Shopping with Fiddy: My Japanese Sunscreen Wardrobe on Amazon Prime

Summer is technically over and winter is probably coming, but don’t put your sunscreen into storage just yet. If you want to prevent the photodamage that speeds up the visible aging process and you don’t live in extreme northern latitudes, sunscreen will be your biggest ally whether there’s sand between your toes or a foot of snow on the ground.

Having a single sunscreen on hand is a great start, but not every sunscreen is suitable for every purpose. I keep a few different sunscreens around. That way, I can enjoy worry-free days no matter what I’m doing outside. For this post, I want to introduce you to the sunscreens taking up half a shelf in my bathroom cabinet. Maybe you’ll find one (or two or three) that fit your needs. And even if you don’t–since everyone’s skin is different and there’s no such thing as a universally perfect product–I hope you’ll come away with some ideas of what to look for as you hunt down your own stalwart sun defenders.

Japanese sunscreen collection

I might get eaten by a shark at the beach, but at least I’ll go down protected. And I’ll probably taste pretty bad, too. Have you ever gotten sunscreen in your mouth? It’s not nice.

What I look for in sunscreens

Korean products make up the vast majority of my skincare wardrobe, but when it comes to sunscreen, I only buy Japanese. The reason is simple. Japan’s regulations allow sunscreens to be labeled up to PA++++, while Korean sunscreens are only labeled to PA+++. There may indeed be Korean sunscreens that provide UVA protection in the PA++++ range, but there’s currently no way to identify which ones do.

To prevent sunspots and premature sagging and wrinkling due to sun damage, UVA protection is what we need to look at. UVA radiation, as explained by the awesome Hoojoo Skincare blog, is primarily responsible for visible photoaging as well as basal cell carcinoma. And UVA radiation is fairly constant throughout the year and penetrates cloud cover. Yay.

That’s why the first thing I look for in a sunscreen is its UVA protection level. I don’t use sunscreens with less than PA++++ protection on my face, and I suggest you also look for a sunscreen with the highest level of UVA protection that you’re comfortable wearing and can afford to have on hand consistently.

Besides PA++++, I look for sunscreens that will stay put when I wear them. That means that if I’m going to be sweating my ass off in the sun, which happens more than I ever thought it would (thanks, Effexor sweats), I can’t wear a sunscreen that isn’t sweatproof. On the other hand, on a regular day when I don’t plan to go much farther than the corner store, I’d rather use a sunscreen that’s easy and comfortable and doesn’t require much fuss. But sometimes I have dry days, especially now that I’ve started prescription tretinoin. On those days, I want something highly moisturizing.

Finally, as much as I love all my face sunscreens, Japanese sunscreens tend to come in teeny tiny little bottles. That’s fine when I only use them on my face, neck, and chest, but the rest of my body needs protection as well. I’d go bankrupt if I tried to go full-body with any of my facial favorites. So I need a body sunscreen, too.

And this, people, is how I ended up with five different sunscreens. Let’s take a look at them!

Note: All the sunscreens below contain alcohol and chemical UV filters. If you are sensitive to either of these or any other ingredients in the linked ingredients lists, avoid or patch test before applying to your entire face.

Review Redux: 2015 Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++

Purpose: Daily use sunscreen.

Best for: Normal, combination, and oily skin types.

CosDNA ingredients list and analysis

Some of you may already know that the 2015 reformulation of the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence is one of my holy grails. This lightweight, non-greasy sunscreen dries fast and dries clear, with no white cast whatsoever and no thick, oily residue to rub off or interfere with makeup. Check out how it swatches.

Glorious. And on me, it dries down to a shine-free satin finish within 15 minutes of application.

The main drawback of my beloved Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence is that it isn’t sweatproof. As I’ve mentioned, I sweat a lot. I get sweaty very easily. It’s been getting worse lately as the weather here heats up beyond all reason. I used to be able to wear this sunscreen for a walk to the store or beach, but if I tried that now, it would melt off my face faster than it dried in the first place. I still wear this sunscreen a lot, but only on days when I don’t have plans to go far or exert myself much. It’s still the lightest, most invisible, and most comfortable full-protection sunscreen I own.

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence is available for $9.99 apiece or $19.20 for two tubes on Amazon Prime (affiliate links).

Mini-Review: Biore UV Perfect Bright Milk SPF 50+ PA++++

Purpose: Sunscreen for moderate outdoor activity.

Best for: Normal and oily skin types.

CosDNA ingredients list and analysis

When I know I need to wear sunscreen that’s a little more hard-wearing than the Biore Watery Essence–for a trip to the park with the kid, for example, or a walk to the supermarket and back–I reach for Biore’s UV Perfect Bright Milk. This is another lightweight (well, all of my sunscreens are lightweight) and fast-drying sunscreen, but one that’s more sweat-resistant.

