Vacation Revived Bain de Soleil's Orange Gelée for the Modern Sunscreen Wearer

The discontinued beauty product graveyard is littered with once-beloved formulas of bygone eras — but arguably none have been mourned quite so vocally as Bain de Soleil's Orange Gelée. And on Thursday, buzzy sunscreen brand Vacation, which is known for it's full-throated embrace of nostalgia, introduced its own, modernized take on the product, complete with SPF 30 and that signature scent that will transport fans of the original right back to the summer of '94.

As the story goes, Bain de Soleil launched in France in the 1920s with its Orange Gelée sun-care line that promised to help deliver a "St. Tropez tan" in its wearers. Despite having a paltry SPF of 4 (a dermatologist's nightmare), Orange Gelée — a lightweight, sheen-inducing gel with a signature beach-y scent — became a summertime staple among the masses. It also garnered particular attention among celebrities and fashion folks, and counted Michael Kors (who is known to love a good tan), Tom Ford and Pamela Anderson among its fandom. 

For decades, particularly in the '70s, '80s and '90s, Bain de Soleil Orange Gelée defined luxury sun-care. But in later years, it seemed to wane in popularity — likely due in part to increasing awareness of the need for actual sun protection — and was discontinued in 2019. Its devoted fandom was devastated — and vocal about it.

The product's discontinuation caused such an uproar that more than 10,000 people signed a petition demanding to bring it back, and secondhand tubes were going for as much as $400 on resale sites.

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Vacation</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Vacation

While the original manufacturer said its goodbyes to Orange Gelée, Vacation saw an opportunity to continue its legacy by recreating the product. Thus, it embarked upon its "Orange Gelée Revival Project."

Rather than abide by a lackluster dupe attempt, Vacation worked to perfect a reimagined, modernized formula that stays true to the original but provides enhanced UV protection. The brand took external advice from a panel of superfans of the original, as well as beauty experts who "weighed in on every decision, from helping to decide about scent, to what ingredients to include, the feel, the color, the SPF level and even the design and marketing," Founding Partner of Vacation Dakota Green tells Fashionista.

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Vacation</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Vacation

The process took nearly two years, and it didn't come without its challenges: "Memory is such a subjective thing, and so it was a challenge to nail down a formula that matched everyone's personal memories of the original product, from the color to the fragrance to the feel as you apply it onto your skin," says Green. There was also the matter of replacing "outdated ingredients" (such as the mineral oil, petrolatum and paraffin base) with "good-for-you ones" (like natural oils and butters) without compromising the famed "texture, glide and glisten."

The revived Orange Gelée sunscreen gel offers a user experience that's near-identical to the original Bain de Soleil formula; the most crucial difference is an increased SPF of 30. This decision was met with some backlash, including customers emailing their disappointment and leaving angry comments on social media. But the brand has no regrets about its choice.

"While we understand and respect the nostalgic attachment to the classic SPF 4 rating, our goal is to protect as many people as possible from sun damage and the risk of skin cancer, and so we firmly believe it would be irresponsible to compromise on the issue of sun protection," says Green. "As advocates for safe sun enjoyment, we consulted with our advisory panel and even conducted surveys among thousands of Orange Gelée fans, with over 80% expressing a preference for a higher SPF."

<p>Photo: Courtesy of Vacation</p>

Photo: Courtesy of Vacation

Vacation's goal with the revival project was to spark "the same sense of wonder and excitement that previous generations experienced," particularly in new users, Green says. "We aimed to honor the legacy of the original Orange Gelée while introducing a new generation to its undeniable allure: and in doing so, further Vacation's mission to make sunscreen fun."

Vacation Orange Gelée SPF 30, $23, available here.

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