Train travel. Toilets. Convenience stores. Snack food. These are just a handful of things that Japan does better. And as far as beauty products go, there's nothing Japan does quite as well as sunscreen. Though the magic of Japanese sunscreen might have once been the beauty insider's best-kept-secret, now, thanks to social media and countless Asian beauty-obsessed SubReddit groups, the secret's out. Even better, with websites like Amazon, these J-beauty exports are pretty easy to get your hands on. Ahead, a guide to the best Japanese sunscreens you can buy without having to trek all the way to Tokyo.
But first, a few Asian beauty terms to familiarize yourself with. On Asian (and some European) sunscreen labels, you'll probably notice the term 'PA' next to the amount of SPF. The number of plus signs that follow 'PA' indicate the level of UVA protection a product offers (as a refresher, UVA rays are what cause the less immediately-noticeable forms of skin damage, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburn). SPF only measures the amount of UVB protection you're getting, which is why it's important to look for a product that has both a high SPF and PA rating. This is part of what makes Asian sunscreens so great — they make it super easy to decipher how powerful a sun protection product you're really getting.
Also, as far as product formulations go, you'll probably see a lot of "water gel" and "water essence" sunscreens. Typically, these water-based formulas are lightweight, fast-absorbing, and particularly ideal for oily or combination skin types; often, they're the better choice for dark skin, too, since they dry into a clear, water-like finish. Lotions, milks, and creams, on the other hand, are usually oil-based, slightly thicker, and might feel more moisturizing — so if you have dry skin, or it's winter, you might find these preferable.
Whether you're looking for a spray, a powder, a lotion, or an essence, scroll on to discover the best Japanese sunscreens you can buy online.
1. The Overall Best Japanese Sunscreen For Your Face
The Japanese sunscreen that started the craze: meet the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence. Ask any beauty insider about their favorite Asian sunscreen — or maybe even their favorite sunscreen altogether — and you'll probably hear about this cult-favorite facial essence. The water-light formula sinks into skin instantly, and, once dry, feels like you're wearing nothing at all. It has a subtly citrus-y scent, instead of that traditional sunscreen smell, and despite its ultra-light consistency, it does contain two powerhouse moisturizers — hyaluronic acid and royal jelly — making it a great choice for oily and dry skin types alike. Because it blends in completely clear, you don't have to worry about it leaving behind a chalky finish, and the "super waterproof" formula means it'll even keep you protected if you go swimming.
"This is so light it feels like I’m not wearing anything on my skin! [...] This SPF gel goes on smooth with a lovely cooling feeling, dries down to a natural matte (not powdery) finish, works well under makeup, doesn’t dry out my skin, and doesn’t leave a tacky texture," described one reviewer.
Another customer wrote, "This is the most comfortable sunscreen I have ever worn. It is not greasy and absorbs almost immediately. I have very oily skin and spend a lot of time outside, so this is very important to me. It wears very well under makeup. Also, as a woman of color, I am happy to say that it leaves no white cast at all."
2. The Best Japanese Sunscreen Gel For Your Face & Body
Similar to the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence, the Nivea Sun Protect Super Water Gel is lightweight, non-greasy, and imperceptible once absorbed into skin. That said, you might find this gel-lotion a little more viscous than the essence. Oily, acne-prone skin types will appreciate its oil-free formula, while shoppers with dark skin will love how it doesn't leave behind any white cast. This bottle gives you almost 5 ounces of product, so you don't have to feel guilty about slathering it all over your body, too.
"So elegant! Doesn't sting (not even around the eyes, and I have extremely sensitive eyes), not greasy, no white cast, no smell. Hydrating yet light. And the pump applicator is so convenient," commented one reviewer.
Another fan of the sunscreen wrote, "Smooth application, not sticky. Very light on my skin. No white cast at all, it feels more like liquidy lotion than sunscreen."
3. The Best Japanese Sunscreen Lotion For Your Face
For a more traditional sunscreen formula, there's this milky lotion from Skin Aqua. Infused with a blend of powerful hydrating ingredients, like collagen, amino acids, and two types of hyaluronic acid, this "super waterproof" sunscreen is moisturizing, but still lightweight. It dries down into a soft, natural finish, doesn't feel thick or heavy, and doesn't contain any fragrance or alcohol. And though you could *technically* use this sunscreen on your body, it comes in a relatively small bottle, so you'll probably want to save it for your face.
If you're interested in a sunscreen that offers a mild brightening effect, consider trying the pink version of this sunscreen.
"This is a very cosmetically elegant sunscreen," one reviewer wrote. "If you want to wear sunscreen daily to protect against sun damage, but can't stand the thick, greasy, shiny, chalky products in drugstores, this will be a good choice."
Another customer commented, "It is moisturizing, I suppose, though not overly so. What is more amazing to me is the sebum-absorbing property. It's like an oil absorbing primer. It keeps my face non-greasy all day."
4. The Best Japanese Spray-On Sunscreen
If you're all about spray sunscreens, you'll love the Anessa Perfect UV Spray Sunscreen Aqua Booster. It boasts the same lightweight, non-greasy formula as the cult-classic Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk, but in spray form. The sunscreen is water-resistant, friction-resistant, and sand-proof (so it won't cause sand to stick to your skin), and it contains a blend of elegant moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, rosehip extract, and glycerin. You can apply it on your face, body, and even your hair, since the spray formula makes it easy to target your scalp.
5. The Best Japanese Sunscreen For Kids
Formulated specifically for the delicate skin of children, the Biore UV Nobi-nobi Kids Milk is alcohol-free, fragrance-free, and ultra-gentle — making it equally as good of an option for adults with sensitive skin. Though some fans find it a tad too greasy for the face, it can be used on both your face and body. What's more, it comes in a relatively large 3-ounce bottle and boasts a rare 4.8-star rating on Amazon.
"I love the creamy, invisible formula. It goes on really nicely and moisturizes my skin really well. No white cast for my brown skin!!" one reviewer commented.
Another reviewer raved, "This is THE BEST sunscreen I've ever used. I usually burn super easily, but with this I spent the summer gardening in the Florida outdoors, and never turned red once. It isn't irritating, I find it moisturizing for my dryish skin, and my foundation wears well on top of it for the entire day. I can't recommend this sunscreen enough."
Also Great: This Face Powder With SPF 50
This Japanese face powder is too good not to share. Upon first glance, it looks like your typical translucent setting powder — until you realize it has a super strong SPF 50+ PA++++ rating. Not only will it lock your makeup in for all-day wear, but it also keeps your skin protected and soaks up shine. This is a great product to keep in your bag for SPF reapplication throughout the day, since slathering on a lotion or cream can mess with your makeup. It even comes with its own puff.
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