Living in Southeast Asia where the sun is constantly shining, it’s really important to take some time out of your day to protect your skin from the harmful sun rays. Without regular usage of sunscreens, skin issues can occur, such as sunburns, sun spots, skin cancer, and premature ageing.

It’s a common myth that you only need to use sun protection when it’s sunny out. Actually, skin issues are caused by the ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun, and the UV rays are always present whether the sun is out or not. Another common myth is that people with darker skin tones, i.e. people who have more melanin, don’t need to wear sunscreen. Although it’s true that people who have fairer skin are more prone to develop skin cancer due to sun exposure, people with darker skin are more prone to develop more serious kinds of skin cancer, so it’s best to reduce these odds by wearing sun protection everyday.

FAQ About Sunscreen

1) How high does my SPF need to be?

You may be asking, ‘does my sunscreen need a really high SPF?’ Well, yes and no. There are different numbers on the label of sunscreen or sunblock, like SPF20PA+. But what do the numbers actually mean? Within the UV spectrum, there are two kinds of rays that can damage the DNA in your skin cells, which leads to skin cancer. The first UV type is the UVA ray, which can cause premature ageing as well as saggy skin. The second type is UVB, which can cause sunburns and can also contribute to skin cancer. The SPF number on a sunscreen indicates the amount of protection against UVB rays. It’s important to choose a sunscreen that says ‘broad spectrum’, which means that it can protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. 

2) Wait, what does SPF Mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number indicates how long it would take for your skin to turn red when using the product exactly as directed, compared to if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen. For example, SPF 30 means that it would take 30 times longer for the skin to burn, than if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen at all. This is why it’s important to reapply sunscreen, because there is a limited amount of time that the sunscreen can work.

3) What does PA+ mean?

PA stands for Protection Grade of UVA. Yeah, we don’t get it either. But, you’ll most likely only notice this rating on Asian sunscreens. It’s a form of rating developed in Japan to represent the amount of UVA protection that the product has. UVA rays can cause the skin to turn brown, which is essentially your skin tanning. Each ‘+’ sign attached to PA is the level of UVA protection. In essence, PA+ means some UVA protection, PA++ means moderate UVA protection, PA+++ means high UVA protection, and PA++++ means extremely high UVA protection. There have been some disagreements among UV experts about how useful it is compared to broad-spectrum claims, which is why the PA thing hasn’t really caught on in the Western world yet, but it’s still a helpful thing to know.

4) So, how much sunscreen should I wear?

The easiest way to ensure that you’re protecting your face against the sun is to apply two fingers’ worth. That means you just squeeze out a line across your index finger and middle finger each, and be sure to apply it to your face evenly. Remember that sunscreens should always be the last step of your skincare routine, and cover your entire neck too! It also takes about 15 minutes for the sunscreen to kick in, so wait for a little bit before you head out. You should also still wear sunscreen even if you’ll be staying indoors the whole day, because UVA rays can still go through windows.

Now that we know all about sunscreens, let’s move on to some of the best sunscreens in the k-beauty market!

Best K-Beauty Sunscreens

1. Benton Mineral Sun Stick SPF 50+ PA++++

It’s a stick of sunscreen! Super innovative and convenient, you no longer have to worry about spilling your sunscreen everywhere. Plus, it’s just easier to reapply, and you can even reapply over makeup. The Benton Mineral Sun Stick has SPF 50+ with PA++++, which is some serious sun protection. It has a super soft texture which glides across the skin easily without any white cast or sticky feeling and provides a smooth texture that’s great for even sensitive skin. The Sun Stick is formulated with hyaluronic acid, which helps to hydrate the skin and increase skin moisture, which in turn helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains vitamin E, which is an antioxidant to help fight free radicals, as well as promote skin healing to reduce the signs of ageing.

Why we love it:

  • Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin
  • Convenient packaging and formula
  • Provides broad spectrum protection

Price: USD$22.50

Where to buy: StyleKorean

2. AXIS-Y Biome Double Defense Sunscreen

With dual UV protection and skincare benefits, AXIS-Y Biome Double Defense Sunscreen is a must-have in your routine. Boasting SPF 50+, it is renowned for providing comprehensive protection against harmful UV rays throughout the year, shielding the skin from premature ageing, sunburn, and other sun-induced damage. Beyond its sun protection attributes, it is expertly formulated with 95% cranberry-derived Biopeptide, offering numerous benefits to enhance skin elasticity. Moreover, its lightweight texture is akin to a moisturising essence, absorbing effortlessly without leaving any white cast.

