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This K-Beauty Sunscreen Essence is Perfect For All Skin Tones

Sun essences are lightweight, residue-free, breathable alternatives to heavier SPFs. Read on to find out how I went from not wearing SPF at all to incorporating sun essences as a staple in my daily skin care routine.

For me, wearing sunscreen has always felt like a chore. Most of the SPF products I’ve tried had a thick, greasy texture that left my already oily skin feeling slick and suffocated, I could never stand the strong smell of SPF on my face all day, and even when I tried products boasting their lightweight textures, they more often than not left a white cast that left me looking pasty for the rest of the day.

I don’t burn in the sun easily (or at all, really) thanks to my brown skin, and honestly, the threat of sun damage and aging was an easier fear to face than the idea of slathering my skin in a greasy, pore-suffocating, fragrant, white-casting sunscreen day after day. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Korean sun essences – breathable, lighter-than-moisturizer creams – that I was finally willing to protect my skin from sun damage without being worried about clogging my pores or changing the appearance of my skin tone. I recently tried the Papa Recipe Honey Moist Sun Essence SPF 50+PA+++, and let me say: for anyone who finds sunscreens to be too thick, too pasty, and too smelly, this is a game-changer.

What Is a Sun Essence?

Essences are a staple in Korean skin care, and are typically applied after toner as a liquid hydrating, nourishing product. But essences can also come in the form of skin care-packed sunscreen. Essences are formulated to be lightweight while still doing all the work a moisturizer or sunscreen does, they just don’t feel as thick or rich, making them a perfect product for those with oily or combination skin, or anyone looking for a sunscreen that blends seamlessly.

The Papa Recipe Sun Essence

The Papa Recipe Sun Essence is so thin and airy that even when I put a sizable amount in my palm, I was worried I might not be putting enough on to protect my face. But the beauty of sun essences is that they do have all the coverage and protection of a regular product, just without the heaviness and greasiness of it. 

I put SPF on over my makeup, and the Papa Recipe sunscreen was fast to absorb. After I applied it, I still felt like my face was fresh, whereas with other sunscreens, I’ve often felt like I already endured a full day of sun and heat after I apply it due to the thickness and greasiness of it. I also noticed that the Papa Recipe sun essence didn’t make the makeup underneath look pale or pasty—it went on completely transparently, and spreading it around my skin didn’t make my concealer or blush slide around and separate underneath, either. 

Throughout the day, I continued to feel like I wasn’t wearing an SPF (a good thing for someone who doesn’t like wearing SPF) and that I had simply applied my morning makeup routine as usual. The light, thin texture of the essence made it easy to reapply, even, something I absolutely never would have done with a regular SPF for fear of being even more oily and pasty. It appeared clear as glass on my face, and even after the third reapplication (New York is in a heat wave at the moment), I didn’t seem to be even the slightest bit pale from a possible whitecast. In fact, I even noticed that my skin felt more hydrated under the hot sun, a noticeable and more than welcome effect of the included honey extract in the formula.

Other K-Beauty Favorites 

Luckily for me, sun essences are a common skin care product in Korea, meaning they aren’t hard to come by at all. Tony Moly makes a fantastic sun essence in the form of My Sunny Watery Essence SPF 50/PA+++, which is also packed with hyaluronic extract and aloe vera to nourish and hydrate the skin. This sun essence has more of a watery formula than Papa Recipe’s, and it goes on so lightly and smoothly and provides an instant, refreshing pick-me-up to the skin.

Thank You Farmer’s Sun Project Light Sun Essence is another great sun essence, with its non-sticky, transparent formula. I recently gifted this to my mom, who has always been put-off by SPFs with a whitecast but resigned herself to using them anyway as they all seemed to have one, and now, it’s her absolute holy grail product. Just after the first use she asked me to get another tube for her, and she was shocked at how an SPF could still provide coverage without being the least bit sticky or residue-y, and even said it helped blur her pores. 

The Bottom Line

My friends have been telling me for years that I need to wear sunscreen, but I wasn’t willing to put my face through the torture of a whitecast and added greasiness. But now that I’ve been introduced to sun essences, I can firmly state that I won’t go without SPF in my skin care routine for the foreseeable future. If you’re bothered by regular sunscreens, whether it be because of their thickness, the residue, the whitecast, the strong scent, or all of the above, sun essences are definitely the UV protection formulated for you. 

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