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Today I wanted to do an updated run-down of my favourite Korean sunscreen formulas. I (and many others) love the cosmetic elegance and irritation-free quality of sunscreen filters used in South Korea, which is at the cutting edge of this kind of product development. These aren't so much formulas that you're going to wear to the beach; they're daily sunscreens, because wearing sunscreen as part of your 'every single day' routine has been a thing in South Korea for many years now. They're often more affordable than Western sunscreens of the equivalent quality and are only becoming more and more accessible to those of us in Europe and the United States. A number of them are available via Tonic 15, who I have a discount code with, meaning you can get 15% off with code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY (affiliate) for even more savings. Here are my top picks...
I go way back with the first product I have here to discuss; this might have been one of my first ever Korean sunscreens! The Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream SPF 50+ PA+++ | £20 | is perfect for dry skin types and it's actually one of my favourite formulas of all time during the winter. It's a melting water-based lotion that absorbs readily without leaving a cast on the skin and has a dewy finish. It offers the highest possible level of UVB protection (to prevent burning) and the second-highest available rating for UVA protection (which prevents premature ageing and deep cellular damage). It doesn't irritate my sensitive eyes, it adds a welcome extra layer of hydration with hyaluronic acid and plant-based oils and it works really nicely under makeup. I don't experience pilling and the dewier finish makes it really lovely for preventing dry patches as I apply my complexion makeup over the top. I think it might be a bit dewy for those with oily skin, but if you're dry: I think you'll love this!
Another formula I've been a fan of for quite a while is the Isntree Hyaluronic Watery Sun Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ | £21. This is a pretty universal formula; it's one that almost everyone seems to get along with, whether they have dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin, acne-prone skin, mature skin, the list goes on... This is fragrance-free and formulated with hyaluronic acid (to draw hydration into the skin), ceramides (a component of the skin's lipid barrier), centella asiatica (to soothe the skin) and niacinamide (to increase ceramide production, regulate oil levels in the skin and reduce the spread of discolouration in the skin). So there's a lot of good stuff in there alongside excellent protection against UVA and UVB. It doesn't irritate my eyes and the finish is neither matte nor dewy; insofar as a sunscreen can have a completely neutral finish, this one does (which is probably why it gets so much love across the board). Plus, it works for pretty much any scenario other than perhaps if you're really going to be working up a sweat (as it's not water-resistant) and it's great under makeup.
A firm favourite I've been reaching for since the start of this year is the Klairs All-Day Airy Sunscreen SPF 50+ PA++++* | £21 (code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY for 15% off). This is like a less-dewy alternative to the Thank You Farmer if you want a hydrating finish but maybe not something that's outwardly dewy-look. This has that kind of melting lotion texture that vanishes very readily into the skin. You're getting that irritation-free maximum level of protection, a hydration boost that doesn't overwhelm the skin (I see plenty of oilier people enjoy this product just as much as I do on my dry skin). This is a great all-rounder; it's great under makeup, it's great on days when I'm working from home and want to keep things simple and streamlined. It doesn't contain any fragrance and it's formulated with antioxidants to boost the power of your sunscreen, protecting the skin against free radical damage. It's just a great all-rounder that ticks every box I have and that I can see is beloved by many.
Now we're heading into my newer discoveries, starting with the Tocobo Bio Watery Sun Cream SPF 50+ PA++++ | £18.75. This is a tad more affordable than the others in this post, which is a plus (we love a daily essential on the right side of £20!) It's one that works for my dry skin (though it's not adding a lot of hydration) but I also know oily skin types will love for it's watery-fluid texture that's almost like a serum and vanishes so readily into the skin. It doesn't leave any kind of cast, you don't need to spend long applying it at all and it doesn't add any excess to the skin at all. Again, you're getting very high levels of UVA and UVB protection, and there are added extras in this formula like hyaluronic acid and glycerin as humectants and antioxidants (including Vitamin E). This one does contain fragrance, so if you prefer not to have that in your sunscreens, this one might not be for you.
Finally, we have the sunscreen I'm reaching for all the time at the moment: the Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun Rice + Probiotics SPF 50+ PA++++ | £16 (code JASMINETALKSBEAUTY for 15% off). This is this richest option of the bunch and my dry skin is loving it right now, and I'm sure it'll continue to as we head into the colder months. This formula again provides a high level of broad spectrum protection (plus is also contains visible light protection) and it's very gentle and doesn't leave a cast, film or residue on the skin. It's just a little more like a creamy moisturiser than the other options in this post, which I personally enjoy for my skin. This sunscreen is formulated with plenty of antioxidant-rich extracts and the fermented ingredients help to calm and moisturise the skin. The glycerin draws in hydration and we have my favourite multi-functional active: niacinamide. It works well under makeup, it honestly doesn't feel like a sunscreen, it's moisturising and I can wear it under makeup. It's moisturising but doesn't look dewy and it's just a great all-rounder for me!
Have you tried any of these products? What's your favourite Korean sunscreen?