Sunscreen Review Part III: Japanese/Korean Chemical Sunscreens

**Updated on 8/14/2018 to include a review of Isehan Kiss Me Sunkiller Perfect Water Essence Sunscreen Gel Spf 50.


This should be my final “off topic” post (i.e., not about pH levels of products).

I decided to try a few Japanese and Korean chemical sunscreens because they include sun filters that aren’t FDA approved. They are, however, approved in many other countries and much better than what we have in the USA. Also, they offer great UVA 1 and UVA 2 protection.

I chose Asian sunscreens because I wanted to avoid Oxybenzone but it also seems to be one of the few chemical sunscreens that provides UVA 2 protection. And I also want to avoid octocrylene but it seems to be necessary to stabilize the very common chemical sunscreen Avobenzone. The Asian sunscreens have tinosorb and uvinul as their filters.

I applied the Asian sunscreens in the same way as I applied the physical (mineral) sunscreens I reviewed (Part I & Part II). Meaning, on top of serums, moisturizer, and eye cream. As a reminder, my skin is combination and I really find my cheeks dehydrated. My skin is tan and I’m a 2Y08 or 3Y07 using Sephora’s color IQ system. Also, I avoid products with coconut oil/caprylic capric trygrlycerides so there might be better sunscreens out there, I just can’t use them.

Sunscreen Reviews (in no particular order)


Laneige Watery Sun Cream SPF50 PA++++

The Laneige Watery Sun Cream SPF 50 PA++++ is the first Asian sunscreen I tried. I loved the thin texture, that is completely non-whitening, light on my skin, and non-drying. I used this for 4-5 days and even though I could tell that I was breaking out into small white bumps after 1-2 days, I continued to use it. I guess I hoped they would just go away. So then I was left with skin that doesn’t look that bumpy but feels completely bumpy. Like a bunch of tiny white bumps all over my face. It has been 5-6 days since I’ve stopped using it and my skin is still a little bumpy but is getting better.

I guess this clogged the hell out of my pores. This has NEVER happened to me before and I am surprised that it isn’t completely gone after nearly a week. When I use products with coconut oil in them, I have some white bumps but never this many. It is possible that one of the ingredients is coconut oil derived and I didn’t know it.

I actually ended up returning this product because I disliked it so much and was upset about what it did to my skin. I think this is a great choice for someone with skin on the drier side and hopefully, the clogged pores happen to just me.

Overall Grade: C

Ingredients*:Water, Butylene Glycol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Titanium Ioxide, Phenyl Trimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Silica, Litchi Chinensis Pericarp Extract, Betula Platyphylla Japonica Juice, Chenopodium Quinoa Seed Extract, Beta-Glucan, Magnesium Sulfate, Calcium Chloride, Pca, Mannitol, Arginine, Serine, Sucrose, Manganese Sulfate, Glycogen, Citrulline, Histidine Hcl, Threonine, Alanine, Lysine Hcl, Glutamic Acid, Zinc Sulfate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Polyacrylate-13, Polyisobutene, Aluminum Stearate, Alumina, Stearic Acid, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Glycerin, Propanediol, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Sorbitan Isostearate, 1,2-Hexanediol,Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium Edta, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance


Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50 PA++++


I ordered the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50 PA++++ (2017 version) because I recalled reading about it on blogs in the past. People seem to love it a lot. I was worried about the number of essential oils in it and that the alcohol would be drying.

I really like this sunscreen! It is light, easy to apply, and doesn’t have a silicone-y feel. I don’t find it drying enough that I wouldn’t use it. Compared to the Hada Labo (see review below), it is not as drying. The texture is so light that it is the first sunscreen that I’ve ever reapplied in the afternoon on a a “normal” day (i.e., not boating or hiking or some other outdoor activity). It has a pleasant citrusy scent and I don’t find the fruit extracts to be irritating. I also love that this  works great with my daily moisturizer and doesn’t cause it to pill at all. This would be great for those with an oilier skin type. It also has a matte finish.

