is one of our new technologies we refer to as Kleair™, spelled K-L-E-A-I-R, is a non-nano, zinc oxide material that has been developed specifically to offer enhancement in both UV performance and transparency. And so that new chemistry really does offer improvements relative to transparency across the Fitzpatrick scale, which is an important deliverable to begin with, without the use of, say, iron oxides or other tints that may be used in order to help hide some of the ghosting. So that is definitely a direction that we believe we’ll continue to evolve, where there will be products that can offer great transparency and do so without the use of tint. 

So again, a lot of questions coming in, and we’ll try to answer these questions as we go as part of the discussion. So, one of the questions goes to the percentage, which can get confusing. And Yoana you alluded to that a little bit. Maybe just answer that a little more specifically: why percentage of zinc oxide isn’t the way to determine the performance of a formula?

Yoana: And you did mention earlier a little bit, not all zinc oxides are created equally, and that’s what it really comes down to. And as you heard me speaking earlier about how we optimize the formula, that definitely goes directly into the percentage, which is, quite frankly, asked to us quite often. Quite often you would see that we do use less, but it is something that has been designed to do so in comparison to anything else you see on the market, in order to really deliver the aesthetics that you desire for a product that looks like it is made for everybody, not just for certain types of people.

Kevin: Great. So, as we go through some of the other questions, there’s a question around the Fitzpatrick scale and how it was developed. And yes, it was developed based upon the propensity for people to burn, actually, not just darken. So, it does factor in UVB in addition to UVA. Just to quickly answer that question. One of the other ones that came along is the idea of tinted sunscreens and you get it, I’m guessing, every day, six times a day. And it’s: How many different shades do I need if I’m going to have a tinted moisturizer line? Is it 2, is it 3, is it 20? What is the right number? 

Yoana: [Laughing] I wish I knew the exact answer, it would make my job a lot easier, I would say! But it is definitely increasing. I know that in the past, for example what we’ve done with products that are over three years old and still part of our white label, is we have tried to create tints one per skin type for the Fitzpatrick scale. So, you would see a lot of our products have six tints, per se. We have expanded that number a lot of times to 12, 15, 20 different shades. It really depends how the product is positioned. Is it positioned really as a beauty product? In the color realm? Is it skin care? Does it provide coverage? So, there’s quite a few questions that I usually ask in order to really assess the development process and really make a recommendation if I can, based on marketing trends and everything else that’s going on around us. But it is definitely a tough question to answer. 

Kevin: One of the things, I think — even when we began Solésence — the development of the tinted sunscreens, were really designed to have a universal tint. So, it is really not offering, as Yoana said earlier, a coverage — as in the way of some of the products for our folks in the complexion area, our brand partners in the complexion area, but in the early days [the tint was designed] to really just hide the ghosting that might have otherwise been seen on different skin tones. So that gives you some flexibility. And we have seen as few as 2, untinted and tinted, as being a line for some of our brand partners, as we’ve seen 30 or more being part of their line, depending upon their positioning.

[Question in chat: How does your Active Stress Defense Technology work? Is it a property of the zinc oxide or another ingredient?] 

Kevin: As we think about inclusivity, let’s talk a little bit about how Active Stress Defense™, which is the technology platform that is unique to Solésence, what does it do, how does it work. We’ll try to do that in two minutes or less [laughing] related to trying to answer this question that’s been asked. 

Yoana: The Solésence technology really goes to the coating that is on the zinc oxide. As I was mentioning, that is part of the optimization that we do on the non-nano particle that we actually produce ourselves as well. So that’s what makes the zinc oxide unique. This coating does allow for different aesthetics because of its compatibility with many, many different materials. It does allow for better distribution throughout the formulation, if formulated correctly of course, and that’s when you really see the synergy of it all. We do have a few different versions now to address different marketing needs. Our initial technology did include, for example, silicone chemistries, but we do have a natural coating as well now, that is included in more green, clean formulations as well. 

Kevin: The other piece of the Active Stress Defense™ portfolio, if you will, includes the idea of this new technology that we mentioned, Kleair, which is in fact the first time we’ve really departed from looking at surface treatment alone and utilizing really engineering of the particle itself. So, we have reengineered the particle in order to achieve improvements relative to protecting the skin from free radicals that result from UV and quenching those free radicals through the characteristics of the particle and of the coating that is on the particle. We also have another technology that really, as we think about inclusivity, one of the factors that is important for particularly folks who suffer from persistent pigment darkening is UVA protection. And we developed another technology called Bloom™ that is really geared toward, when used with Kleair™ or by itself in formulation with the Original Active Stress Defense™ technology, offers an enhancement in protection on the UVA side and the blue light side — both of which are challenges to people of color. To all of us, but certainly in particular people who tend to suffer from pigment darkening based upon exposure to the sun, which is resulting from UVA and blue light. So, it’s all of those things. 

