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At this point, you're probably well aware of the importance of wearing SPF every day—yep, even in the winter. But just to make sure we're on the same page, it's a must for keeping your skin healthy and preventing sun damage, which can lead to fine lines, discoloration, dark spots, and even skin cancer. "A great sunscreen is one that someone wants to apply generously every single day and reapply when needed," confirms Claudia Christin, MBBS, Ph.D. in dermatology and medical advisor at Picky.
As you may know, Korean skincare is taking the Western cosmetics world by storm. While it dominates many categories, K-beauty really shines when it comes to sunscreen. But which is best? Whether you haven't found the right one yet or are a sunscreen stan and want to expand your horizons, we're confident that there's a K-beauty option that'll strike your fancy. From multitasking products with soothing and hydrating ingredients to gels, sticks, and creams, there's something for everyone.
Here are the best Korean sunscreens for every skin type and budget.
Best Overall: COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++
For an all-around amazing sunscreen that works on most skin types, reach for COSRX's Aloe Soothing Sun Cream. The creamy and moisturizing yet lightweight texture absorbs quickly into your skin—no white cast or greasy feel. Christin is a fan of COSRX's sunscreens, and we can see why. The hydrating formula provides SPF 50 protection and can be used on its own or under makeup. And thanks to an ample dose of aloe vera, it soothes irritation and helps even out your complexion.
Best Budget: Etude House Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream
Korean sunscreens aren't usually exorbitantly expensive, though Etude House's Soon Jung is $10 to $20 cheaper than most other options. The SPF 49 formula is non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores and is unlikely to cause breakouts. It has a low pH, too, which helps your skin combat dryness and sensitivity.
Best Oil-Free: IPKN Big Apple Sun Cream SPF 50
"My go-to is IPKN Big Apple Sun Cream SPF 50," says Chelsea Scott, K-beauty expert and co-founder of The Beauty Spy. "It's oil-free, so won't clog your pores and relies on zinc oxide to protect your skin but also helps color-correct the skin like a primer. Plus, the apple water extract is a great antioxidant, and it feels cooling on the skin."
Best for Oily Skin: Suntique I'm Pure Cica Suncream
Finding a non-greasy sunscreen can be tough for folks with oily skin. With this in mind, Suntique's I'm Pure is non-sticky, fast-absorbing, and delivers a matte finish. It also contains cica (short for centella asiatica), a natural ingredient with antibacterial, healing, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Best for Dry Skin: Bombee Honey Moist Sun Essence SPF 50+ PA+++
Bombee Honey is a godsend for dry skin, full stop. With ingredients like honey and royal jelly extract, it's lightweight but also super hydrating. Plus, it glides onto your skin without leaving a greasy film or white residue in its wake. And it's broad-spectrum SPF 50, meaning it better protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Dr. Oracle 21;STAY A-Thera Sunblock SPF 50
If you tend to shy away from sunscreen for fear it'll clog up your pores and cause breakouts, Dr. Oracle is at your service. This lightweight gel-cream is silky smooth, absorbing quickly with a matte finish.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Acwell UV Cut SPF 50+ PA++++ Mild Sun Fluid
This soothing, protective sunscreen is made with sensitive skin types in mind. The broad-spectrum SPF 50 formula calms inflammation, repairs damage, and hydrates as it protects. And without any sulfates, parabens, dyes, artificial fragrances, or mineral oil, it's unlikely to irritate.
Best for Combination Skin: Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream
This SPF 50 sunscreen pulls out all the stops for skin that's oily, dry, sensitive, and all of the above. Sun Project hydrates with African walnut oil and bamboo extracts and calms the skin with aloe vera and hollyhock root. Plus, it goes on super smooth without a sticky feel, won't leave a white cast, and is unlikely to irritate sensitive skin.
Best Stick: AHC Natural Perfection Double Shield Sun Stick SPF50+ PA++++
SPF sticks are great for tattoos, touch-ups, and on-the-go applications, and this little guy from ACH won't disappoint. You can use it both over or underneath your makeup, and a little goes a long way. Just turn the dial to release a few millimeters of product, and gently work it around your face, neck, chest, and anywhere else as needed.
