Feature: Exploring K-Beauty Sunscreen Recommendations

Kbeauty SPF Sunscreens from StyleKorean

This product was sent to me for review purposes. Please note that affiliate links are used.

A lot of people who are outside of the k-beauty community might not have heard about this, but there was a huge sunscreen scandal last year (late November 2020, to be exact). It started with the Purito Centella Green sunscreen (which has a lower SPF than was marketed due to improper practices by the manufacturer) and, as a result of that, pretty much every k-beauty brand began to review and re-test their formulations. This situation resulted in a lot of uncertainty and skepticism – how do we know which products can be trusted, and how do they know that they have been formally tested? – but I’m here to help!

(Well, StyleKorean is… but I digress)

I was approached by StyleKorean to discuss their range of sunscreens. In order to help customers be more confident in the brands and products that they are carrying, they have worked to carefully curate (and even personally test) their sunscreens range. Aside from the advertised SPF ratings, they have also gathered the formal testing documentations for all of these products – which I will be referring to in this post too.

There’s a massive range on their site, but these are the k-beauty sunscreens that I’ll be discussing in this article:

And now, let’s dive right into the details!

NOTE: The listing of these statistics are according to the reports I have been given access to and, to some extent, are also dependent on my own understanding of the terminology. I do not claim to be a scientist or a skincare professional; just another customer fascinated by what I am presented with.

If you are unsure on how to read some of the listed results, please see the guide at the end of the article.

B1 Sunscreen (TOUN28) | USD$24 (On sale from USD$38.20)

Described as a ‘organic blocker,’ this sunscreen works to protect your skin from both UV and Blue Light (HEV) – a big concern for skin aging. This specific variant (B1) was formulated for dry skin and has a refreshing, lotion-like texture that is suitable for all seasons, whilst B2 was formulated for oily skin with a non-greasy texture. Both of these are allergen-free too.

In addition to all of that, TOUN28 as a brand is super dedicated to preserving the environment. You may notice the unique pouch packing for this sunscreen (along with their other products) – they have minimised the use of plastic to only what is necessary to prevent leakage or spills. This sunscreen is also reef safe, not using any ingredients which are harmful to the ecosystem.

Product Details

  • Type: Mineral (Physical) Sunscreen
  • Advertised PA: PA++++ (Extremely High UVA Protection)
  • Advertised SPF: SPF 50+
  • Tested SPF: SPF 51 ± 2.9

First Impressions

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to give my first impressions on this product as I noticed some inconsistencies with bottle I received – it did not perform the same as other videos that I had seen online (real videos, not promotional), so I decided not to review this in order to avoid putting out incorrect information.

Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel (Isntree) | USD$22.50 (On sale from USD$26.50)

If you’re after a moisturising, lightweight sunscreen, then you may be interested in the Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel by Isntree. With a hypoallergenic formula, this has extra functions of oil-moisture balance, anti-aging, strengthening the skin barrier and soothing. Some key ingredients include Astaxanthin, Centella Asiatica Extract, Fig Extract and Ceramides.

It also has eight layers of Hyaluronic Acid to help lock in moisture. This consists of three different molecular sizes, allowing the HA to treat all layers of skin – from deep hydration to forming a moisture layer closer to the surface.

Product Details

  • Type: Chemical Sunscreen
  • Advertised PA: PA++++ (Extremely High UVA Protection)
  • Advertised SPF: SPF 50+
  • Tested SPF: SPF 53.5 ± 6.3

First Impressions

  • Lightweight, water-cream texture – it’s easy to smooth out on skin
  • Minimal white cast
  • Non-sticky and fully absorbs to a hydrating finish
  • No noticeable scent

Day-Light Protection Airy Sunscreen (Neogen) | USD$25.60 (On sale from USD$32)

For those who want something that absorbs very well and is still hydrating, Neogen‘s Day-Light Protection Airy Sunscreen may be a good option. As a successor to their original ‘Day-Light Protection Sunscreen‘, this formula is a pure chemical sunscreen with the ability to become virtually undetectable on skin – making it much easier to apply liberally.

It has an essence-type formula and contains 20 different styles of plant extracts for soothing and sebum control benefits including Damask Rose, Aloe Vera, Avocado, Mugwort and Hibiscus Flower Extract (full list on the StyleKorean website). Additionally, it also contains Silica to reduce shine, and give a silky finish – perfect for under make up.

Product Details

  • Type: Chemical Sunscreen
  • Advertised PA: PA+++ (High UVA Protection)
  • Advertised SPF: SPF 50
  • Tested SPF: SPF 54.4 ± 5.1

First Impressions

  • Lightweight and super creamy
  • As per the claims, it fully absorbs into skin almost immediately and has a super hydrating finish
  • No white cast – this actually becomes translucent on application
  • Powdery matte finish, that is still very lightweight and would be perfect under make up
  • Has a light fruity scent

Aloe Soothing Sun Cream (COSRX) | USD$14

No doubt a very famous product (from a very famous brand), the Aloe Soothing Sun Cream from COSRX has been well praised over the years. Aside from having SPF protection, it also contains Aloe Leaf Water to help moisturise and soothe skin, as well as a lightweight texture that claims to feel just like a moisturiser.

Out of this entire list, I daresay that this one – in my opinion – is the most moisturising. It also gives a dewy finish that would look great alone or even under make up. I feel that it has a very slight white cast, though it isn’t very visible in comparison to a physical-only sunscreen.