Why we love it:

  • Packed with brightening and wrinkle-improving functional ingredients
  • Lightweight texture
  • Provides dual UV protection 
  • Vegan

Price: RM53.00

Where to buy: AXIS-Y Official Shopee, AXIS-Y Watsons, AXIS-Y Malaysia Official TikTok

3. Pyunkang Yul Calming Sun Cream SPF 50+ PA++++

With eight calming ingredients, the Pyunkang Yul Calming Sun Cream is perfect for those who have sensitive skin or easily irritated skin. It has SPF 50+ and PA++++ so your skin will definitely be protected from harmful sun rays. The Sun Cream has a creamy texture that spreads smoothly across the skin without any white cast. In addition to that, it’s formulated with niacinamide to not only protect the skin cells from sun rays, but it can also reduce inflammation, improve skin hydration, and decrease hyperpigmentation. The Sun Cream also contains adenosine to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, as well as calming ingredients like Centella asiatica, tea tree extract, and lonicera japonica flower extract to help soothe the skin and reduce redness and irritation. Not only that, but it’s also infused with nourishing ingredients like panthenol and hyaluronic acids to replenish moisture and repair the skin’s moisturising barrier.

Why we love it:

  • Suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive skin
  • Contains eight calming ingredients to soothe the skin
  • Doesn’t sting the eyes

Price: USD$11.00

Where to buy: StyleKorean

4. Heimish Watermelon Soothing Sun Patch

If your skin tends to flare up under the sun and heats up easily, this is the product for you. A super unique form of sun protection, the Heimish Watermelon Soothing Sun Patch is an SOS soothing sun patch that’s designed to instantly hydrate the skin to relieve the feeling of dryness. It’s a hypoallergenic hydrogel patch, which works to cool down red areas of the skin where the skin is irritated, and stays in place even during vigorous activities. The patch itself is made of breathable fabric that protects the skin from up to 92.6% of UVA rays, and up to 95.5% of UVB rays. It’s chock full of moisturising ingredients like collagen, shea butter, and moringa fermented oil, so your skin will be intensely hydrated.

Why we love it:

  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Dermatologically tested 
  • Wicks away sweat

Price: RM 140

Where to buy: Shopee

5. Mary&May Vegan Niacinamide Panthenol Sun Cushion SPF50+ PA++++

Mary&May’s brand new offering will turn you into a sun cushion convert if you aren’t already one. Infused with a high concentration of niacinamide and panthenol, the sun cushion soothes, hydrates and brightens skin while producing a subtle tone-up effect. It’s also a whiz at sebum control, making the product a must-have for anyone with oily skin. Coming in a lightweight formula that leaves no sticky residue, the sun cushion will keep skin refreshed and protected from UV rays through multiple touch-ups. Best of all is its nifty packaging – a large-capacity case fitted with a jumbo-sized cushion that dispenses product seamlessly. The sun cushion is suitable for use on both face and body.

Why we love it:

  • Evens the skin tone
  • Controls oil and sebum production
  • Convenient packaging

Price: USD$25.00

Where to buy: StyleKorean

6. Mary&May Vegan Primer Glow Sun Cream

Aim for radiance with this sun cream that doubles as a primer and tone-up cream. Fitted with SPF 50+ PA++++, the tinted formula delivers a pinkish glow. It’s also loaded with anti-aging benefits courtesy of pomegranate, cherry and peach kombucha extracts. The lightweight sunscreen blends out easily to blur blemishes and refine pores. Wear under foundation to create a flawless canvas for makeup, or apply without further makeup to flaunt your natural beauty.

Why we love it:

  • Evens out skin tone
  • Has anti-ageing properties
  • Blurs blemishes

Price: USD$20.00

Where to buy: StyleKorean

7. Mary&May Vegan Blackberry Complex Multi Sun Balm

Formulated with the same key ingredients as Mary&May’s iconic Vegan Blackberry Complex Cream Essence, this multi-balm boasting SPF 50+ PA++++ is enriched with blackberry extract to fend off free radicals, jojoba seed oil to soften dead skin cells, and blue lotus water to soothe skin and deliver  moisture. Comprising two layers (a cream balm and oil balm), the formula promises optimal skin care benefits with just a few swipes. Whether you’re seeking powerful sun protection, an anti-aging boost or some major TLC for dry skin, this sun balm will deliver. Apply on lacklustre or wrinkle-prone areas for long-term improvements in skin health.

