Your guide to K-beauty sunscreens
SPF is a non-negotiable, full stop, which is why it’s so important to find a sunscreen that works for you. And that may mean looking outside the outdoor aisle at the drugstore. While Banana Boat or the iconic bare-bottomed baby bottle may have been fine to slather on as kids, you may need a new contender for skin sensitivities and or to layer flawlessly under makeup.
Why K-beauty sunscreen?
Thanks to differing FDA regulations and filter technology, much like Korean cosmetics, Korean sunscreens are starting to make a splash stateside. When it comes to sunscreen, K-beauty offers so much more variety than we’re used to in the US. Between the advanced ingredients, innovative textures, and rigorous vetting process, you’re likely to find a number of options that not only offer great protection, but that also complement more skin tones and types. From blurring finishes and weightless textures to creative packaging and application methods, here are the 10 best K-beauty sunscreens:
1. Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+/PA++++
Consistently shouted-out by some of the biggest skincare stars on Instagram, the watery, essence-like formulation of this Korean Biore sunscreen is a dream. Applied like a serum and even offering a dose of hyaluronic acid, this waterproof SPF deserves a place in your beauty lineup.
2. Innisfree Daily Mild Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ 50ml
Innisfree is a favorite among those familiar with K-beauty, and their sunscreen is no different. Formulated with nurturing ingredients like cica, green tea, and sunflower seed oil, it reduces the appearance of irritation and soothes the skin while protecting you with an SPF of 50+.
3. ISNTREE Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel SPF 50+ PA++++
A second hyaluronic acid-infused watery SPF? We see a trend here… This version from ISNTREE is another much-talked-about Korean sunscreen on the internet. And for a good reason, the gel consistency offers robust protection, is reef-safe, and formulated without zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for no dreaded white cast.
4. UV Cut Natural Sun Cushion SPF50+ PA++++
Reapplying at the right hour is easier than ever with this cushion formula. Suitable for even sensitive skin, this physical sunscreen contains active mineral ingredients which work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UVA rays.
5. Sunprise Mild Airy Finish Sun Milk SPF50+ / PA+++
Is there anything better than a hi-tech formula with an affordable price tag? This 100% mineral sunscreen clocks in under $15 and is packed with soothing mistletoe and aloe vera, we well as Barbados cherry to strengthen the skin.
6. Missha Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF 50+ PA+++
The milky texture and soft-focus finish of this sunscreen are the perfect foundation for, well, foundation. Bonus points: it also helps correct tone and dark spots as you wear it!
7. Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++
Created by another K-beauty cult-fave, Corsx, this aloe-based formula soothes as it protects, making it the perfect choice for vacations and long weekends back to back in the sun.
8. MAKEP:REM UV Defense Me Blue Ray Sun Gel SPF 50+ PA++++
How about a sunscreen with ingredients to lower your skin temperature? Also packed with a moisture essence, this non-nano Korean sunscreen skincare gel is the ultimate multi-tasker.
9. Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF50+ PA+++
This moisturizing sunscreen is incredibly lightweight, non-greasy, and fast-absorbing. Plus, with its slim packaging, it easily fits in your purse for reapplication on the go.
10. Banobagi Milk Thistle Repair Sunscreen
Created by a famed Korean dermatology and plastic surgery clinic, this sunscreen is so soothing and hydrating, it can be applied right after a procedure. With a creamy yet sheer texture, the no-cast 50+ sunscreen features antioxidant and skin-strengthening ingredients.
Expand your sunscreen shopping horizons
If traditional sunscreen formulations aren’t working for you and your skin, it may be time to try something new. You know you need a sunscreen with SPF 50+, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to the obvious players. With the above list as your guide and international retailers at the ready, you can find Korean sunscreen alternatives to suit even the most complex list of wants and wishes.
1. “The Absolute Best Korean Sunscreens,” Marie Claire, March 22, 2021.
2. “The 11 Best Korean Sunscreens For Protection Without Chalkiness,” Allure, April 26, 2021.
3. “12 Korean Sunscreens That Are Super Innovative (And Effective),” Byrdie, March 29, 2021.