Designed by Us.
Korean women have an extreme relationship with the sun — that shimmering ball of death in the sky — and are taught to avoid it at all costs. An entire industry supports the idea that, in return for a few carefree years of being bronzed, the sun will stealthily rob us of our youth and leave us wrinkled and covered in brown spots. And, part of that is true: The sun is the number-one cause of aging skin. UV rays dry it out, break down collagen, and can cause skin cancer.
That explains why Korean women deck out in full-on battle regalia in the summer months: Darth Vader-esque visors, sun umbrellas, really big hats, and, of course, a whole gamut of skin products to keep the Dorian Gray illusion alive.
The key to successful sun protection is layers. One sweep of tinted moisturizer with a hint of SPF won’t stand up against that burning ball of hot our solar system revolves around. Slathering on SPF repeatedly during the day will best prepare your skin for facing the sun’s harmful rays and help the skin retain its youthful elasticity. Sure, layering SPF doesn’t enhance your protection factor, but applying an SPF spray over your face two hours after you applied your SPF BB sure doesn’t hurt.
Click through for some of my favorite Korean UVA- and UVB-screening products in a variety of forms and applications.
You can have your glass skin — and your sunscreen, too — with this sun oil from Tony Moly.
Tony Moly BCDation Multi Use Sun Oil SPF 50+/PA++++, $28.50, available at Soko Glam.
Not only does this thick green cream have an SPF of 30, but it also manages to mask redness and blur minor imperfections once you rub it in.
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment, $52, available at Sephora.
If you hate sunscreen — no matter if it’s because of how it feels on your skin or you fear it blocking your pores — this gel formula is for you. It preserves the youthful texture of your skin, but never appears greasy, since it dries matte almost instantly. And if you are going to top if off with some light makeup, this sleek formula won’t get in the way.
Lagom Sun Gel, $23, available at Peach & Lily.
If you have sensitive skin and are strictly on an organic routine (or not), this SPF will protect you from any sun damage without a bit of irritation.
Aromatica Calendula Non-Nano UV Protection, $33, available at Peach & Lily.
The brand behind the best-selling cushion compact in Korea is basically the authority of making skin look effortlessly luminous. Iope’s UV Shield is a boss sun protector, but somehow also manifests a glow on your skin. I’m talking halo effect in full force.
Though the lightweight formula isn’t pigmented, I often wear it alone on a “good skin” day and as a primer on days I wear makeup.
Iope UV Shield Sun Protector SPF 50+ PA+++, $39.27, available at Aritaum.
This product doubles as sun protection and oil control, and also makes it remarkably easier to be responsible about slapping on a UV protectant. If you’re concerned about your face turning into an oil slick under the blazing midday sun, a few swipes of this stick will give your face a matte finish and a much-needed cooling sensation.
Etude House Sunprise Bye Sebum Sun Stick SPF 50+ PA+++, $12.98, available at Kollection K.
This sunscreen from Neogen is a recent discovery that has quickly become one of my favorites. The rose, honey, and raspberry extracts smell amazing and intensely hydrate skin, which at this point should be a standard for all SPF.
The lightweight formula sinks instantly into skin, so you’re not endlessly rubbing white streaks back and forth across your face. I like to double-layer the formula under my cushion compact, and then once again on top for maximum sun protection — amazingly, my foundation doesn’t revolt with splotches or pilling.
Neogen Day-Light Protection Sunscreen, $30, available at Soko Glam.
He created this sunscreen for patients — particularly those who had ultra-sensitive skin post-treatment. This means the formula is sensitive enough for women who’ve had layers of their dermis peeled off, but it also comes at a Korea-standard SPF 50 for full protection from the elements.
It’s formulated with skin-plumping peptides and a blend of botanical extracts including lavender, freesia, chamomile, bergamot, peppermint, and rosemary. Korean women love it because it works overtime as a lightweight, moisturizing sunscreen but also as a primer to help “grab” makeup on the skin for a totally natural finish.
Dr. Oracle EPL Daily Sunblock SPF 50 PA+++, $44, available at Glow Recipe.
Aromatica’s sunscreen is special for a few reasons. First, it’s a physical sunscreen, which means it reflects UV rays instead of absorbing them — so it’s similar to zinc. But, unlike zinc, it doesn’t have that white, chalky texture to it. It’s one of the more wearable sunscreens on the market — and it’s available stateside.
Aromatica Natural Tinted Sun-Cream, $25, available at Peach & Lily.
Innisfree is known for using natural Korean ingredients. In this case, that includes organic sunflower oil, organic Jeju green tea, and fermented yeast ingredients that help keep the face from becoming an oil slick. I like this sunscreen because it’s lightweight and oil-absorbent, but one downside: Because it’s an all-mineral product, the higher levels of zinc leave a silvery finish that can make anyone look a bit Edward Cullen-esque.
