Beauty bites: Coppertone
Learn a little more about the history of this familiar sunscreen and how it became the much-loved skin protector is it is today
Little Miss Coppertone debuted in the early ’50s. There have been various iterations (including a bare bum and tan lines). This 1956 rendering is by Joyce Ballantyne Brand, who worked in advertising in New York’and used her daughter, Cheri, as the inspiration.
It wasn’t so long ago that carefree summer vacations meant endless fun in the sun’probably accompanied by a bottle of Coppertone with a pigtailed Little Miss Coppertone trademark. Today, most people exercise caution in the sun, thanks to more education along with the evolution of products.
Coppertone celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. It all started with a Miami pharmacist named Benjamin Green, who developed a cream in 1944 that was based on ‘red vet pet’ (red veterinary petrolatum) used to protect soldiers stationed in the Pacific from the sun’s rays. ‘When Green mixed this cream with cocoa butter and coconut oil on his kitchen stove, the first U.S. consumer suncare product’Coppertone Suntan Cream’was born,’ says Memphis-based Patricia Agin, director of scientific affairs for parent company Merck Consumer Care. In 1955 came Noskote (zinc oxide for the nose) and Coppertone Shade for sensitive skin. In 1972, the Coppertone advertising campaign was ‘Beautiful tan today, young looking skin tomorrow.’ Not long after, the company introduced Tropical Blend lotion and oil for ‘The Savage Tan.’ Other brands had similar approaches. Seems crazy nowadays, doesn’t it?
But that was before researchers discovered just how harmful the sun’s rays can be. Coppertone pioneered an SPF system in the U.S. in the 1970s (the FDA later published a method based on Coppertone’s system). In 1985, the company came out with its first line of waterproof, broad-spectrum sunscreens, under the Shade brand. In 1991, an ultra-sweatproof, dry-touch formula played to active adults. Later innovations included invisible and continuous sprays, along with higher SPFs and broad-spectrum UVA/UVB’perhaps in line with a thinning ozone layer’but that’s another story. In 2011, Coppertone introduced Water Babies Sunscreen Mousse SPF 60.
Manufactured around the world, Coppertone sunscreens are developed and tested at the Coppertone Solar Research Center in Memphis. (Merck & Co.’s Canadian headquarters are in Kirkland, Que.) Established in 1971, the Center ‘conducts hundreds of tests annually to substantiate the safety, efficacy and performance of sunscreens,’ says Agin.
Through a grassroots event program, Coppertone supports the Breakfast Club of Canada, an organization that helps disadvantaged young students across the country.