How This School Teacher Changed the Way You Apply Sunscreen

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The number-one reason why most people don't wear sunscreen? According to Supergoop founder Holly Thaggard, it's because they don't like how it feels on their skin.

Thaggard founded the sunscreen line, which sold over 1.5 million products last year, after a close friend went through a skin-cancer scare. We chatted with her about going from elementary school teacher to entrepreneur, and how she's working to change the way people think about sun protection.

How did you fall into the beauty space?

In my early 30s, a close friend was diagnosed with skin cancer. At the time, one of my college friends who was going through her dermatology residency. She explained to me that UV damage is cumulative, and this experience with skin cancer was likely a result of too much time in the sun without sunscreen during the school day.

A light bulb went off. I realized that, during my career as a third-grade teacher, I had never once seen sunscreen on our school campus, despite the fact that students (and teachers!) were outside during peak UV hours and after school in sports.

My parents are both entrepreneurs, and I grew up listening to marketing and sales tapes and reading entrepreneurial stories of building a business. I've always loved to create, and ideas have come easily. I love to do things quickly. So when I thought about my friend's cancer scare, I immediately recognized how different skin cancer was—compared to other cancers—in that an actual product was needed for prevention.

How did you come up with the concept for Supergoop?

As I researched the sun-care industry, I learned the number one reason why people don't like SPF is that it doesn't feel good on the skin. I became obsessed with the idea of creating an ingredient-conscious, clean, feel-good formula—an SPF that people would want to wear every single day, rain or shine.

My original concept was to place our first Supergoop formula—Everyday SPF 50—into school classrooms across America. What I quickly learned was that due to it being classified as an over-the-counter drug, SPF was actually not allowed on school campuses across America. Sun care was a very sleepy category in 2008, and schools also weren't ready to hear that it was their responsibility to take on teaching this healthy habit. I quickly pivoted and taught myself the business of retail. I looked to those retailers, like Sephora, that wanted to help tell our story and that genuinely wanted to help educate consumers on the importance of daily SPF, year-round. After all, we were on a big mission to change the way the world thinks about sunscreen! Still today, Sephora has been a fabulous retail and partner in education for us. What is the most exciting part of our journey is that we are now coming full-circle in launching Ounce by Ounce—a giving program to put sunscreen into schools across America with the goal of reaching 1,000 classrooms in 2018.

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How have you changed the landscape when it comes to beauty products?

I've always been inspired by the full-spectrum morning routine because it aligns with our mission of SPF every single day. We have been at the front of creating a whole new category for sun protection. We literally slip SPF into everything we do to deliver some of the most beautiful and unique products that allow consumers to apply and reapply their SPF seamlessly throughout the day.

We were the first chemical organic SPF in the U.S. void of some of the most controversial chemicals today like propylene glycol and oxybenzone. We are filling a huge white space in allowing consumers unique delivery options for getting SPF into their daily routine. For example, our SPF 50 Defense Refresh Makeup Setting Mist and our SPF 40 Mineral Setting Powder, which are both Sephora favorites, deliver an easy way to reapply your SPF in the middle of the day without messing up your makeup. We had no idea how ready the world was when we launched this year Unseen Sunscreen. The formula magically disappears when touched, and it doubles as a fabulous makeup primer—of course, with high broad-spectrum SPF 40. We deliver both organic chemical and 100% mineral/physical-powered sun protective options for the consumer that is mindful of clean ingredient choices but don't want to sacrifice how their products feel on the skin. It's pretty exciting to create a whole new category.

What was your "aha moment" when you realized your company had really become a success?

I've always believed that entrepreneurs are so blessed with the ability to think positively, so much so that every little tiny moment along the way feels like you've made it. I never think that something can't be done, so everything to me has always felt like a huge win. In 2007, we were awarded the Gold Triangle by the American Academy of Dermatology, and I was given the opportunity to speak to over 2,000 dermatologists at their annual conference. I remember thinking at the time that we had it made, but we weren't even yet at retail! We've followed that win up with many more amazing and similar breaks along the way that have all-together fueled my obsession with SPF and changing the way the world thinks about sunscreen.

What's your beauty routine?

I exercise, drink a lot of water, and take daily vitamin D supplements. I've always believed that not only what you put on your skin, but also what you eat and drink and the way you live your life are part of a healthy skin routine. On mornings when my skin feels dry or on travel days, I layer Drunk Elephant Protini Moisturizer with our new Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 for both the broad-spectrum UVA/UVB/blue light protection and the priming benefits it delivers on. The formula is pure unseen makeup-gripping magic. Next, I apply with a Beautyblender our Supergoop! CC Cream in the light-medium shade to even out my skin tone, and dab on a few drops of our Advanced Supergoop! Eye Cream. I set everything with our Invincible SPF 40 100% Mineral Setting Powder. A little Dior mascara and a NARS lipstick paired with our SPF 50 Lipscreen, and I'm out the door!

What's next for your brand?

More of the same! I dream about SPF and taking it to places nobody has ever thought before. Our product innovation is what our brand is most known for, and we don't plan to start disappointing now!

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