If You've Never Tried K- And J-Beauty Sunscreen, Here's Your Sign

These lightweight, white-cast-free and non-greasy creams are nothing like the SPFs you're used to.
A watery essence sunscreen, color-correcting sun cream, waterproof and sweat-resistant sun stick and hydrating sun gel.
Amazon, Sephora
A watery essence sunscreen, color-correcting sun cream, waterproof and sweat-resistant sun stick and hydrating sun gel.

Fans of Korean and Japanese beauty, myself included, believe everyday sunscreen is one category in which Asian products have everyone else beat in terms of look, feel and even protective UV-filtering innovations.

American-formulated sunscreens can tend to feel suffocating, don’t always play well with makeup and can leave a finish that’s either too greasy or too chalky. It wasn’t until I tried a Korean sunscreen for the first time that my perception of what SPF could be completely changed.

Dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp of New York City’s MDCS Dermatology said that while many American sunscreens place a priority on functionality, J- and K-beauty brands often focus on the cosmetic elegance of the product.

“[They] are typically lightweight formulations that may include ingredients that provide additional benefits, like hydration and antioxidant protection,” he said, while pointing out that in some instances, American SPF brands also offer these advantages.

Camp added that people with more oil-prone skin may find K- and J-beauty SPFs particularly helpful as they tend to be less greasy and more lightweight and non-comedogenic.

Through my personal use, I’ve found that Korean and Japanese formulations absorb incredibly well, never irritate my sensitive skin and have a feel that’s closer to a really great moisturizer, rather than just a protective, but very detectable, layer of sun protection. They also work incredibly well beneath foundations and cream makeup products and never cause smearing or product separation like many other sunscreens I’ve tried.

While there’s a strong and predominantly satisfied customer base for these products (I count myself in this group), it’s important to note that although sunscreen actives used in these formulas have been variously approved for use by governments in Europe, South Korea and Japan, they have yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — a delay that is frustrating to many in the medical community and to consumers (and explains why these products can feel so different from our own).

You can learn more about the expert-recommended ways of finding Korean and Japanese sunscreens in our previous coverage, or you can see below a collection of some of the most popular and beloved K- and J-beauty sunscreens available to shoppers in the U.S. (Many can be bought from U.S.-based retailers like Amazon and Target, but do note that some outlets that specialize in these products, including Stylevana and Yesstyle, will likely ship your order directly from Asia.)

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change. The experts we consulted for this story do not necessarily endorse the products ahead unless otherwise noted.

A moisturizing birch juice sun cream
Like many Korean sunscreen formulations, this hydrating daily sun cream by Round Lab is lightweight, non-greasy and fast-absorbing and doesn't leave a white cast. The broad-spectrum SPF 50 formula feels cool and refreshing on the skin and contains both birch tree sap and hyaluronic acid to help keep skin moisturized throughout the day.
A semi-mattifying vitamin E sunscreen
Made by the same brand that brought us the viral and skin-transforming snail mucin essence, this sunscreen by Cosrx features antioxidant protection in the form of vitamin E, a nutrient that can prevent free radicals from causing premature skin aging. The white-cast-free formula also contains ingredients to absorb excess oil and minimize sebum production and the appearance of pores without being overly drying.
A hydrating watery sun gel
Perfect for those with dry skin and fans of dewy finish sunscreens, Isntree's white-cast-free and skin barrier-strengthening daily SPF boasts eight different types of hyaluronic acid, a crowd-pleasing humectant that can draw moisture into the skin and keep it hydrated for longer. The hypoallergenic formula is also compatible with sensitive or compromised skin and has been a popular pick among K-beauty fans for many years.
A watery essence sunblock
A prime example of water-based Japanese sunscreens, Bioré UV's Aqua Rich SPF 50 sun essence is a feather-light and oil-free gel formula that feels virtually undetectable on the skin and is compatible with all skin types including those who are acne-prone. It's infused with hyaluronic acid for lasting hydration and breathable protection that layers seamlessly under makeup.
A daily white-cast-free sunscreen
Calming and hydrating, this daily defense sunscreen by Innisfree offers broad-spectrum SPF 36 protection and a completely white-cast-free finish. Unlike other sunscreen formulas that you might be used to, this product performs and feels closer to a fresh and lightweight lotion and contains soothing green tea extract and centella asiatica, which can help address irritation and redness.
A color-correcting treatment cream
Dr. Jart's Cicapair color correcting treatment is a unique cream touted as a temporary cure-all for skin that's red and irritated, without additional foundation or concealer. The secret is a green-to-beige tint and a formula that pays homage to a traditional Korean beauty ingredient called centella asiatica, or tiger grass. This ultra-soothing and reparative ingredient helps to neutralize redness, making it a great option for people that have rosacea, keratosis pilaris and acne-prone skin. It has a broad spectrum SPF 30, so it can be a suitable everyday substitution for foundation.
A probiotic rice sunscreen
TikTok may have something to do with the popularity of Beauty of Joseon's Relief sun cream, which contains broad spectrum SPF 50 and UV-blocking factors tested by separate labs in South Korea and Spain. The non-sticky and lightweight cream is also enriched with 30% rice and grain-fermented extracts, a vitamin-rich ingredient that's popular in Korean skin care for its hydrating and calming properties. The fast-absorbing texture leaves behind a perfect natural-skin finish that's comfortable, not overly dewy yet not overly matte.
An invisible-finish element-resistant sun stick
If you're in need of a sunscreen that's convenient to reapply and is particularly resistant to both sweat and water, this invisible-finish sun stick by Shiseido is worth the money. Ideal for all skin types, this formula claims its negative ions and a heat-sensing essence form a stronger barrier of sun protection even in water and heat. It also contains soy letcithin and licorice extract and may be useful for targeting skin dullness and the formation of dark spots and fine lines.
An airy-finish mineral-based sunscreen
While most of this list is composed of chemical sunscreens, or formulas that contain UV filters that absorb and release harmful rays, this one from Etude House is a mineral-based or physical option that physically blocks UV rays from hitting the skin. This thinly textured and lightweight sun milk leaves a soft, blurred finish, won't feel tacky on the skin or leave a white cast, something that other mineral sunscreens are notorious for. It's also enriched with skin care ingredients such as calming aloe, hyaluronic acid, hydrating seed oils and a variety of fruit extracts that can help soothe the skin and boost the product's sun-blocking capabilities.
An ultra-thin and silky sun milk
Skin Aqua SPF 50 UV moisture milk is very fluid and silky in texture and works into skin with little to no white cast while leaving behind a slightly shiny and glowy finish. It uses both zinc oxide and uvinal A plus, a chemical filter that can protect skin against the harmful UVA rays known for destroying collagen and causing free radical damage. The formula also contains hydrolyzed collagen to keep skin plump and hydrated, and is both water- and sweat-resistant.
A soft-finish sun milk
Missha's sun milk uses a silky and porous powder in its formula to help create a blurred and soft-focus finish that minimizes skin texture issues and prevents oiliness. It uses a broad spectrum SPF 50 and a double-layer UV-blocking system that claims to offer greater impenetrability, even in humid conditions.
A calming matte-finish sunscreen
If your skin is normally irritated by sunscreens or you're prone to acne and redness, know this calming daily sunscreen contains centella asiatica, a traditionally soothing ingredient that can help neutralize redness and inflammation. It features a soft gel texture that absorbs well into the skin and leaves behind a slightly matte finish, while an array of other skin care ingredients such as niacinamide and beta glucan nourish skin and offer greater moisture retention.

Before You Go

Elta MD UV Clear broad spectrum (SPF 46)

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