Biore UV Perfect Bright Milk dries matte and, because of the physical filters it contains, does have a white cast. The white cast and flat matte finish is minimized here with a bit of iridescence and a light, peachy tint, but darker complexions may find it too pale unless worn under makeup. On the plus side, the silicones in this formulation make it a fantastic makeup primer. UV Perfect Bright Milk also offers long-lasting shine control. I do find this sunscreen slightly drying on my normal/tretinoin-addled skin, so I always make sure to wear a more moisturizing cream underneath than I would with the Watery Essence.

Biore UV Perfect Bright Milk is $8.80 on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

Mini-Review: Biore UV Perfect Face Milk SPF 50+ PA++++

Purpose: Sweat-resistant and water-resistant sunscreen for more intense outdoor activity.

Best for: Normal and oily skin types.

CosDNA ingredients list and analysis

When I know I’ll be out and about at max sweatiness (how ladylike), I go straight for the true bad-ass of my sunscreen wardrobe, Biore UV Perfect Face Milk. This sunscreen does not play. Though it’s just as liquidy and light-feeling as the UV Perfect Bright Milk, I find it significantly more sweat-resistant. It stays put even on the back of my neck where I get sweatiest (so dainty and feminine I am)., and it stays matte no matter what.

It also has white cast for days. Luckily, like the UV Perfect Bright Milk, the UV Perfect Face Milk makes a wonderful primer under makeup and provides even more oil and shine control than the Bright. I do find this sunscreen very drying and so always use my donkey milk cream or another rich moisturizer underneath.

Biore UV Perfect Face Milk is $9.59 on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

Mini-Review: Shiseido Senka Aging Care UV Sunscreen/Senka Mineral Water UV Essence SPF 50+ PA++++

Purpose: Moisturizing Sunscreen

Best for: Dry, dehydrated, normal, and combination skin types.

CosDNA ingredients list and analysis

Finally, there are days when either the weather or my face (or both) are just too dry to deal with any even remotely drying sunscreens. On those days, I’m so glad I restocked my old favorite, which I’d forgotten about for ages. Senka Aging Care/Mineral Water UV Essence is a smooth, rich, moisturizing sunscreen loaded up with hyaluronic acid and ubiquinone to ease dry skin.

While this sunscreen does contain alcohol, I neither feel nor smell it at all in the formulation. It’s actually moisturizing enough for me to wear without any moisturizer underneath, even when I or my climate are having a dry day, and it leaves no white cast. The trade-off here is that it doesn’t dry matte, like most of my other sunscreens. It isn’t overly heavy or shiny, but it does leave an emollient layer that I can feel and, if I haven’t put makeup over it, that I can see as well. Still, I like dewy skin in the first place, and the comforting moisture this provides more than makes up for the insignificant shortcomings of its finish.

Shiseido Senka Aging Care/UV Mineral Water Essence is $8.99 on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

Micro-Review: Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel SPF 50 PA+++

Purpose: Everyday use body sunscreen

Best for: All skin types

CosDNA ingredients list and analysis

Of course I’m not going to let my arms and legs burn and shrivel up unprotected in the sun, but neither am I rich enough to invest in my specialized facial sunscreens in quantities large enough to put on my body every day. For that purpose, I just use the Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel, which I find to be very similar in texture and finish to my Biore Watery Essence, but in a bigger bottle.

Fast-drying, no white cast, no oily residue. White cast and that nasty, greasy layer of un-dried sunscreen have always been my biggest reasons for neglecting UV protection on my body. The Nivea solves all of that. It doesn’t offer quite the same levels of protection as my facial sunscreens, however, leading to arms and legs that are always a little darker than my face, neck, and chest, but I can live with that.

Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel is $15.49 on Amazon Prime (affiliate link).

And there you have it: my five-sunscreen collection, all easily purchased online and, compared to most US-made sunscreens, a joy to use, with far greater protection.

What sunscreens do you use? Are you looking to try anything new?

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40 responses to “Shopping with Fiddy: My Japanese Sunscreen Wardrobe on Amazon Prime

  1. I prefer all physical sunscreens , anyway, without Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, because of its hormone-like activity (from the same reason I dont use products with parabens). I currently use Innisfree Eco safety perfect waterproof sunblock SPF50+ PA+++ and I like it, it doesnt break me and the slightly beige cast disappears quickly. Its going fine with the make-up. I also just received 2 more Im going to test: 1. the goodal mild protect natural filter sun cream 50 (the cosdna analysis is not correct there is no mineral oil there, its mineral water) 2. ciracle red spot sun cream spf 27 .

