In our sunscreen by skin concern guide, you’ll find the right products with the right consistencies and ingredients for everything from acne to pigmentation.
Sunscreen is arguably the most crucial step in any skin care routine, Korean or not. You can have the most intricate, well-thought-out, researched skin care routine in history and it can still all be for naught if you’re not protecting your skin from the sun.
That’s why we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to Korean sunscreens by skin concern, so you can keep your skin looking soft, smooth, and even as long as possible. But first, a little refresher…
Why is sunscreen important?
Sunscreen protects against the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Scientific evidence shows that using sunscreen, keeping out of direct sunlight, and wearing protective clothing can be effective in preventing skin cancer as well as short term and long term damage to the skin. During peak hours, when the sun is at its most powerful (between 10am and 3pm), it’s better to stay inside or in the shade if you can, to make sure your skin is protected from those harmful rays.
But I have darker skin, so I don’t need it right?
Wrong. Everyone is susceptible to skin cancer regardless of race, gender, or age.
If you’re going outside, you should be wearing sunscreen (even on cloudy days, because up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can still reach through to the skin). You should be wearing sunscreen, particularly around snow, sand, and water which can all reflect the sun’s rays.
Anywhere that won’t be covered by clothes should be covered with sunscreen (don’t forget the lips and ears). And sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside and reapplied approximately every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
But what do all those terms mean…?
SPF stands for sun protection factor and indicates a relative amount of time that your skin will be protected from UV (ultraviolet) B rays. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn and reddening on the skin’s outermost layers. By relative we mean this: Say you’re prone to sunburn after five minutes without sunscreen; applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would protect you for 15 x five minutes of 60 minutes, in theory.
Dermatologists recommend that you choose a sunscreen with at least SPF 30, which blocks 97% of UVB rays. Higher SPF sunscreens will block a higher percentage, but no sunscreen will block 100% of these rays. Also keep in mind that even though SPF should in theory correspond to how long before reapplication, the American Academy of Dermatologists, recommends still reapplying sunscreen every two hours.
PA means Protection Grade of UVA rays. The more + signs following a PA, indicate more protection against these rays. UVA rays penetrate past the epidermis (the top layer of skin) and can cause more harmful damage. The PA grade is based on the PPD or Persistent Pigment Darkening system which marks how long it would take the skin to tan.
So which sunscreen should I be using… ?
If acne is your biggest concern…
There’s a huge misconception when it comes to acne and sunscreen which is that sunscreen is pore-clogging and greasy thereby causing more acne. And that the sun dries out pimples so if acne is your biggest concern then you should skin sunscreen altogether. Bad idea. Definitely don’t skip the sunscreen.
Infrared light from the sun has actually been known to inflame and irritate existing acne. UV rays also stimulate melanin production in the skin, meaning that dark spots and scars can actually become darker from exposure to the sun.
Instead of skipping protection, opt for something like the TROIAREUKE Acsen UV Protector Essence. This essence-like sunscreen is perfect for both sensitive and acne-prone skin. Its lightweight formulation seeps easily into the skin, without leaving a white cast or a sticky, greasy residue. Plus, it contains centella asiatica, an ingredient famed for calming inflammation and redness.
If anti-aging is your biggest concern…
You’re in luck. The best way to protect your skin against premature aging is sunscreen. And pretty much any sunscreen with an SPF above 30 will do, as long as you’re diligent about application.
We love the Thank You Farmer Sun Project Sun Cream. It is not only formulated with SPF 50 to defend your skin from harmful UV rays, but it is also infused with African walnut oil, inca omega oil and bamboo extracts to target signs of aging and keep the skin hydrated throughout the day. This multi-functional sunscreen also contains a patented ingredient that calms, soothes and protects the skin’s moisture barrier.
If dryness is your biggest concern…
Putting anything oily on top of dry skin is the worst. But don’t fret, we know of the perfect sunscreens that will hydrate and moisturize your skin whilst still protecting it from the sun, so you don’t have to deal with any oily and dry skin woes. The Papa Recipe Honey Moist Sun Essence is just as much moisturizer as it is sunscreen. It intensely hydrates whilst protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. It contains honey extract to nourish the skin, while its SPF 50+PA+++ provides broad spectrum protection.
Or opt for the Neogen Day-Light Protection Sun Screen SPF 50/PA+++. A Soko Glam Best of K-Beauty Award winner, this sunscreen is super light and super hydrating, with rose and raspberry extracts for extra hydration on top of your moisturizer. Plus, it has no white cast and no-greasy feeling, so you can feel good putting this on your skin.
If you have sensitive skin…
Sensitive skin doesn’t excuse you from the sunscreen. In fact, you’ll definitely want to layer up so that you’re making sure the sun isn’t causing any additional irritation to the skin. The Suntique I’m Pure Cica Sunscream is a great sensitive skin formulation that is gentle and sits light on the skin, whilst still hydrating and protecting against UV rays. It is formulated with EWG green-grade ingredients, featuring soothing centella asiatica and moisturizing galactomyces ferment filtrate.
Or opt for the Acwell UV Cut SPF 50+PA++++ Mild Sun Fluid. This non-sticky sunscreen has “mild” in its name for a reason. Formulated with a patented ingredient called “Natural Protector” and centella asiatica extract, this moisturizing sunscreen soothes and calms inflammation while reparing sun damaged skin.
Or if you just want a light and convenient sunscreen…
Looking for a light, non-greasy sunscreen to wear everyday? You might want to check out the Thank You Farmer Sun Project Light Sun Essence. This sunscreen gives your skin just the right amount of hydration throughout the day, without the grease or sticky feeling sunscreens usually have. Its formula not only protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays, but it also minimizes the appearance of pores and helps repair the skin barrier.
The Bottom Line
If you think you’re not getting enough sunscreen, you’re probably right. This is one of the things where you definitely don’t want to skimp out. Using just your BB cream or foundation definitely isn’t enough.
Wearing high SPF can protect your skin against short and long term consequences that are far worse than taking a few extra minutes to apply and reapply sunscreen to the skin.