Published: 31 May 2022  (Updated: 17 May 2023)

Sunscreens make Top 10 beauty products seen as ‘essential to our lives’, as research reveals self-esteem boosting benefits

Spraying on sunscreens this Summer could help to protect more than our skin, according to new research for the UK Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), which reveals three quarters of UK adults (72%) connect the way their skin looks to the way they feel about themselves. Among women the figure is higher at 81%, and 64% for men.

The survey, which was conducted by Opinium, is the latest addition to nearly two decades of self-esteem tracking research by CTPA and indicates the growing influence of our outward appearance on our sense of self-worth. 

The latest findings show that ‘‘confidence in our appearance’ (54%) has overtaken ‘having a supportive family’ (53%)  and ‘having a rewarding job’ (35%) as a key lifestyle factor for building up our self-esteem.

Sunscreen a bigger self-esteem booster than hair or make-up

When asked what helps to give them a self-esteem boost, nearly two third of adults said, ‘wearing sunscreen to protect my skin’ (65%). This figure rose to 74% of women and reduced to 56% among men, making sun protection more important to self-esteem than hair or make-up.

By comparison, a third (35%) of adults cited ‘wearing make-up to look my best’ as a self-esteem booster, rising to 48% of women and reducing to 19% of men. Meanwhile, having a ‘good hair day’ was seen as a self-esteem booster by 56% of UK adults, rising to 71% of women and 41% of men.

Nation’s Top 10 Self-Esteem Essentials revealed…

Given the importance skin plays in supporting self-esteem, it’s perhaps not surprising that moisturisers and sunscreens were cited as two of the Top 10 cosmetic and toiletry products we regard to be essential for supporting our self-esteem.

One in three UK adults (35%) regard moisturiser to be ‘essential to their lives’ rising to 52% of women and reducing to 16% of men. While one in five UK adults (20%) regards sunscreen as essential, with this perception higher among women (28%) than men (11%).

More broadly, products promoting good health and hygiene dominated the nation’s list of Self-Esteem Essentials, with deodorants taking first place, followed by oral care and hair care products.


Dr Emma Meredith, Pharmacist and Director-General of the UK Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) said:
“The research shows a strong connection between how we feel that we look and how we feel in ourselves, and suggests that the appearance of our skin, in particular, can be a top influencing factor. So it’s really encouraging to see that cosmetics and toiletries can give us a valuable self-esteem boost, with products that protect our skin and support good hygiene regarded to be priority Self-Esteem Essentials.”
Matthew Patey OBE, CEO of British Skin Foundation said:
“While the role of sunscreens in protecting our skin is well-established, it’s fantastic that people are recognising their positive connotations for self-esteem too. To ensure the best protection, always use a product that is SPF30 or higher and that has a UVA/UVB symbol on the label. This symbol is telling you that the product will protect against the sun’s harmful rays which contribute to signs of ageing.”

Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson suggests the following ‘top tips’ for sun protection: 

  • Apply sunscreen at least every two hours and more often if you sweat, are rubbing your skin or have been in water.
  • Make sure you are using enough sunscreen. On average, an adult should apply more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen to each arm and the face/neck and just over one teaspoon to each leg, the front of the body and back of the body.
  • Wear sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days. The sun emits UV rays all year round so if you spend any significant amount of time outdoors, or indoors by a window, then you should be wearing sunscreen. 
  • Check the expiry date of your sunscreen as they lose potency over time.


Notes to editors

For further information or comment please contact [email protected].

About the research: Opinium polled 2000 UK adults weighted to be nationally representative between 25th February and 1st March 2022. 

About CTPA: Representing all types of companies involved in making, supplying and selling cosmetic and personal care products, the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association (CTPA) acts as the voice of the UK industry. Find out more by visiting

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