Product Details

  • Type: Combination Mineral (Physical) and Chemical Sunscreen
  • Advertised PA: PA+++ (High UVA Protection)
  • Advertised SPF: SPF 50+
  • Tested SPF: SPF 54.5

First Impressions

  • A creamy and hydrating formula
  • Absorbs well with a slight moisture layer lingering afterwards
  • Soothing sensation on application
  • Slight white cast
  • Has a dewy finish that would be nice both alone or under make up
  • Light, refreshing scent

Mineral Sun Stick (Benton) | USD$17.50 (On sale from USD$25)

For something that is suitable for the entire family and can be easily carried around in your bag, the Mineral Sun Stick from Benton is a great option. This comes in a balmy, stick-type form and has a super lightweight finish. Key ingredients include Titanium Dioxide (the sunscreen), it also contains three different types of Hyaluronic Acids and Tocopherol (Vitamin E).

This sun stick has a non-sticky and waterproof formula, as is also tested for both sensitive skin and for infant use – it’s definitely something that can be used for the whole family, and would be especially great for kids who are more reluctant to put on sunscreen due to the ‘stickiness’. This is recommended for oily skin types but, if you have more dry or dehydrated skin, you can also check out their Benton Mineral Sun Cream which has a more moisturising benefit.

Product Details

  • Type: Mineral (Physical) Sunscreen
  • Advertised PA: PA++++ (Extremely High UVA Protection)
  • Advertised SPF: SPF 50+
  • Tested SPF: SPF 56.0

First Impressions

  • Smooth, matte powdery finish that is barely noticeable on skin
  • May have a visible white cast a first, but this can be easily patted out
  • No noticeable scent
  • Suitable for the entire family, and would also be a great option for kids

Truecica Mineral Calming Tone-up Suncream (Some By Mi) | USD$5.99 (On sale from USD$15)

The Truecica Mineral Calming Tone-Up Sunscreen by Some By Mi actually has the highest tested SPF out of this list! Similar to the TOUN28, this is also a reef-friendly physical sunscreen. It has the triple function of UV protection, brightening and anti-wrinkle benefits – as well as using Truecica (their trademarked ingredient) and Aloe Vera Extract to soothe skin.

Although this sunscreen claims to have a ‘tone up’ effect but no white cast, I find this somewhat contradictory. I personally think that the white cast is quite visible – especially when compared to some others on this list. It’s less opaque than traditional sunscreens though so, while it may not work for medium to deeper skin tones, it comes across as a tone up effect on lighter skin.

Product Details

  • Type: Mineral (Physical) Sunscreen
  • Advertised PA: PA++++ (Extremely High UVA Protection)
  • Advertised SPF: SPF 50+
  • Tested SPF: SPF 69.8 ± 9.0

First Impressions

  • This has a surprisingly thin, almost watery texture. However, it seems to become more creamy on application
  • Visible white cast (tone up)
  • Dries down matte with a powdery finish
  • Medium strength herbal scent
  • Skin feels smooth after application, though isn’t super moisturised

Vita Red Sunscreen (Tia’m) | USD$13 (On sale from USD$22)

And finally is Tia’m‘s Vita Red Sunscreen. This is a combination sunscreen that contains both physical and chemical UV filters, with an added mild soothing effect. It’s non-sticky and gives a moisturised finish that may work well underneath make up. This sunscreen also has a triple function – UV protection, hydrating and brightening.

Some of the key ingredients include Aloe Arborescens Leaf Extract (soothing and hydrating), Vitamin C Derivatives (brightening and revitalizing) and Vitamin E (oil-water balance and nourishing).

Product Details

  • Type: Combination Mineral (Physical) and Chemical Sunscreen
  • Advertised PA: PA+++ (High UVA Protection)
  • Advertised SPF: SPF 50+
  • Tested SPF: SPF 58

First Impressions

  • Very creamy texture and moisturising finish
  • Slight soothing sensation on first application
  • Minimal to no white cast
  • Radiant, hydrating finish
  • May suit a lot of different skin types
  • Pleasant, refreshing scent

What are you keen to try out from this list? Or do you have another k-beauty sunscreen that you swear by? My personal favourite is the Day-Light Protection Airy Sunscreen from Neogen – although it has the lowest SPF and PA levels on this list, it’s still pretty high. The chemical based formula is virtually undetectable on skin so would be easy to reapply during the day.

I also like the Aloe Soothing Sun Cream from COSRX – the scent and soothing effect is really nice. It has a more dewy finish that would be suitable for drier seasons.

When it comes to strong UV protection, the Truecica Mineral Calming Tone-Up Sunscreen from Some By Mi has the most impressive SPF testing results. The consequence of that though, is that it has the most visible white cast. However, it still works well for my skin tone so I can see myself using this on days when I know I’ll be under stronger sun. It may be harder to touch up during the day though.

SPF can be a very difficult topic to understand and comprehend. I’m not a total professional on this either and, even while reading and researching for this article, I learnt a lot as well. Regardless of which sunscreen you choose to use – higher or lower SPF ratings, physical vs chemical – the most important thing to remember is reapplying during the day!

Want to pick up anything from this list or check out some other k-beauty sunscreens? Head on over to StyleKorean for their entire category!

Understanding the Results

What is a SPF Rating?

The advertised SPF rating will generally fall into one of the group ratings – with the most common being SPF15, SPF30, SPF50 and SPF50+. The actual test results, however, will have exact numbers.

What does ± mean?

This is a symbol used often in maths and science, representing a variance in the result. For example, 50 ± 5 will mean that results vary between 45 to 55.

What is PA?

PA is the level of protection from UVA rays and uses a specific testing method called the Persistent Pigmentation Darkening test. Each PA rating (from PA+ to PA++++) will be dependent on different PPD results. Guide for this is below (source and source)

PA+ = PPD 2-4 (Contains UVA Protection)
PA++ = PPD 4-8 (Moderate UVA Protection)
PA+++ = PPD 8-16 (High UVA Protection)
PA++++ = PPD 16 or higher (Extremely High UVA Protection)

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