Solar Research Center

The COPPERTONE® Solar Research Center is one of the largest corporate facilities for the development and testing of sunscreen technologies. Each year, its suncare scientists conduct hundreds of tests on sunscreen formulas to ensure products meet both consumers’ needs and rigorous testing standards. The research and development team oversees the development of a wide variety of global suncare products that are manufactured and marketed around the world, including Europe, Japan, Brazil, Canada and Mexico.

How the COPPERTONE Solar Research Center Tests Sunscreens

Before your favorite COPPERTONE product reaches the store shelf, it undergoes rigorous testing. This thorough program helps ensure that the formulations you rely on for sun protection are safe and effective, and perform as promised.

When you choose a sunscreen, you might start by looking at the SPF level, whether 15, 30, 50 or above. Similarly, scientists at the COPPERTONE Solar Research Center begin the testing process by determining the SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, of a new product.

Imagine that you have just been recruited for Coppertone sunscreen testing. The formulation has been developed and the lab has been prepared for your arrival. Clinical experts first determine your basic sun sensitivity using special equipment called a solar simulator, which mimics the rays of the sun.

Throughout the test, experts follow specific procedures, which guide the use of the solar simulator as well as how and where to apply the sunscreen. After experts evaluate your skin, they make a series of calculations to ultimately determine the SPF level.

This process may seem complicated, but before the COPPERTONE Solar Research Center pioneered a standard way to measure SPF in the 1970s, sunscreen testing was typically done outdoors. Impacted by changes in clouds, wind and angles of the sun, the process took hours. The makers of COPPERTONE products were the first to bring testing to the lab and develop standard conditions for the measurement of SPF.

Recognizing the need for standardization, the FDA became interested in the COPPERTONE Solar Research Center’s submitted work and integrated the Center's SPF testing methods into its proposed sunscreen regulations in 1978. Today, SPF testing for all sunscreen products continues to be conducted in standardized laboratory conditions, thanks in part to the Center’s pioneering work with the FDA.


Patricia Agin, Phd, Merck Consumer Care, Memphis, Tennessee

Patricia Agin, PhD, Scientific Affairs Leader at the Coppertone Solar Research Center, received a PhD in cell and molecular biology from the University of Memphis. She also holds a BS in chemistry and a Master's degree in physiology.

Since joining Merck Consumer Care, her research has focused on ultraviolet radiation effects on skin including clinical and non-clinical studies of sunscreen performance, melanogenesis, and both in vivo and in vitro sunscreen testing methodologies. With over 50 scientific publications, Dr. Agin is responsible for our sunscreen efficacy testing program and provides photobiological support for the Coppertone Solar Research Center, one of the largest facilities for testing the effectiveness and performance of sunscreens. She also serves as the chairman of the Personal Care Products Council’s Sunscreen Taskforce and has been designated a US Expert Delegate to the International Standards Organization group (ISO TC217) developing global sunscreen testing standards.

Tom Meyer, Phd, Merck Consumer Care, Memphis, Tennessee

Thomas Meyer, PhD, is an R&D Skincare Franchise Innovation Lead at Merck Consumer Care.

Dr. Meyer’s core responsibilities include devising and implementing short- and long-term research programs to improve the performance of sunscreen s to protect skin from ultraviolet damage over entire periods of sun exposure and to enhance the consumer experience in application and use of sunscreen products.

Since joining Merck Consumer Care, Dr. Meyer has been awarded numerous patents and he has received numerous achievement awards for his scientific research.

Dr. Meyer received a BA in zoology from the University of Maine and a PhD in organic chemistry from Durham University in England.

David J. Leffell, M.D. New Haven, Connecticut, Consultant to Coppertone

David J. Leffell, MD, a physician, writer, lecturer and researcher, is the David Paige Smith Professor of Dermatology and Surgery, chief of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology, and deputy dean for clinical affairs at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Leffell recently stepped down as the chief executive officer of the Yale Medical Group after 15 years in that position. The medical group is one of the country’s largest faculty practices, providing specialty care in more than 100 medical areas.

Dr. Leffell is an expert specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer and new diagnostic and therapeutic technologies in skin health.

He holds a patent for a laser device to measure skin aging and shares patents for the discovery of the skin cancer gene, PTCH and the protein for which it codes. Dr. Leffell also developed a novel and simple approach for the surgical treatment of vitiligo.