Overall grade: A (for someone with combo/dehydrated skin. I’m guessing this would be A+ for someone with oily skin)

Ingredients*: Water, Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Lauryl Methacrylate/Sodium Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Titanium Dioxide, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Dimethicone, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Xylitol, Dextrin Palmitate, Hydrated Silica, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Glyceryl Stearate, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Cetyl Alcohol, C4-14 Perfluoroalkyl Ethyl Dimethicone, Aluminum Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, Stearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Agar, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Isoceteth-20, Sodium Methyl Stearoyl Taurate, Aminomethyl Propanol, Sodium Stearoxy Pg-Hydroxyethylcellulose Sulfonate, Glutamic Acid, Ceratonia Siliqua (Carob) Gum, Maltose, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Royal Jelly Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Edta 2na, Bht, Fragrance

Hada Labo UV White Gel SPF 50 PA++++


I like Hada Labo UV White Gel SPF 50 PA++++ but it is a bit drying.  I purchased it because I thought the ingredients were similar to the Biore but this has no added fragrance. The texture light and it doesn’t have a heavy silicone-y feel.  Since it is a chemical sunscreen, it is non-whitening. I wish it came in a squeeze bottle instead of a jar to make it easier to use. But no matter, I still like this a lot. It did pill on top of my Skinmedica ceramide cream but not too badly.

This isn’t very moisturizing on my dry cheeks and maybe dried my skin out  bit even though I tested this on days with more humidity/heat. I think folks with oilier skin types or people who live in more humid climates would love this. BUT, it did make me look very shiny.

I think this is a great choice for someone who has sensitive skin or wants to avoid scented products. But I prefer Biore over this one even though Biore is scented. Also, I don’t know what the “white” in the name of the product refers to…maybe the color of the gel? It doesn’t seem to have any lightening properties.

Overall grade: A (for someone with combo/dehydrated skin. I’m guessing this would be A+ for someone with oily skin)

Ingredients*: Water, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Isononyl Isononate, Dimethicone, Ethanol, BG, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Pentylene Glycol, Polysilicone-15, Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C Derivative), Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Polysilicone-13, Phenoxy Ethanol, Carbomer, TEA, Polystyrene, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, EDTA-2Na, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Titanium Oxide, Ammonium Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrated Silica, Aluminum Hydroxide, Hydrogen Dimethicone, Methyl Paraben

COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50+++


I tried the COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50+++ because I read that it is a cream and is better for drier skin. I was also looking for something to use with less alcohol in it while I waited for the Isehan Mommy UV Aqua Milk SPF 50++++(review below) to arrive from Japan.

When I first put this on, it felt very nice. It made me realize that I’d forgotten that sunscreens don’t have to be a bit drying. This does have drying alcohol as an ingredient but it is far down on the ingredient list. It isn’t quite as nice to apply as the Biore and Hada Labo because it is creamy lotion. But it isn’t difficult to apply at all and it is not whitening at all. This didn’t pill with my moisturizer, either.

The one thing I dislike is the scent. I try to use unscented products but the ones I use have scents don’t seem to linger. I feel like this one does for a couple of  hours. I don’t feel any irritation using this product (although if I did, it doesn’t mean it is caused by the fragrance). It also isn’t a bad scent…kinda fresh smelling. I’m just not used to having such a strong fragrance on my face.

Also, for UVA purposes, I’d rather have four ++++ and a lower SPF (this has 3 +’s). Click here to learn more about the various sunscreen rating systems. I like that this has titanium dioxide in addition to chemical filters.

Despite the scent, I would be willing to make this my every day sunscreen.

Overall grade: A+ (for someone with combo/dehydrated skin)

Ingredients*:  Water, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Propylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Isoamyl P-Methoxycinnamate, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Alcohol, Dimethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, Butylene Glycol, C14-22 Alcohols, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Aloe Arborescens Leaf Extract, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tocopheryl Acetate, PEG-100 Stearate, Silica, C12-20 Alkyl Glucoside, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Aluminum Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Triethanolamine Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA

Isehan Mommy UV Aqua Milk SPF 50 PA++++


Lastly, I tried the Isehan Mommy UV Aqua Milk SPF 50 because I read that it is great for dry skin.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this sunscreen.