Innisfree Eco Safety No Sebum Sunblock SPF35 PA+++, $15, available at Shop at Korea.
If you don’t already know, “air cushioning” is all the rage in Korea. It’s a great way to touch up sun protection on the go and the product also lends a luminous radiance to your complexion. These days, it’s all I put on my face and of all the air cushions out there, Iope is my favorite — and apparently it’s everyone else’s, too. (It’s said that one Iope Air Cushion XP is sold every 30 seconds.)
When picking out the right shade, know that the lower the number, the lighter the color. Beyond that, C stands for full coverage, N stands for natural (my preference), and S stands for shimmer (if you’re into the Guerlain Meteorites look).
Iope Air Cushion XP SPF50+/PA+++, $40, available at Iope.
Sulwhasoo is a high-end beauty brand based around Korean herbal and medicinal ingredients. This broad-spectrum sunscreen BB is loaded with natural ingredients like white ginseng and white cloud grass, so the benefits are twofold: broad-spectrum protection and brighter skin over time.
Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Serum BB Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF50+, $60, available at Bergdorf Goodman.
This product has lots of claims — it’s a mousse, it’s waterproof, and it’s supposed to lower your skin’s temperature. The foam makes for a light and airy application. When rubbed onto the skin, the product breaks down into tiny droplets, leaving behind a slightly dewy, radiant finish.
Hera Sun Mate Cooling Mousse SPF50+ PA+++, $40, available at Tester Korea.
Nature Republic The First Sun Liquid SPF 50+ PA+++, $8.57, available at Korea Depart.
Another way to build up UV protection is to use a powder with SPF. Catrin’s Natural 100 Mineral Sun Kill Powder is a great option because it’s a translucent sun-protection powder that brings together 10 minerals to deliver 100% natural, oil-free, and chemical-free shine control. It’s perfect for keeping oiliness at bay and ideal for those who aren’t a fan of chemical SPF.
Catrin Natural 100 Mineral Sun Kill Powder SPF 42+ PA+++, $20, available at Memebox.
This sunscreen harnesses all the power of the SPF gods into one tube. It promises to be a blemish balm, skin brightener, moisturizer, and sun protector — basically covering the spectrum of preventative and reparative sun care in one application. It’s lightly tinted, but I find it blends out to a sheer finish (without any white streaks).
Kangskin Multi Block Cream SPF 50 PA+++, $42, available at Memebox.
Ohui’s Sun Protection line is a gold standard in Korean skin care. Of this range, the most popular is the mist spray sunscreen. It’s infused with lemon balm and peppermint extracts to help decrease redness caused by sun exposure, and this also means that distinct sunscreen smell is replaced by a pleasantly light, lemony scent.
Ohui Sun Protection Mist Spray Sunblock EX SPF 50 PA+++, $22.69, available at Oh My Face.
I’m a big fan of CNP Laboratory products, and this sunscreen is one of my absolute favorites. It can be used as a makeup base, but I find myself toting it to the beach as a typical sunscreen to slather on every couple of hours. It’s not sticky or oily on the skin, and from a purely sun-protecting perspective, it’s what I consider a high-performance product.
CNP Laboratory Omega Sunblock SPF 50+ PA+++, $44.10, available at Shop at Korea.
Amorepacific is a stateside staple and easy to find at stores like Sephora when you’re in a pinch. The brand offers serious protection in light, yet hydrating formulas. This particular version is oil-free, and keeps skin soft while absorbing excess sebum.
Amorepacific Natural Protector SPF 30/PA+++, $65, available at Sephora.
If you think sunscreen is going to break you out, then you need to try this. Not only is it intensely protective, but the formula is milky and smooth, so you don’t have to worry about it irritating your face — no matter your skin type.
Etude House Sunprise Mild Airy Finish SPF50+/PA+++, $11.47, available at Amazon.
You know how some sunscreens leave a ghastly white cast behind — especially if you have a darker skin tone? This fluid formula goes on sheer and is matte enough to act as a primer, too.
Missha All Around Safe Block Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF50+/PA, $22, available at Missha.
This SPF 40 is super lightweight and sits well under makeup — we take it from the beach to the city and everywhere in between.
Natural Sun Moisture Sun SPF 40, $20, available at Esbelle Beauty.
Get you an SPF that can do both. This licorice extract-rich formula works like a brightening serum and sunscreen.
Acwell Daily Sun Control Emulsion SPF 50/PA+++, $28, available at Soko Glam.
When you stayed out in the sun too long yesterday — and still have four days of vacation left — this cream blocks any further damage while coddling skin with aloe leaf extract.
Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream, $16.28, available at Walmart.
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