Maybe we talk a little more about inclusive development. We’ve talked about the particles, we’ve talked about the idea of using panels, what else is important? How about the people who are doing the development? 

Yoana: Absolutely. I mean, it’s exactly something I did forget to mention earlier, that it really has to be inclusive on all levels. That starts with the person who is doing the product development, who is doing the research, all the way to the panelists, people involved on the business side. It is really everywhere, the way we see it.

Kevin: And it is really, not to sound corny, but one of the things that is in our company, we have a rainbow of different folks, we cover the Fitzpatrick scale [laughing] pretty well, and it is through that, that it gives us diversity not just in the products we put out but diversity in how we thing, uniqueness in how we come about the process of developing products, really a different level of strength that — when you start to apply it to UV protection, we think offers some real novelty to the marketplace.

Yoana: Absolutely. We do believe that within the next few years, sun care will become one of the norms in every single product, and it really no longer will be just “sun care,” it will be something that’s expected from your product in order to protect yourself. And we already see it happening on the market. We obviously have believed it for quite a few years, but it is becoming the norm. UV protection, blue light protection, IR protection — to be absolutely transparent, we don’t even receive a brief that doesn’t have all these claims are the norm for the new product to come. 

Kevin: That’s great, that’s great. We have another question, we do try and answer all the questions that we get, and this one is a little bit different. Someone who is a scuba diver said that they found mineral-based products are also harmful to the environment. So maybe let’s talk a little bit about the other aspect of thinking about impact, and that is developing products that are safe to use but also safe for the environment. One of the characteristics of minerals in the environment has to do with whether or not they are free radical generators. And we are, in the development of our materials, that was one, in fact, of the original aspects of the Active Stress Defense™ technology when it was developed by our Chief Scientific Officer, was to quench radical generation that can come from minerals – mineral sunscreens. It can come from chemical sunscreens as well. And so, that’s one of the things we think we uniquely offer. Our materials are, because they’re not radical generators, actually do have less impact on the environment. Beyond that, there are some other things that we do in terms of our screening. Yoana, maybe you want to talk about that as well? 

Yoana: Yes, we look at the toxicology and safety profile of each ingredient that we bring into the doors before we even expose our chemists, ourselves. We obviously try, touch and feel, the formula every single step of development, so as you can imagine we try to protect ourselves, we try to protect our brand partners, and obviously the consumers as we’re all part of this ecological system. But it is something we take a close look at, there is plenty of data for a lot of the materials that have been tested on humans and we have actually a panel of folks, there are four people that look at all the toxicology and safety data beyond the exact material, but also the history of the material throughout the years, as many of the chemistries are existing chemistries that have been around for a while.

Kevin: Great, thank you. That is really an important aspect: making sure these materials are safe for humans is really an important part of our screening. 

We’ve got another question here, it’s specific to their brand but we’ll answer it in a general manner, and this is related to our minimums [minimum order quantities] and how those work. Our minimums are set based upon whether it’s a white label product, customized white label product, or custom product. White label is 2500 [units], customized white label is 7500, and custom is 15,000. With certain things we are in fact able to split the requirement. Instead of having 7500 per shade, say on six shades, we may be able to split that to 2-3,000 depending upon the item, the fill size, others, in order to enable the launch. We would also say stay tuned, we have some other news related to the brand incubator that you’re referring to, where we’re refining that a bit in order to make it more accessible and allow companies to participate in an exciting manner going forward.

So, we’re actually technically out of time, both of us will stay over just a couple more minutes as we keep getting a couple other questions. One is: Where are we located?

Yoana: Chicagoland area, we have 3 facilities: our headquarters, located in Romeoville, 40 minutes outside of downtown Chicago, and our warehouse which is 5-minutes down the road, and our second manufacturing facility is around 20-minutes away from our headquarters.

Kevin: So, we’re in the Chicagoland area, snowy Chicagoland area, but we do business on a global basis. We have clients — I’m guessing most of the people we’re talking to today are not in Chicago because only very few of our clients are — but we have clients that are all over the world, including Europe, Australia, and Asia. So, we’re happy to do business with anyone from any part of the globe.

With that being said, just wanted to close out by mentioning one other aspect of inclusive sun care, and really inclusion. And that is, as Yoana mentioned, it really isn’t just about the product. It’s about the people as well. Having people that can participate from the development of the product through the marketing through the conceptualization of what goes on the shelf, through even the decisions of owning those shelves, is really the goal. And we believe the beauty industry in particular is well suited to help that become a goal that enables our country and our companies here to uniquely take advantage of the growth opportunities that are out there.

So, we hope you all enjoyed our conversation, and we look forward to hearing from you later. Stay tuned for other webinars that we’ll conduct on other subjects in the beauty space here over the year. Thank you.

Yoana: Thank you, everybody.