Starting a business is always risky, but sometimes when the need is there, you just have to jump in and go for it.
Brothers Doug and Drew Littlemore are lifelong La Jolla surfers who saw that need during their years of surfing in the tropics and not having access to adequate sunscreen. In the mid ‘80s, all that was on the shelves was Coppertone 8 or Bullfrog sunscreen, which came off as soon as it hit the water. Sunburns were par for the course for the avid watermen, that is, until 1989 when the Littlemore brothers created the world’s first sunscreen engineered for surfing.
The brothers had the dream job of being lifeguards at a Fijian resort, and it was there that they knew they needed serious sun protection. “We were just getting beat on by the sun every day” Drew said. “We knew we needed something that would stay on for longer periods of time.”
With that, the brothers set out to reinvent sunscreen to meet their needs and the needs of surfers all over the world and in 1994 started their business, Headhunter sunscreen. They had the perfect setting for feedback, the blazing hot beaches of Fiji. They asked their guests, other lifeguards and local fishermen what they needed in a sunscreen, and soon had a long list of things to work on.
They built their new formula using FDA-approved UVA and UVB filters, and soon their product resembled a makeup more than sunscreen, but it wasn’t going anywhere once you put it on. They knew they were on to something good when, on their next trip to Fiji, the guests were begging to use their sunscreen after getting severe sunburns. To this day that original formula is still their best-selling product in a now impressive line of products.
I asked them how their products are different from what is available at the grocery store. “We use both FDA-approved physical filters titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and another approved physical filter because they stick to your skin better, and a FDA-approved chemical filter (usually more than one) in our SPF 30+ products to ensure bulletproof protection,” Doug said. Having used the product, I can attest that once it’s on, it stays on and, as a surfer and melanoma cancer survivor, I can tell you that’s exactly what you need when spending a day at the beach or anywhere out in the sun.
Today, Doug has taken to running the day-to-day business, and Drew is a successful Realtor in his hometown of La Jolla. While the two have moved past the glory days of lifeguarding in Fiji, they surf whenever it’s good enough to break away from busy work schedules.
Facts about sunscreen
• Always use SPF 30 or greater for maximum protection.
• Stay away from tanning oils, as they contribute to skin damage.
• Always make sure to reapply every 90 minutes or after every time you surf or sweat.
• No sunscreen is waterproof, only water-resistant. If you see anything saying waterproof, it’s just marketing hype.
You can learn more about Headhunter products at headhuntersurf.com
As a lifelong San Diegan, Ken Lewis has surfing and ocean life in his DNA. A 30-year surfer himself, Lewis has worked in the surf and skate industry for most of his career. Send him your thoughts about the surfing world to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram @hanger18.