Fans of a beloved, discontinued sunscreen brand are paying $250 on resale websites for a 3-ounce tube

Sally Cohen-Alameno's remaining stash of sunscreen
A remaining stash of Bain de Soleil sunscreen, found in Sally Cohen-Alameno’s house. Courtesy of Sally Cohen-Alameno
  • Bain de Soleil sunscreen was discontinued by Bayer in December 2019.
  • Yet hard-core fans are desperate to find the product, with some paying hundreds for a used tube.
  • Bayer doesn’t have plans to redistribute the product, despite pleas and a Change.org petition.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Longtime sun worshippers who relied on Bain de Soleil sunscreen to nail down their “St. Tropez tan” are feeling the burn: The now-discontinued product recently became a hot commodity on the resale market, where a 3.12-ounce (88.45g) supply of the orange gelee classic formula has been hawked for up to 30 times its original price of less than $US10 ($AU14) a tube.

Created in 1925, the now iconic dark-tanning formula was inspired by Coco Chanel and first developed by Monsieur Antonine of Paris, originally called “Antoine de Paris.” Known for its bright orange color, distinct fragrance, and silky feel, the gel was introduced in the United States by French fashion house Lanvin in the 1940’s, where it came to be known as “Antoine’s Bain de Soleil” – loosely translated as “Antoine’s bath of the sun.”

Over the years, the brand changed hands from Procter & Gamble to Pfizer to Schering-Plough, the maker of Coppertone Sun lotions, to finally Bayer in 2014, who shelved it for good in December 2019, much to the dismay of its dedicated fan base.

James Fallacaro, a Staten Island, New York, resident, was seemingly so unnerved by the product’s discontinuation that he launched a Change.org petition in an attempt to convince Bayer to start manufacturing the product once again. To date, more than 7,200 individuals have signed the plea, urging the company to consider bringing it back to market. (Fallacaro did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.)

And while product devotees have done just about everything to savor the last bits of product left – from rationing their remaining stash to attempting to concoct their own version of the coveted gelee to searching retail stores in the hopes of finding residual stock – at the beginning of this summer third-party resellers such as Poshmark, Mercari, and eBay came out in full force, tempting sunbathers with an assortment of remaining tubes for sale ranging from mint-in-box to partially-used to expired products at inflated price points.

“It’s like the 1970’s in a tube,” Westfield, New Jersey resident and Bain de Soleil fan Sally Cohen-Alameno, 58, told Insider. One twist of the ridged orange cap, she said, and “the smell brings back memories of growing up at the beach.”

“It’s just so evocative of my childhood,” she said. “I get emotional just thinking about it.”

Sally Cohen-Alameno
Cohen-Alameno with one of her stashed-away Bain de Soleil tubes. Courtesy of Sally Cohen-Alameno

Cohen-Alameno admitted that she no longer relies on the minimal coverage sunscreen – opting for SPF 30 instead – but she can’t quite part with its nostalgic scent, regularly dabbing it on her pulse points instead of perfume and using it as a moisturizer.

Down to two partial tubes left of her orange crush, Cohen-Alameno hit the Ban de Soleil jackpot in July while doing a deep dive of her linen closet and uncovering a tube still in its box. But while others are selling theirs, she’s holding onto hers.

“I’ve tried other brands, but nothing quite matches it. I don’t know what I’m going to do when these run out,” she said, adding that she won’t cave to the exorbitant prices she’s seen online, at least not yet.

Sally Cohen-Alameno's phone case, a tribute to her favorite sunscreen brand
Cohen-Alameno’s phone case, a tribute to her favorite sunscreen brand. Courtesy of Sally Cohen-Alameno

But while Cohen-Alameno may not be willing to shell out the big bucks, others are, paying top dollar to snap this product up, as evidenced by the “Sold” listings on Poshmark and Mercari – where buyers paid anywhere from $US10 ($AU14) to $US250 ($AU343) a tube – and as well as those currently for sale for up to $US360 ($AU494) a tube on eBay.

Despite a clear consumer demand, Bayer isn’t planning on redistributing the product. “As part of our 2018 strategic review of Bayer’s Consumer Health Portfolio, we decided to leverage our science and marketing capabilities in five over-the-counter categories to exit the suncare category, which is no longer a strategic focus for us,” Bayer’s Head of Consumer Health Global Communications Tricia McKernan told Insider.

This essentially means that once all existing tubes of the now-scarce orange gelee are used, all that will be left behind is the warm memories of this much-loved product – along with the catchy 1983 commercial boasting that people who can choose anything they want, choose Bain de Soleil.