Why The Best SPFs Come From Asia

Designed by Us.
Korean women have an extreme relationship with the sun — taught to avoid it at all costs — that shimmering ball of death in the sky. An entire industry supports the idea that, in return for a few carefree years of being beautifully bronzed, the sun will stealthily rob us of our youth and leave us wrinkled and covered in brown spots. And, it’s true. The sun is the number-one cause of aging skin. UV rays dry it out, break down collagen, and cause skin cancer.
This explains why Korean women deck out in full-on battle regalia in the summer months: Darth Vader-esque visors, sun umbrellas, really big hats, and, of course, a whole gamut of skin products to keep the Dorian Gray illusion alive.
Advertisement
The key to successful sun protection is layers. No, one sweep of tinted moisturizer with a hint of SPF won’t stand up against that burning ball of hot our solar system revolves around. Slathering on the SPF repeatedly during your day will best prepare your skin for facing the sun’s harmful rays and help it skin retain its youthful elasticity. Sure, layering SPF doesn't enhance your protection factor, but applying an SPF spray over your face two hours after you applied your SPF BB sure doesn't hurt.
Click through for some of my favorite Korean UVA- and UVB-screening products in a variety of forms and applications.
1 of 23
Not only does this thick green cream have an SPF of 30 but it also manages to mask redness and blur minor imperfections once rubbed in.

Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment, $52, available at Sephora.
2 of 23
If you hate sunscreen — no matter if it's because of how it feels on your skin or you fear it blocking your pores — this gel formula is for you. It preserves the youthful texture of your skin, but never appears greasy, since it dries matte almost instantly. And if you are going to top if off with some light makeup, this sleek formula won't get in the way.

Lagom Sun Gel, $23, available at Peach & Lily.
3 of 23
If you have sensitive skin and are strictly on an organic routine (or not), this SPF will protect you from any sun damage without a bit of irritation.

Aromatica Calendula Non-Nano UV Protection, $33, available at Peach & Lily.
Advertisement
4 of 23
The brand behind the best-selling cushion compact in Korea (more on that later) is basically the authority of making skin look effortlessly luminous. Iope’s UV Shield is a boss sun protector, but somehow also manifests a glow on your skin. I’m talking halo effect in full force.

Though the lightweight formula isn’t pigmented, I could wear it alone for its beautifying effects on a good skin day and as a primer on makeup-essential days.

Iope UV Shield Sun Protector SPF 50+ PA+++, $39.27, available at Aritaum.
5 of 23
In general, things that come in stick form are pretty convenient. High-five for corn dogs and ChapStick, and high-five for Sunprise Bye Sebum Sun Stick from Etude House.

This product doubles as sun protection and oil control, and also makes it remarkably easier to be responsible about slapping on a UV protectant. If you're concerned about your face turning into an oil slick under the blazing midday sun, a few swipes of this stick will give your face a matte finish and a much-needed cooling sensation.

Etude House Sunprise Bye Sebum Sun Stick SPF 50+ PA+++, $12.98, available at Kollection K.
6 of 23
This sunscreen from Neogen is a recent discovery that has quickly become one of my favorite sun protectants. The smell is amazing and hints at the potent botanicals pumped into the formula. Rose, honey, and raspberry extracts intensely hydrate skin, which at this point should be a standard feature for all SPF, considering the fact that there is likely some sun-parching skin exposure in your very near future.

When patted onto the skin, the lightweight formula is sucked almost instantly into skin, so you’re not endlessly rubbing white streaks back and forth across your face. I like to double-layer the formula under my cushion compact, and then once again on top for maximum sun protection — amazingly, my foundation doesn’t revolt with splotches or pilling.

Neogen Day-Light Protection Sunscreen, $30, available at Soko Glam.
7 of 23
Dr. Oracle is one of Korea’s leading dermatologists, which means he’s seen millions of patients — an impressive pool of knowledge to draw from when developing his products.

He created this sunscreen for patients — particularly those who had ultra-sensitive skin post-treatment. This means the formula is sensitive enough for women who’ve had layers of their dermis peeled off, but it also comes at a Korea-standard SPF 50 for full protection from the elements.

It’s formulated with skin-plumping peptides and a blend of botanical extracts including lavender, freesia, chamomile, bergamot, peppermint, and rosemary. Korean women love it because it works overtime as a lightweight, moisturizing sunscreen but also as a primer to help “grab” makeup onto the skin for a totally natural finish.

Dr. Oracle EPL Daily Sunblock SPF 50 PA+++, $44, available at Glow Recipe.
8 of 23
Aromatica's sunscreen is special for a few reasons. Firstly, it's a physical sunscreen, which means it reflects UV rays instead of absorbing them — so it's similar to zinc. But, unlike zinc, it doesn't have that white, chalky texture to it. It's one of the more wearable sunscreens on the market — and it's available stateside.

Aromatica Natural Tinted Sun-Cream, $25, available at Peach & Lily.
Advertisement
9 of 23
Innisfree is known for using natural Korean ingredients. In this case, that includes organic sunflower oil, organic Jeju green tea, and fermented yeast ingredients that help keep the face from becoming an oil slick. I like this sunscreen because it's lightweight and oil-absorbent, but one downside: Because it’s an all-mineral product, the higher levels of zinc leave a silvery finish that can make anyone look a bit Edward Cullen-esque.