Dr. Leffell is the author or co-author of more than 120 publications, book chapters, and other media. He is an editor of the world’s leading textbook of dermatology, Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. He also authored Manual of Skin Surgery, which is now in its second English edition and first Chinese edition. In 2000, Hyperion published Dr. Leffell’s Total Skin: The Definitive Guide to Whole Skin Care for Life, a “user-friendly” book intended to educate the general public about skin health. Since that time it has become a classic reference book for health journalists and the general public. It is now available in a Kindle edition. He has held editorial positions with many peer-reviewed journals and is also the author of a contribution called “Longevity Strategies” which appears in The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything, published in 2006. A popular talk that Dr. Leffell presents on living longer is based on this publication. A chapter on “Looking Younger” appears in the book’s 2009 edition.

Dr. Leffell received his BS from Yale College and his MD from McGill University Faculty of Medicine in Canada. He completed residencies in internal medicine at Cornell Cooperating Hospitals and in dermatology at Yale-New Haven Hospital. At Yale, he also completed a post-doctoral research year as a National Institutes of Health research fellow. Following his residencies, he completed a fellowship in advanced dermatologic surgery at the University of Michigan. Dr. Leffell began the Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology program at Yale in 1988. He has trained 18 fellows in advanced dermatologic surgery, two of whom have gone on to lead dermatologic surgery programs at major institutions.

Dr. Leffell lives in New Haven and Norfolk, Conn. with his wife and two children. Dr. Leffell serves on the board of Artspace in New Haven and Validus, Inc., a pharmaceutical concern. He also serves as a trustee of the Hopkins School, New Haven and was a board member of Connecticut Public Television.

Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D. New York, New York, Consultant to Coppertone

Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D. is a board certified dermatologist and a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center. She specializes in Mohs micrographic surgery, dermatologic surgery, cosmetic dermatology, and laser surgery. After graduating cum laude from Cornell University, Dr. Hale received her medical degree from NYU where she was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha. She was also the recipient of the American Medical Women’s Association Citation and the Marion Sulzberger Dermatology Award at NYU. Dr. Hale completed her residency training at the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU where she served as chief resident and was selected to receive the Morris Leider award for Excellence in Dermatology. In 2008, Dr. Hale received the Surgical Attending of the Year Award from the dermatology residents.

Most recently, Dr. Hale was the recipient of the 2011 AOA teaching award which is given annually to one NYU voluntary faculty member for his/her dedication to teaching. Dr. Hale is a member of the Amonette Circle of the Skin Cancer Foundation and has served as a member of the planning committee for the Skin Cancer Foundation Annual Gala. Dr. Hale is a member of many medical societies including the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, American College of Mohs Surgery, American Society of Lasers in Medicine and Surgery, and the New York Facial Plastic Surgery Society. Dr. Hale teaches advanced dermatologic surgery to the NYU Dermatology residents. She is the co-Director of the NYU Procedural Dermatology Fellowship and of the Advances in Dermatology symposium. She has published numerous articles and chapters in the field of dermatology and co-authored the Dermatologic Surgery Handbook which is used to train Dermatology residents nationwide. Dr. Hale has lectured extensively on the detection and treatment of skin cancer and the use of fillers for soft tissue augmentation.

Dr. Hale is currently affiliated with New York University Medical Center.


Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection

Effective sunscreen protection is more than an SPF number. It's about broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.

The sun produces two types of invisible rays that cause skin damage: ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA).

UVB rays damage the outer layers of skin and are the main cause of sunburn, premature skin aging and skin cancer.

UVA rays penetrate more deeply into the skin and can contribute to premature skin aging and skin cancer. We encounter UVA rays no matter what the season or time of day.

Coppertone® sunscreen products with broad spectrum protection shield you from the effects of both types. In fact, protects from the most damaging UVA/UVB rays.*

*Coppertone sprays and lotions SPF 15 or above.

Antioxidants can be your skin's best friend

Scientists believe Vitamin E, one of the ingredients in Coppertone Sport® and Coppertone Kids® with Protective Vitamins products, is a key antioxidant in helping maintain healthy skin.* Since Vitamin E levels are easily depleted when skin is exposed to sunlight, it is especially important for kids and active adults to use a broad spectrum sunscreen that also contains antioxidants.