Best Chemical Formula: IsNtree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel
Korean beauty expert and YouTube personality Kelly Driscoll recommends IsNtree Watery Sun Gel for those who prefer chemical formulas. Without zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, it absorbs quickly and won't leave a white, chalky residue. "This has a texture that's easy to spread and dries down quickly so you can apply your makeup over it easily in the morning, and it doesn't leave any white cast on the skin," Driscoll tells Byrdie.
Best for Face: NEOGEN Dermalogy Day-Light Protection Sunscreen SPF 50/PA+++
When it comes to facial sunscreens, NEOGEN's Day-Light Protection is hard to beat. The notably light, silicone-free formula moisturizes dry skin without clogging pores or causing breakouts. While zinc oxide provides SPF 50 protection, you can count on a sheer finish on all skin tones. Wear it solo, layer it over your favorite daily moisturizer, or apply it underneath your makeup.
Best for Body: make p:rem UV Defense Me. Blue Ray Sun Gel SPF50+ PA++++
For full-body coverage, UV Defense Me is the way to go. This Korean sunblock offers broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection from both UVA and UVB rays. You'll get almost 7 ounces of product, which you can slather on your arms, legs, feet, hands, belly, chest, neck, and even your face. It's suitable for all skin types and gentle enough for kids, too.
If you're new to the world of Korean sunscreens, COSRX's Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++ is a great place to start, Its formula is soothing, lightweight, non-greasy, and suitable for all skin types. However, if you're open to spending a little more on an A+ formula—or should we say A+++?—you can't go wrong with NEOGEN Dermalogy's Day-Light Protection Sunscreen SPF 50+/PA+++.
What to Look For in a Korean Sunscreen
Perhaps the most important thing to look for in a Korean sunscreen (or any sunscreen) is SPF. This tells you how well the formula will protect your skin from the sun's rays. Scott says to look for products with a minimum of SPF 30, and Christin agrees. "It has to have an SPF of at least 30 and broad-spectrum protection," she says. "Broad-spectrum protection covers protection from both UVA and UVB rays."
Luckily, most K-beauty options offer SPF 50 or higher, but what do all the pluses mean? "One of the nice things about Asian sunscreens is that in addition to the SPF rating, they include a PA rating," explains Driscoll. "This helps indicate how much protection you are getting from UVA rays, the rays most responsible for aging of the skin. I like to look for a PA rating of ++++, the highest you can find."
Chemical vs. physical
As we mentioned, physical sunscreens create an instant physical barrier between your skin and the sun's UV rays. "I trust zinc oxide because it not only protects our skin against both UVA and UVB rays but is efficacious even when in contact with the environment, holding up against water and sweat," says Scott.
Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, take about 15 minutes to activate and work by converting UV rays into heat to protect your skin from damage. "We always suggest for someone to look for a hybrid sunscreen that has both organic (chemical) and inorganic (physical) filters," says Christin.
Beyond minerals and chemicals that protect your skin from UV light, many Korean sunscreens are formulated with other complexion-benefiting components. Scott suggests looking for "one that contains other botanicals and skin-loving ingredients so you are multitasking."
"I also like to see niacinamide on the ingredients list," adds Driscoll. "There is some interesting research that shows niacinamide (in combination with UV filters) can help protect the skin from UV damage." (There's also soothing aloe vera, hydrating hyaluronic acid, breakout-preventing tea tree oil, healing centella asiatica, moisturizing honey, smoothing royal jelly, and anti-inflammatory hollyhock root.)
When choosing a sunscreen, texture is critical—it can make you hate a product so much you'll never wear it or love it so much you commit to applying it every day. "A texture that feels comfortable is the key for someone to apply an appropriate amount of sunscreen," says Christin. If you're turned off by tacky, sticky finishes, look for a smooth formula. This might be a gel-cream, a sheer chemical/physical blend, or a chemical formula.
Why Trust Byrdie?
This roundup was written by Theresa Holland, a commerce writer specializing in skincare and makeup. As a growing fan of K-beauty, she's read Charlotte Cho's The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin from front to back and has tried several products on this list.