Innisfree Eco Safety No Sebum Sunblock SPF35 PA+++, $15, available at Shop at Korea.
10 of 23
If you don’t already know, “air cushioning” is all the rage in Korea. It’s a great way to touch up sun protection on the go and the product also lends a luminous radiance to your complexion. These days, it’s all I put on my face and of all the air cushions out there, Iope is my favorite — and apparently it’s everyone else’s, too. (It’s said that one Iope Air Cushion XP is sold every 30 seconds.)

When picking out the right shade, know that the lower the number, the lighter the color. Beyond that, C stands for coverage (for more coverage), N stands for natural (my preference), and S stands for shimmer (if you’re into the Guerlain Meteorites look).

Iope Air Cushion XP SPF50+/PA+++, $40, available at Iope.
11 of 23
Sulwhasoo is a high-end beauty brand based around Korean herbal and medicinal ingredients. This broad-spectrum sunscreen BB is loaded with herbal ingredients like white ginseng and white cloud grass, so the benefits are twofold: broad-spectrum protection and evening out of skin tone while lending a soft, pinkish radiance to the face.

Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Serum BB Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF50+, $60, available at Bergdorf Goodman.
12 of 23
This product has lots of claims — it’s a mousse, it’s waterproof, and it’s supposed to lower your skin’s temperature. The foam-like mousse makes for a light and airy application. When rubbed onto the skin, the product breaks down into tiny droplets on the skin, leaving behind a slightly dewy, radiant finish.

Hera Sun Mate Cooling Mousse SPF50+ PA+++, $40, available at Tester Korea.
13 of 23
I’m not sure what a "sun liquid" is, but I do know it’s pretty moisturizing for a UV-protection product. It goes on incredibly light and silky, absorbing quickly into the skin. It also taps into the current fermented-skin-care craze, as it contains fermented enzymes that help brighten skin tone.

Nature Republic The First Sun Liquid SPF 50+ PA+++, $8.57, available at Korea Depart.
14 of 23
Another way to build up UV protection is to use a powder with SPF. Catrin's Natural 100 Mineral Sun Kill Powder is a great option because it's a translucent sun-protection powder that brings together 10 minerals to deliver 100% natural, oil-free, and chemical-free shine control. It’s perfect for keeping oiliness at bay and ideal for those who aren't a fan of chemical SPF.

Catrin Natural 100 Mineral Sun Kill Powder SPF 42+ PA+++, $20, available at Memebox.
15 of 23
This sunscreen harnesses all the power of the SPF gods into one tube. It promises to be a blemish balm, skin brightener, moisturizer, and sun protector, basically covering the spectrum of preventative and reparative sun care in one application. It’s lightly tinted a pinkish beige, but I’ve found it blends without discrimination and without the whitish hue characteristic of most sunscreens.

Kangskin Multi Block Cream SPF 50 PA+++, $42, available at Memebox.
16 of 23
Ohui's Sun Protection line is one of the gold standards of Korean sun-care products. Of this range, the most well-loved is the mist spray sunscreen. It's infused with lemon balm extract and peppermint extract to help decrease redness caused by sun exposure, and this also means that distinct sunscreen smell is replaced by a pleasantly light, lemony scent.

Ohui Sun Protection Mist Spray Sunblock EX SPF 50 PA+++, $22.69, available at Oh My Face.
17 of 23
I'm a big fan of CNP Laboratory products, and this sunscreen is one of my absolute favorites. It can be used as a makeup base, but I find myself toting it to the beach as a general sunscreen to slather on every couple of hours. It's not sticky or oily on the skin, and from a purely sun-protecting perspective, it's what I consider a high-performance product.

CNP Laboratory Omega Sunblock SPF 50+ PA+++, $44.10, available at Shop at Korea.
18 of 23
Amorepacific is a stateside staple among Korean imports — read: easy to find at stores like Sephora when you're in a pinch — and offers serious protection in a light, yet hydrating formula. This particular version is oil-free, and keeps skin hydrated while absorbing excess sebum. Translation: It's a win-win.

Amorepacific Natural Protector SPF 30/PA+++, $65, available at Sephora.
19 of 23
Do-it-all products are some of our favorites for obvious reasons. The category tends to include everything we need with little effort. This one combines hydration and UV protection with a hit of mid-level coverage.

Dr. Jart Ceramidin Day Tint SPF 15, $48, available at Sephora.
20 of 23
If you think sunscreen is going to break you out, or cause major pilling, then you need this. Not only is it intensely protective, but the formula is milky and smooth, so you don't have to worry about it irritating your visage — no matter your skin type.

Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish SPF50+/PA+++, $11.47, available at Amazon.
21 of 23
You know how some sunscreens leave a ghastly white cast behind — especially if you have a darker skin tone? This fluid formula goes on sheer and is matte enough to act as a primer, too.

Missha All Around Safe Block Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF50+/PA, $22, available at Missha.
22 of 23
Never skip a pool day again with this waterproof offering.

Etude House Sun-Prise Leports Waterproof SPF50+, $15.60, available at Etude House.
23 of 23
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!