The Truth About Korean Sunscreens

Sunscreen is very important for skin health. It’s an essential part of skincare because it protects the skin from the sun’s harsh UV rays, which can cause skin cancer. Apart from that, sun exposure could also speed up aging and cause dark spots. Yikes! Who would want that? “Skin cancer rates are reaching epidemic proportions in people under the age of 40,” says Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist based in New York (via Esquire). Now you know the reason why mothers and dermatologists urge their children and patients to wear sunscreen every day. It’s basically a powerful tool that can prevent sun damage.

While some people don’t like the feel of sunscreens on their face — probably because of the formula and the oily feeling — there are tons of sunscreens available on the market today, and all with different formulations that even people with sensitive skin can wear. Plus, there are various types of sunscreens, including tinted ones that are similar to a BB cream or light foundation. There are countless brands of sunscreens all over the world, but Korean beauty products are mainly sought after for their intensive formulations. The East Asian country produces various sunscreens that have high SPF content. “It has to have an SPF of at least 30 and broad-spectrum protection,” says Claudia Christin, a medical doctor who has Ph.D. in dermatology from Seoul National University. “Broad-spectrum protection covers protection from both UVA and UVB rays” (via Byrdie).

Korean sunscreens are more innovative

There is a reason why K-Beauty is so popular, even in Western countries. Most of their products, if not all, focus on skin care. Oftentimes, their products are one step ahead of other brands from the rest of the world. Sunscreens in particular are tested intensively to ensure they are top quality. “The Korean FDA (and the EU regulators!) have approved many more kinds of SPF filters than what is approved in the U.S.,” Peach & Lily founder and curator, Alicia Yoon, tells Marie Claire. “Korea is always pushing the boundaries on texture innovations and formula stability as the market is hyper-competitive and demanding.” Finding the right formula in sunscreen can be difficult, especially for women of color. Not a lot of Western brands offer variety in their products, but the Korean market does, as they offer sunscreens that don’t leave a white cast on the skin. The more options, the better.

Korean sunscreens have high SPF content and UV protection

Koreans are also meticulous about the tiny details of their sunscreens. They make sure that they get the best protection from the harmful rays of the sun. Manufacturers in Korea produce sunscreens with high SPF content (30, 50, and higher). They also ensure that the products have substantial UVA protection. “The PPD (Persistent Pigment Darkening) rating system is used for UVA rays,” says Alicia Yoon of Peach & Lily (via Marie Claire). “The amount of time it takes for skin to tan is compared to unprotected skin. If there is a PPD rating of 20, similarly to the SPF rating, it means that the skin takes about twenty times longer to tan compared to unprotected skin.”

As for PA levels, the more plus signs you see, the better it is at protecting the skin. Therefore, Yoon advises grabbing the sunscreen “with as many plus signs as possible” (via Marie Claire). What also sets Korean sunscreens apart from U.S. brands is that they have advanced ingredients. Yoon also reveals that the “FDA-approved filters” have not been updated “for more than twenty years.” Hence, it’s the reason why not a lot of Korean sunscreen brands can enter the U.S. market yet.

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