Avoiding The Sizzle: 5 Japanese Sunscreens for Summer 2022

Fun In The Sun Without Feeling The Burn

By Amy Ellis
July 13, 2022
Health & Beauty

What’s the worst kept secret in Japanese skincare? Sunscreen! Japan notoriously leads the way in the sunscreen market, let me introduce five favorites that protect your skin and help keep it looking young.

Summer in Japan is brutal, with temperatures reaching over 35℃ (95℉) This means sunscreen is non-negotiable. So, you make your way to the drugstore, overcome the sickly-sweet music from every aisle, and come face to face with the sea of sunscreen. It can be overwhelming, so we’re here to help. 

Most Japanese sunscreens helpfully display the SPF factor along with PA protection. The P-what? I hear you ask. To put it simply, SPF protects against UV-B rays (the ones that cause sunburn) and PA, short for Protection grade of UV-A, protects against UV-A rays (the ones that cause sun spots and wrinkles). 

As someone with skin drier than the Sahara Desert, I look for a hydrating sunscreen that will lock in moisture whilst providing UV protection. I strive for the glowing, dewy-not-sweaty look.  For those with oily or combination skin, a sunscreen that dries down to a matte finish might be preferred. 

After trying every best-selling or friend-recommended sunscreen, I want to share my personal favorites.

1. Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence

First up—it’s hailed as the No. 1 summer staple in Japan—we have Biore essence. The lightweight formula is easy to apply evenly and dries down to virtually nothing. It’s completely colorless once applied and can be removed just by washing with soap. It’s perfect for those who hate wearing sunscreen, or who care to dedicate a maximum of 10 seconds to their morning skin regime (like my husband.) 

One downside, this sunscreen does contain alcohol, which can be drying for the skin. However, the clever clogs over at Kao Biore have combated this by upping the hydrologic acid and royal jelly ingredients to ensure dry skin stays at bay.  Light and refreshing? Yes. Cheap and cheerful? Double yes. White cast? We don’t know her. Overall, a well-deserved cult favorite. 

  • Price: ¥800
  • SPF 50+ / PA++++
  • Recommended for: Dry/normal skin types

2. Anessa Perfect UV Skincare Milk

As we’ve mentioned, Japanese summer is hella sweaty. Anessa sunscreen skincare milk boasts being sweat and waterproof, thanks to its aqua-boosting technology. In fact, it claims to get even stronger when met with water or sweat, ensuring long-lasting protection from harmful rays. Anessa sunscreen is where luxury skincare meets UV protection. The thin, milky texture is almost velvet-like when applied to the skin. It dries down to a matte finish, which I would say is better for oily skin types. This sunscreen is truly the holy grail of sun protection, which is reflected in the higher cost of around ¥3,000.

  • Price: ¥3,300
  • SPF 50+ / PA++++
  • Recommended for: Oily skin types

3. Curel Day Barrier UV Protection Milk

Curel has been designed with dry and sensitive skin in mind. The texture of Curel is similar to Anissa, the milky formula glides on like silk. A word to the wise, however, like many mineral sunscreens, Curel does leave the dreaded white cast. I found it to sit well under makeup. Still, during those baking hot summer months, I personally tend to steer away from heavy foundations that will be melting off my face as I walk to the station, so I prefer to use this sunscreen to hydrate and protect during the winter. You heard correctly, don’t skip out on your sunscreen in the winter!

  • Price: ¥1,600
  • SPF 50+ / PA+++
  • Recommended for: Dry skin types, wears well under make-up

4. Skin Aqua Tone Up UV Essence (Lavender)

We’ve heard of color-correcting make-up, but allow me to introduce a Japanese, award-winning, color-correcting sunscreen. The color is a light purple to help counteract skin redness, while the pearly finish has a brightening effect. The texture is similar to the Biore essence, it’s light and feels weightless on your skin. The scent is a little soapy, but not overbearing. This gentle sunscreen is suitable for all skin types and ages. If an everyday battle with your child to wear sunscreen sounds familiar, this ‘unicorn sunscreen’ might sweeten the deal.

  • Price: ¥800
  • SPF 50+ / PA++++
  • Recommended for: All skin types

5. Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV

Finally, we have Canmake Mermaid Gel. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a marketing department’s dream. I saw the cute seashell packaging and into the basket it went. Luckily for me, the gel formula was one of the most moisturizing sunscreens I have come across. The texture is thin and light to give great coverage, and it doesn’t leave your skin feeling sticky or greasy. It claims to contain 85% beautifying ingredients (disclaimer: I don’t know what that means exactly, but I know that I need it.) This sunscreen is primarily advertised as a make-up primer with UV protection, designed to be used before foundation to help it sit better and last longer.

  • Price: ¥800
  • SPF 50+ / PA++++
  • Recommended for: Dry/normal skin types, wears well under make-up

After my first never-ending summer in Japan, I quickly learned that not looking sweaty is basically impossible, so just steer into the skid, and focus on protecting your skin. Future you will thank you for it.

Have you tried any Japanese sunscreens? Do you have a summer staple that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!

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