Why we love it:

  • Protects the skin barrier
  • Leaves skin feeling soft and hydrated
  • Vegan

Price: USD$22.50

Where to buy: StyleKorean

8. Mary&May Vegan Peptide Bakuchiol Sun Stick SPF50+ PA++++

Hoping to take care of your sun care needs while reaping anti-aging benefits? Mary&May’s Vegan Peptide Bakuchiol Sun Stick is just the ticket. Coming in a nifty stick design that makes topping up a breeze, it’s fitted with SPF 50+ PA++++ and powered by a slew of anti-aging ingredients, including 10,000ppm of bakuchiol, 25 kinds of peptides and tocopherol. Bakuchiol is celebrated for its ability to amp up moisture levels and soften fine lines, while peptides firm skin by encouraging collagen production. The result? Youthful-looking-skin with a lasting glow. With its ability to instantly smooth and hydrate skin, the sun stick also works well as a primer.

Why we love it:

  • Deeply hydrates the skin
  • Promotes collagen production
  • Acts as a primer for makeup

Price: USD$14.00

Where to buy: StyleKorean

9. TOCOBO Vita Tone Up Sun Cream SPF 50+ PA++++

Vegan, safe for sensitive skin, and even reef-safe, the Vita Tone Up Sun Cream by Tocobo will be your new holy grail. It has SPF 50+ with PA ++++ for maximum sun protection, as well as moisturizing ingredients that can nourish your skin. The main ingredients are vitamin fruit water at 51%, which provides deep nutrition and moisture, Vitamin B3 at an astounding 20,000ppm to strengthen the skin barrier and brighten the skin, as well as Vitamin B12, also known as the pink vitamin, at 60ppm to smooth blemishes and even the skin’s texture. The Vita Tone Up Sun Screen is lightly tinted with a pink undertone and lasts long without any stickiness.

Why we love it:

  • Suitable for dull and sensitive skin
  • Vegan, reef-safe, and hypoallergenic
  • Tinted to provide extra coverage

Price: USD$15.00

Where to buy: StyleKorean

10.  Beauty of Joseon Matte Sun Stick Mugwort & Camelia

You may have heard of the cult-favourite Relief Sun Rice & Probiotic by Beauty of Joseon, but this is the sister sunscreen that might even challenge the Relief Sun’s status as everybody’s favourite sunscreen. This sun stick was designed with bustling cities in mind, where everybody is constantly outside and on the go. Who’s going to make the time and effort to squeeze out a tube of sunscreen and apply it with their hands in public? That’s why Beauty of Joseon has created the Matte Sun Stick, formulated with mugwort to soothe and relieve inflammation, as well as camellia, which is rich in vitamin A, D, and E. The sun stick also contains silica powder, which regulates sebum and gives the sun stick its mattifying properties. Its formula is not greasy and helps to create the appearance of smooth skin, and it’s super compact and convenient to carry around.

Why we love it:

  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Mattifies the skin
  • Convenient packaging

Price: USD$15.90

Where to buy: StyleKorean

11. NUMBUZIN No. 3 Porcelain Base-Skip Tone Up Beige

A 3-in-1 makeup product and sunscreen all in one tube, the NUMBUZIN No. 3 Porcelain Base-Skip Tone Up Beige is a primer, foundation, and sunscreen all at once. Perfect for those mornings when you’re rushing, it can create natural-looking skin while reducing the appearance of texture. This multipurpose sunscreen evens out both skin tone and texture, so it can cover both dark spots as well as create smoother skin. It has SPF 50+ with PA++++, so you’re definitely protected from harmful sun rays. Without any white cast, you can walk out the door foundation-free, and have clear protected skin. It’s also smudge-free, so you won’t have to worry about getting makeup on the inside of your mask.

Why we love it:

  • Acts as a primer, foundation, and sunscreen all in one
  • Smooths skin texture and creates even skin tone
  • Contains 11 calming ingredients

Price: USD$16.00

Where to buy: StyleKorean

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