It looks like a white lotion when it comes out of the tube but it absorbs almost instantly. It is hard to explain; it doesn’t have a temporary streaky look when you rub into your skin. Even though that streaky look usually lasts only couple of seconds. It also feels nice on my skin and definitely isn’t drying. It does make my face look a bit shiny but not enough that I feel the need to use blotting paper (or powder) before going out in public. It doesn’t pill even when I tried it with my evening moisturzer. It is very easy to re-apply in the afternoon. The texture didn’t make me want to not re-apply it like some mineral only sunscreens.

It has no scent but I knew that before I purchased it. It does have four ++++ so offers maximum UVA protection but unlike COSRX, it doesn’t have titanium dioxide. And I like the idea of having a chemical sunscreen that contains a physical sunscreen as well.

Since I received it, it has become the sunscreen I use every day (even in summer). And I re-apply it in the afternoon with no problems.

Overall grade: A+ (for someone with combo/dehydrated or dry skin. Someone with oily skin would probably dislike this sunscreen.)

Ingredients*: water, propylene glycol, octinoxate, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, pentylene glycol, sodium hyaluronate, jojoba seed oil, glucosyl ceramide, acerola fruit extract, hydrolyzed collagen, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, rubus idaeus fruit extract, bisEthylhexyloxphenol methoxyphenyl triazine, diphenylsiloxy phenyl trimethicone, isononyl isononanoate, PPG7/PEG-30 phytosterol, PEG-30 phytosterol, PEG-10 hydrogonated castor oil, ethylhexylglycerin, dimethicone/phenyl vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, alpha-glucan oligosaccharide, betaine, acrylates/C10-30 akyl acrylate crosspolymer, carbomer, potassium hydroxide, xanthan gum, hydroxyproply methylcellulose stearoxy ether, acrylates/steareth-20 octaconate copolymer, PEG-5 phytosterol, edetate disodum, butylene glycol, BHT, dextrin

Isehan Kiss Me Sunkiller Perfect Water Essence Sunscreen Gel Spf 50++++


Because I like the Isehan UV aqua milk so much, I decided to try the Isehan Kiss Me Sunkiller Perfect Water Essence Sunscreen Gel SPF 50++++ sunscreen as well. I liked that it is advertised as alcohol-free (although it does alcohol in the ingredient list).

I like this sunscreen. It does not make my face look shiny at all. And when I touch my face, it feels a little matte but mostly it feels like I’m not wearing anything on my face. I also don’t feel like it is drying out my face like the Biore sunscreen. At the same time, I don’t feel like it is adding any moisture either, unlike the Aqua Milk.

It also doesn’t pill at all with any of my moisturizers. It has a light citrus cent that doesn’t last very long. The scent doesn’t bother me at all.

I thought it made my skin look a little better. And this was confirmed when the receptionist (she looked like she was mid-late 20s) at my physical therapist told me I have good skin and it looked glow-y. I haven’t received compliments before so I told her I just started using a new sunscreen. I think her compliment was true because she then asked me about the brand.

So yeah, this is my go-to sunscreen unless I can’t use it during the very cold winter months because my face needs more moisture. I will update this review in a few months. Because of the light feel, I think that folks with oilier skin could use this, too.

Overall grade: A+

Ingredients*: Water, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, pentylene glycol, sodium acetylated hyaluronate, sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, isononyl isononanoate, saxifrage sarmentosa extract, aloe vera leaf extract, royal jelly extract, bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine, sodium acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, titanium dioxide, isohexadecane, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, ethylhexylglycerin, stearic acid, xantham gum, sorbitan oleate, tocopherol, BHT, t-butyl alcohol, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, phenoxyethanol, fragrance

Note: None of these products were gifted to me. I paid for them myself.


2 thoughts on “Sunscreen Review Part III: Japanese/Korean Chemical Sunscreens

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