Before discovering Japanese and Korean sunscreens, I dreaded applying sunscreen. To avoid getting that painful sunburn, I mainly applied sunscreen when I was vacationing in extra sunny weather or having a pool day. However, sunscreen also helps keep wrinkles at bay (protecting against UVA rays) and should be used daily (even on cloudy days). I thought with the little sun exposure I got during my commute to-and-from work, I could get away with just wearing makeup with a built-in SPF. You actually can’t; the SPF in makeup doesn’t provide enough coverage. So, I searched and tested numerous sunscreens, hoping to discover that holy grail invisible, matte, moisturizing, and white cast free sunscreen with a pleasant fragrance. Most of the western brands didn’t quite live up to those expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that most Japanese and Korean sunscreens came very close. Their lightweight and primer-like textures make applying sunscreen on a daily basis quite effortless and pleasant. Hope my review of the popular Asian sunscreens can help you find your holy grail sunscreen and let me know if there any other Asian sunscreens that you love and I should try out!
UVA and UVB Rays
Sunscreens protect your skin from damaging rays from the sun, which come in two forms:
UVB (b for burn) – UVB rays are the cause of sunburns and skin cancer
UVA (a for aging) – UVA rays are broken down into two spectrums (UVA II – 340 to 400 nm & UVA I – 320 to 340 nm) and penetrate more deeply to cause aging and wrinkles
You want to look for a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (known as broad spectrum or full spectrum).
Difference Between Physical Suncreens & Chemical Suncreens
Physical sunscreens are often formulated with minerals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They reflect UV light.
Pros: Works immediately upon application and less irritating for those with sensitive skin
Cons: Thick, opaque, more difficult to blend, and leaves a white cast
Chemical sunscreens typically include synthetic ingredients such as avobenzone and octinoxate. They absorb UV light to cancel out the damage (or releases it in the form of heat).
Pros: Lightweight, primer-like texture, and broader UVA protection
Cons: Must be applied 15 to 30 min prior to sun exposure, potential to irritate sensitive skin
SPF and PA Indicators
SPF (sun protection factor) indicates the % of UVB rays the sunscreen guards against. A SPF of 30 (recommended minimum) will protect against 97% of UVB rays and a SPF of 50 (ideal) will protect against 98% of UVB rays. The SPF also represent the number of times longer it will take your skin to burn. Bare skin typically starts to burn after 10 – 15 minutes of sun exposure, so it’ll take 15 times longer for your skin to burn if you use a SPF 15 (and 30 times longer with a SPF 30).
PA (protection grade of UVA rays) is a measurement ranking established by the Japanese based on the PPD (persistent pigment darkening) reading with the levels indicated by the number of ‘+’. The max is PA++++ for Japanese brands and PA+++ for Korean brands.