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    • There’s more and more proof not just that octinoxate (EM) increases the development of hormone (estrogen) in cells but that it’s also not efficient anymore when it’s exposed to UV light. There are other that are photosensitive (octocrylene) and photocarcinogen (oxybenzone). Some brands in EU are banning them already. I’m still using them though but I hope thing will be better in the future. Just wanted to point this out since there’s no discussion whatsoever about this in AB community 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really wanna try the Biore watery essence one! The white cast is such a turnoff for me since I’m brown. I’m also very intrigued by the Cosrx Aloe sunscreen and apparently Hada Labo has some UV gelmabob which I’m interested in too. Missha’s sun milk also seems to have a good rep. What sunscreens do you want to check out next? Any sunscreens you know of which are white cast free (or at least one that fades away quickly), waterproof and good for oily skin? Let the #snailsquad know! 💖🐌

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t wait for this heat to die down so I can stop worrying about sweating off my sun screens. I can’t seem to find a water-resistant sunscreen that doesn’t leave a cast. Sunkiller perfect essence is allegedly sweat-resistant but there are different magnitudes of sweat and I don’t think it’s designed for anything serious.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read about what Suki mentioned.
    Here are some articles I google up real quick.

    http://www.breastcancerfund.org/clear-science/radiation-chemicals-and-breast-cancer/sunscreens-uv-filters.html

    http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/

    http://www.doctoroz.com/article/your-sunscreen-might-be-poisoning-you

    I had to type these out because my phone won’t let me paste for some reason…

    Liked by 1 person

      • I just did a quick Pubmed search (for UV filters + endocrine disruption) and yielded some results…I don’t have time right now but when I’m back at the computer I’m going to try and get on my school library account and take a look at some full text. It looks like there have been a fair few rat and fish studies done (which makes sense, since obvs sunscreen is getting into the water supply).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Question- I tried the Biore watery essence sunscreen and decided it was really drying out my face. I am now trying the senna one, but think it might be drying me out too. The reason I think it might be the sunscreen is when I have rarely skipped it due to running late my face doesn’t dry out as bad. Could it be the alcohol in them? I like the way the Senka one sinks in fast and doesn’t really leave a cast.

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  6. So useful – I struggled online to find the difference between the Biore sunscreens, thanks for making it clear! I would like to try out the UV water essence, it looks really nice and light, as opposed to most sunscreens here in US!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That one is amazing! It’s been a year and I’m not tired of it at all and haven’t heard of any others that come close to its finish. I just had another two tubes delivered last week!

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      • Did you find anywhere that delivers to US promptly? Unfortunately all the sellers I saw deliver from Japan, so takes 2-3 weeks to arrive! I am travelling to south Korea in a few weeks, so hopefully I can stock up there? Also, what do you think of the formulation?
        I can’t wait to hear more on more Asian brands you like 🙂

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  7. Were there any other body sunscreens you tried in the process of finding the Nivea that maybe were drier? I’m a huge fan of the Biore Milk sunscreen for my face and would love to find that same dry-ish feel in a body sunscreen since I sweat so much. I haven’t tried the Nivea but it seems like it would have the same effect that the Hada Labo UV Creamy gel has for me, which is way too moist in the summer/sweating season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t try any other body sunscreens, but I’ve tried the UV Creamy Gel before and luckily they aren’t the same at all–the Nivea, due to being high in alcohol, dries really quickly and doesn’t feel “moist”! Which is a good thing for body, as I haaaaate feeling slimy from sunscreen.

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  8. Hi Fiddy!! Loving your blog. 😍 I signed up for Curology (via your referral link!!) and need to add a sunblock to my routine. My skin won’t tolerate any chemical sun filters and all your recommendations above seem to contain them. Can you recommend any purely mineral sun blocks that you like or have heard good things about??

    Liked by 1 person

  9. These sound really great but all seem geared toward oily skin side besides the senka one. Is there any recommended for normal/dry combination skin?

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. I also use the Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel SPF 50 PA+++ or the Mommy! UV Mild Gel SPF 33 PA+++ (slightly more moisturizing but still gel-like) but since I live in a tropical climate, I don’t feel protected when I sweat outdoors, which is always the case for me. I only use them when I’m staying indoors.

    I recently got this sunscreen called Bioré UV Nobi-Nobi Kids Milk SPF 50+ PA++++. It’s alcohol-free, water-resistant, and sweat-resistant. Plus, it’s 90g and not too expensive. What a dream, right? It’s moisturizing, too. I just wish they made the bottle white (so that my products are color-coordinated, lol) + an option of a bigger 140g pump bottle like Nivea’s. Just wanted to share! In case you’re still on the lookout for a daily body sunscreen.

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  12. have you ever used sunscreen powder? i use mattifying powder basically every day, and was thinking of switching to sunscreen powder for the added protection bonus.

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  13. Bless you for the Nivea Water Gel…I’ve been using Biore Aqua Rich on my body and damn if it isn’t killing my wallet.

    Plus, I really want that shark in your picture. Where do I get that shark?

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    • Yeah, the Water Gel is a great body sunscreen! And I got the shark in an airport gift shop in the Bay Area, either SFO or San Jose. It’s one of my favorite plushies! I mean one of my kid’s favorite plushies. Ahem.

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      • I don’t know if you’ve heard of it but there’s a spf 50 pa ++++ ( four) for skinaqua uv water gel that came out this year and it comes in 140 g.

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    • Hi! I think the one you linked is a picture of an older bottle; they usually go through some subtle reformulations every year or so and get a slight packaging update to go with it.

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