Asian Sunscreens: Beauty of Joseon, Biore & more

Asian Sunscreen Review

I’ve been a Supergoop sunscreen fan for a while – my go-to is the mattifying Unseen Sunscreen SPF40 for face, and their Play SPF50 for body. However, I’m now at a point where I want to up my suncare game a bit more with higher protection. 

Disclaimer: Obligatory “I am not a scientist” warning – this is information I’ve gathered from multiple sources online, which I’ve tried my best to distill here. 

A Quick Primer on UVA vs UVB Protection

(If you want to jump straight down to the review, click here)

I learned recently that the SPF rating on US-based sunscreen brands only pertain to protection from UVB rays, which (as a simplification) causes sunburns. UVA rays are responsible for skin pigmentation aka tanning, which then also leads to common signs of aging – namely, the appearance of wrinkles and skin texture changes. Although broad spectrum sunscreens will cover UVA protection as well, it’s not as high as we think. 

Japanese and Korean sunscreens will typically have a “PA” rating, denoted with + symbols to show the level of UVA protection in addition to UVB SPF. UVA protection is measured in terms of PPD or Persistent Pigment Darkening, and the higher value the better:

  • PA++ = PPD 4 – 8
  • PA+++ = PPD 8 – 16
  • PA++++ = PPD 16+

The Unseen Sunscreen uses this as well, and has a PA+++ rating. As we can see, this is a somewhat broad range – someone over on Reddit reached out to Supergoop, and learned that the Unseen Sunscreen has a PPD of 9.9. Not the worst, but still a lot of room for improvement. 

Why Asian Sunscreens?

Brands in Japan and Korea are allowed to develop and use chemical filters that are able to both a) filter UVA at a higher rate with b) a more cosmetically elegant formula. Which means: better protection without any being overly greasy, thick, or having that distinctly sunscreen “scent”.

European brands can do this as well – La Roche Posay is one I saw come up frequently in my searches. I decided to stick with different Japanese and Korean brands, namely because I could order them all from the same Korean-based website, Yesstyle. These also tend to be more cost-effective, helpful if you spend a lot of time in the sun (casually, I wouldn’t use these for sports) and need to reapply often.

The Line-Up

After reading several posts in the r/AsianBeatuy subreddit, I decided to order and try the following:

  1. CosRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50 PA+++
  2. Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun SPF 50+ PA++++
  3. Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel in Clear, SPF 50+ PA++++
  4. Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++
    • Price: $13.20 but currently on sale for $10.56
    • Also on Amazon for $17 for a 2-pack

I decided to purchase from Yesstyle due to the lower pricing, though shipping took a little longer at about 2 weeks. It looks like Amazon has many of these as well, so that’s an option if you’re in more of a rush or looking for convenience.

Supergoop Unseen SunscreenBeauty of Joseon – Relief of SunCanmake Mermaid Skin Gel – ClearBiore UV Aqua Rich Watery EssenceCosRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream
Size (oz)1.7oz50mL (1.69oz)40g (1.41oz)50g (1.76oz)50mL (1.69oz)
Price*$44$18$13.40$13.20$13.70
Price per Oz$25.88$10.56 $9.50$7.50$8.10
SPF4050505050
UVA ProtectionPPD 9.9PPD 16+PPD 16+PPD 16+? PPD 8-12
ConsistencyLightLightLight-MediumLighestMedium
ScentUnscentedVery lightly scentedUnscentedLightly scentedLightly scented

*Note I used non-sale prices for a fair comparison. You can likely get at least ~20% off depending on retailer and/or time of year.

Left to Right: Beauty of Joseon, Canmake, Biore, CosRX

The Verdict

In the name of science… I decided to wear a different sunscreen on each quadrant of my face for a few weeks. This was mainly to gauge any initial thoughts and to contain any adverse reactions to a relatively small spot in a short timeframe. Thankfully, my colorblocking technique was not obvious to anyone else :) 

Before I talk about my favorites, I’ll say that all four of these are great, and from a cosmetic standpoint much better than most US facial sunscreens. I can see why each of these are touted as the “holy grail” suncare for many individuals.

For me – the Beauty of Joseon and Canmake were my two winners. They are both unscented or close to it, with a lightweight texture that did not cause any breakouts on my skin. While they have a slight dewiness (especially compared to Unseen Sunscreen), it’s not too much.

This doesn’t mean that the CosRX and Biore are not worth a try. If you have dry skin or live in a drier climate, the CosRX’s thicker consistency might be a great fit. However, it does have a lower PPD than the others, which I didn’t catch until I already ordered. I know many who rave about the Biore and I can see why – it is the most lightweight and mattefying of the group. Unfortunately, I had a few spots pop up where I used it, so alas it’s not for me.

Partnership Disclosure: This blog post was not sponsored by any of the brands listed above. As always, all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links, in which I earn a commission on purchases.

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I'm Kristy, a growth marketer based in not-so-sunny San Francisco ⛅ This is my personal blog, where you will find my random musings, in-depth reviews, and latest sewing endeavors.

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