Meet the Founders of Skinnies Sunscreen

Just a couple weeks ago I was getting ready to take the family to the park so started the usual ritual of chasing down the two munchkins and slathering them with handfuls of thick, white, chalky sun cream. By the end of it, the three of us were just a pasty, gloopy, sticky mess that just got worse at the park when they started to sweat it all out. There has to be a better way, right?

I'm so excited to tell you about a new line of sunscreen that just landed on our website: Skinnies waterless sun gel! What makes it so great? It contains NO WATER so a pea-sized blob is all you need for your face, neck and ears. It goes on totally clear so say bye-bye to chalky white residue.

Skinnies offers:
☀️ Broad spectrum UVA & UVB protection
☀️ 80 minutes of water resistance
☀️ Non greasy, non white, doesn't sting the eyes
☀️ Vegan, cruelty free and contains no nasties such as parabens and preservatives
☀️ Eco-friendly because it's waterless (reduces carbon footprint and less use of our most valuable resource), and they're upgrading to sustainable packaging options (sugar cane packaging for select sizes)

We recently sat down with Martha and Olly Van Arts, the husband and wife duo behind Skinnies. Here are some of the main points of the interview, and you can watch the full Facebook Live interview below!

Martha & Olly

Meet Olly Van Arts, Skinnies co-founder in charge of brand and customer experience, and Martha Van Arts, Skinnies co-founder in charge of everything inside the tube, including formulation and sustainability.

What makes Skinnies so different?

Martha: The fact that we have no water in the product; it’s like a concentrate. Typical sunscreens have 50-70% water, and ours has zero. With our Organogel™, it’s a really efficient way to put UV filters on the skin. It’s very pleasant to use, and we have just done some reformulation to make sure we are as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible.

Olly: I think maybe 10 years ago when we started this business, it all started when I was outside in the New Zealand summer in the sun, and it’s super hot and I burn easily, and I came inside and said to Martha, “Look, I’m covered in this white, sticky sunscreen that feels horrible. There surely must be a better way.” We researched all we could about sunscreen, Martha from a science and environmental background, and me from a marketing one, and we realized a common ingredient is water. As Martha mentioned, 50 - 70% is water, which is a lot, and water is not functional when it comes to protecting you. By removing it, it means you can use a lot less, and we’re not wasting water. One thing we hear is people hate wearing white sticky sunscreen, it gets in their eyes, or it can irritate. So that was one of the main experiences we wanted Skinnies to solve.

 Skinnies no water

You mentioned Organogel – what is that and how does it work?

Martha: It’s a chemistry process where we use a cosmetic grade clay and coconut oil derivatives. We use a very specialized process where the gel forms and it holds the actives in a lattice formula - like if you think of a piece of chicken wire over your skin with all the filters in between the wire protecting your skin on a very small level. The Organogel bonds to a very thin layer on top of your skin because it’s also lipid based. Therefore you don’t have any evaporation of water, so you don’t have to wait 20 minutes, and you don’t get that white cast on top of your skin. It goes on, dries quickly, and stays there doing what it should.

Tell us about your sustainability mission – what are the main pillars of your sustainability values and what steps are you taking to keep improving?

Martha: The first one would be the fact that we’re using no water. That means that that the product is five times more effective than typical sunscreen. Because we use less water, we use less ingredients, we use less carbon miles to get the product to where it needs to go, and we’re quite conscious about making sure our packaging is compostable or 100% recyclable. All of the newer packaging for Skinnies is made with sugar cane resin; we’ve got a little more work to do on the infrastructure to start pulling all the packaging back to reuse it in the process but that’s in our two-year plan. We’ve got fewer applications per person because you only need to use it once per day, therefore you’ve got less exposure on your skin. Overall, as a business, we’re focused on quality, paying a living wage, we use a hybrid vehicle, we recycle, reduce and reuse, and pay attention to maximizing our digital footprint as opposed to using a physical one.

What’s the origin of the name Skinnies?

Olly: We get asked that question all the time! Firstly, we wanted to incorporate the word ‘skin’ in our name because we’re all about sunscreen, and sunscreen goes on your skin. And secondly it goes all around the philosophy of using less; down under in Australia and New Zealand, if something is efficient and you use less of it, it’s referred to as being skinny or lean. For example, trim milk is called skinny milk down here. So we wanted to combine the idea of using less with a product that goes on your skin, and came up with the word Skinnies. And it’s been very fun using it!


Some of our viewers had questions about some of the ingredients – avobenzone, octocrylene and oxybenzone – doing damage to ocean infrastructures. Why does Skinnies contain these ingredients?

Martha: there’s an older formulation that we’ve got that contains oxybenzone and avobenzone. When we formulated the product 10 years ago there wasn’t as much information about environmental factors, so we’ve phased those ingredients out of the products in newer batches. For us, it’s about using ingredients that are really effective and we’ve minimized the use of any active ingredients so there are very low concentrations, while keeping the efficacy. The main impact on coral reefs is actually ocean acidification caused by CO2 emissions. The newer ones that are waterproof don’t contain the oxybenzone, avobenzone and octinoxate.

Olly: Also the original Skinnies sun gel was meant to be for lifestyle use, and nearly 3 or 4 years ago we developed Conquer, the ocean and sports swimming product. A new version Skinnies sun gel came out late last year; it was an interesting process to reformulate a product that meets consumer trends and what new environmental contributors might be. It took almost 18 months to 2 years to go through the compliance, testing and ingredient selections to make sure we had the state of the art and latest ingredients. Ones that would have a low environmental impact, but still meet our points of difference to not be like any other sunscreens out there, that are either mineral or white sunscreen products. It doesn’t stop for us to keep improving and building. We’re all about paving the way for new sunscreen technology.

How is the kids version different?

Martha: this product is based on our highest performance sport product, but without the zinc. It’s a gentle product, it’s easy for children to apply, and it’s got a non-allergenic coconut smell. It makes it easier for parents to put sunscreen on for sure!

If you want to catch the full video, you can watch it here below. We ran into a few technical difficulties (it was live!), but I hope you enjoy hearing from Martha and Olly as they tell us more about their journey.


Ready to change the way you use sunscreen forever? Grab your Skinnies now!

Stay safe,


Toni Chan
August Society Founder & Creative Director

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