If you’re a loyal consumer of K-beauty, you already know that Korea produces some of the best skincare, make-up and hair care products available in the market right now. Natural ingredients make their products stand out from the crowd, whether you’re picking up sweatproof make-up, multi balm sticks, lip masks or something else.
It’s no different when it comes to sunscreens. With the country leading in advancements and innovations in sun filters, the result is evident in lightweight Korean sunscreen textures that leave no white cast, and are versatile enough to suit a wide variety of skin types and tones.
But before we deep-dive into K-beauty sunscreens, we asked Dr Radmila Lukian, dermatologist and founder of Lucia Clinic in Dubai, to shed some light on why we should use sun protection in the first place, and what kind works best.
How important is sunscreen in a skincare routine?
Step out into a hot summer’s day, and you’ll immediately understand the harsh impact the sun’s rays can have on your skin.
Dr Lukian said: “Sunscreen is a critical part of a skincare routine because it shields your skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays can cause sunburn, premature aging (wrinkles and age spots), and increase the risk of skin cancer. By applying sunscreen regularly, you protect your skin's health and appearance. It's like giving your skin a shield against the sun's potential damage, which is why it's considered one of the most important steps in skincare.”
When you’re faced with the sunscreen aisle at the pharmacy or supermarket, though, you might wonder which one to get.
Ultimately, there are two kinds of sunscreens – physical (sometimes called mineral or natural) and chemical. Which one you purchase will matter, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Dr Lukian explained: “Physical and chemical sunscreens work differently. Physical sunscreens, often containing ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, create a protective barrier on your skin that reflects and scatters UV rays away from your skin. Chemical sunscreens contain active compounds that absorb UV rays and transform them into heat, which is then released from the skin. Both types can be effective, but physical sunscreens are often preferred for their gentle nature, especially for sensitive skin.”
Rules of application
To get the most out of your sunscreen, our expert recommended following these steps:
- Use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. Typically, this means about a teaspoon for your face and a shot glass’s worth for your body.
- Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun to allow it to be absorbed properly.
- Re-apply sunscreen every two hours, and more frequently if you're swimming, sweating, or towel-drying. Even if a sunscreen is labeled as water-resistant, it still loses its effectiveness over time and with these activities.
As a final word of advice, Dr Lukian urged making the application of sunscreen a daily habit: “The key is to find a sunscreen that you like and will use regularly. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Remember that sunscreen is not just for sunny days; UV rays can harm your skin even on cloudy or overcast days, so it's a year-round skincare essential.”
Based on our expert’s recommendations, and top-rated user reviews, we picked the best K-beauty sunscreens to add to your skincare arsenal - many of them are up to 50 per cent off right now. Pick your favourite, and use Prime membership benefits for free, fast delivery.
1. Best Overall: Missha All Around Safe Block Soft Finish Sun Milk (SPF 50+, PA+++)
With a silky, featherweight texture that just blends into your complexion, Missha’s sun milk features special UV technology that helps protect against the sun, and it’s resistant to water and sweat. It’s a mineral sunscreen, making it an excellent choice for people who experience redness and irritation with most skincare products. Dr Lukian said: “For sensitive skin, mineral-based (physical) sunscreens are often gentler and less likely to cause irritation.” Many reviewers say its silky-smooth consistency has allowed them to use it as a make-up primer, too. The sun milk is rated PA+++, based on Korean labelling, which indicates that it provides broad-spectrum coverage.
2. Best for Oily Skin: Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream (PA+++)
This soothing sunscreen by Cosrx uses aloe leaf extract as its key ingredient, to create a lightweight sunblock that leaves no white cast. Reviewers say it has a texture that’s similar to a moisturiser, and users with oily skin types say it doesn’t at all feel greasy on the skin. Dr Lukian recommends opting for oil-free or non-comedogenic (won't clog pores) sunscreens if you have oily or acne-prone skin – Cosrx’s sun cream checks both these boxes. Moreover, its travel-friendly form factor makes it an essential item for your handbag or backpack.
3. Best for Dry Skin: innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen (SPF 36)
A water-based, hydrating sunscreen that’s lightweight and packed with natural ingredients, innisfree’s sunblock is the one to pick if you want an invisible finish. Reviewers rave about the fact that it’s fast-absorbing and leaves the skin looking dewy. However, it’s best for users with dry skin, since some reviewers say they experience breakouts if they don’t wash off the product properly at the end of the day. Dr Lukian shared some advice: “Dry skin types might prefer sunscreens with added moisturisers to prevent dryness.” This product is infused with a blend of green tea and sunflower seed oil for additional soothing and moisturisation.
4. Best for Sensitive Skin: Dr.Jart+ Every Sun Day Mild Sun UV Protector (SPF 43, PA+++)
Don’t worry about feeling sticky or gross when you slather on Dr.Jart+ Every Sun Day, since this lightweight formula creates a smooth matte finish, and is ideal for sensitive skin types. It’s made without sulfates, SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) or SLES (sodium laureth sulfate), which are known to cause irritation and breakouts. Key ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which create a physical barrier from the sun. Reviewers like its creamy texture and say a little goes a long way, and the sunscreen leaves no white cast.
5. Best Vegan Sunscreen: d'Alba UV Essence Waterfull+ Mild Sun Cream (SPF50+, PA++++)
With a PA++++ rating, d’Alba’s sun cream offers protection from the maximum amount of UVA rays. It features a 100 per cent mineral filter, which means it successfully reflects the sun’s rays rather than absorb it into the skin, like many chemical formulas do. The sun cream is packed with natural ingredients – centella asiatica is known for calming the skin and reducing redness, hyaluronic acid helps increase moisture content, and vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties. But the star here is white truffle, which is extracted from Piedmont, Italy, and contributes to the skin’s vitality and texture. Reviewers who are used to experiencing strong sunscreens that make their eyes water, say d’Alba is light, mild and incredibly hydrating.
6. Best Under Make-up: Sulwhasoo UV Daily Cream (SPF 40)
A well-established Korean skincare brand, Sulwhasoo makes one of the most popular sunscreens in the market. This broad-spectrum sunscreen is suitable for all skin types; it’s lightweight and has a non-greasy finish. It’s formulated with a number of Korean herbs that have anti-ageing benefits, and leave the skin with a smooth, glowing base. Reviewers say they have never experienced pilling with this sun cream, and many have even replaced their primers with this product. The fact that it produces a glass skin effect makes it the perfect base for your foundation.
7. Best Water-Resistant Sunscreen: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Sunscreen (SPF 50)
Formulated with star skincare ingredients, like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, watermelon and aloe, Glow Recipe’s sunscreen is a unique blend of mineral and chemical formulations. While the mineral acts as a physical barrier to shield you from UVA and UVB rays, the lightweight chemical allows the formula to seamlessly absorb into the skin. The combination results in powerful SPF 50 UV protection aided by a fast-absorbing, even blend that leaves no white cast, stickiness or greasiness. Reviewers say the product is true to its name and leaves the skin with a dewy glow. It’s also perfect for the pool or beach since it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
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