1. Source: J.Thiele, "Vitamin E in human skin": Organ-specific physiology and considerations for its use in dermatology", Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 28 [2007], 646-667

Sensitive skin deserves a sunscreen that's sensitive to its needs

Studies show people with sensitive skin often experience irritation when using sunscreen. That's why scientists at the Coppertone® Solar Research Center have consulted with leading dermatologists to introduce a sunscreen product that offers broad spectrum protection, yet is gentle enough for sensitive skin. The result, Coppertone® Sensitive Skin, balances zinc oxide with other active sunscreen ingredients to minimize irritation. It's also been formulated to eliminate the ingredients that often cause adverse skin reactions.

New Products: Sport PRO Series & Wet 'n Clear™
Product Overview

Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreens spray on clear and cut through water to adhere to skin, so no towel drying is needed. This pediatrician and dermatologist tested line – available in SPF 30, 45+ and Kids SPF 45+ – provides broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays and is water resistant for 80 minutes.

Key Innovation

Conversations with dermatologists revealed that dry skin is a prevalent condition among both adults and children. Repeated wetting and drying of the skin, which can occur during a typical day at the beach or pool, can break down its protective moisture barrier, thereby exacerbating skin dryness. Using this insight, the Coppertone® Solar Research Center uncovered a need for moisturizing sunscreens that are appropriate to use when parents and children are in and out of the water. Designed specifically for application directly on wet skin, Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear provides convenient sun protection through a hydrating formula that retains its compatibility with water, allowing the sunscreen to visibly cut through water and adhere to the skin.*

Clinical Benefits

Reapplication gets simplified for active families

  • In an effort to continue studying the impact of environmental conditions on sunscreen performance, the Coppertone® Solar Research Center tested Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear at the ocean, beach and pool in order to better assess how water interacts with sunscreen on the skin. Through this extensive testing, the Center confirmed that the formula effectively adheres to wet skin, eliminating the need for towel-drying before sunscreen reapplication.*
  • Unlike some sunscreens that can produce an undesirable, whitening effect when applied to wet skin, Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear sprays on clear and does not whiten upon application. In an outdoor beach study among parents and children, whose skin represented a range of types along the Fitzpatrick Scale (types I-VI), Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear did not whiten on even the darkest skin tone1.
  • A clinical trial among consumers revealed that Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear produces a subtle, even sheen that allows parents to easily identify where they have applied sunscreen to themselves and their children1.

Dive into skin health benefits provided by Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear

  • Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear offers significant moisturizing benefits. In fact, in a clinical study among dry-skinned individuals, the product helped sustain skin hydration for up to eight hours with one reapplication.*
  • Additionally, in a four-week use test among acne-prone individuals, more than 70 percent of consumers revealed that Coppertone® Wet ’n Clear looked and felt clean on their skin, and more than 93 percent responded that the product was easy to apply.** The study also showed these formulations to be non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and non-acnegenic (won’t cause breakouts).

*Use and reapply as directed.
1Data on file
**Based upon instruction to spray into hands for facial application


Memo from the scientists at the Coppertone Solar Research Center

In June of 2011, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced new requirements for the testing and labeling of sunscreen products. We welcome the FDA's announcement and support efforts to make it easier for people to choose sun protection for themselves and their families. Below, find some brief highlights:

What's changing?

Testing Requirements

The FDA specified certain testing requirements for sunscreen products:

  • A standard test method for measuring broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays
    • All Coppertone® products with an SPF 15 or greater in stores today already meet the standard announced in 2011 "broad spectrum" protection.

Labeling Requirements

The FDA specified certain labeling requirements for sunscreen products:

  • Products that pass the broad spectrum test may be labeled "Broad Spectrum SPF XX"
  • Products that pass water resistant SPF testing may be labeled "Water Resistant (40 or 80 minutes)"
  • All sunscreens will be required to include a "Drug Facts" box on the label
    • All Coppertone® products with an SPF of 15 or greater in stores today already meet the standard announced in 2011 for "broad spectrum" and "water resistant (80 minutes)" protection.
What may change?

In addition, a rule was proposed to limit SPF values to “50+”. A timeframe for a decision on this proposed rule was not communicated. Until a decision is made, products with SPF values over 50 will remain available.

  • Higher SPF protection appeals to some consumers. Coppertone® offers a variety of suncare products with SPF ratings to best suit the needs and preferences of our consumers.
What do these changes mean for me?

Continue using your favorite Coppertone products and look for these labeling changes in stores this summer.

  • We are pleased that the FDA reaffirmed the benefits of sunscreen usage as one part of a comprehensive sun protection program. Consumers can be confident in continuing to use all Coppertone products.
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