When I was figuring out my very first 10-step Korean skincare routine (why it had to be 10 beats me, but it did), the one product I struggled the hardest to find was sunscreen.
Sunscreen is a bit of an elusive product for some of us because we all know we should be wearing it, but it’s not an easy product to incorporate. Traditionally, sunscreen is thick, uncomfortable, drying, greasy, maybe it has a white cast or maybe it pills underneath makeup. All those things equal no bueno in my book.
Until my K-beauty conversion, when I thought of sunscreen, I only had one option at the drug store, Neutrogena, and anything else was gonna cost a pretty penny.
But of course that all changed with K-beauty and J-beauty. Sunscreens were more affordable, there were more options and I learned that there was such a thing as a *cosmetically elegant* sunscreen.
Exploring that world of sunscreens has been at times fun, treacherous, annoying, exciting, irritating (on the skin), and sometimes down right confusing. But as ever, I keep on testing and through the years, I’ve found a handful of true sunscreen gems that I will repurchase over and over.
So I wanted to share with you three of those gems, one for every skincare budget!
Affordable ($10 and Under)
This is such an affordable sunscreen, coming in around $8! I love an affordable cream that makes you feel like you can generously apply with abandon! (Am I the only one who feels like they are “wasting” their more expensive sunscreens when they pull it down to their neck and chest?)
But beyond the major score price-wise, this sunscreen is free of any drying alcohols which is a huge bonus for those sensitive to simple alcohols in skincare.
This is a chemical sunscreen with UVB and UVA protection (don’t worry too much about the SPF 45 vs SPF 50; the difference is incredibly small given the difference between SPF 50 and SPF 30 is about 1% less protection), works well underneath makeup, has minimal drying time (2-5 minutes) and doesn’t make my skin feel dry or tight!
The really remarkable thing about this sunscreen is the way it absorbs into my skin and feels weightless afterwards. This amazing sensation is something I’ve only experienced with a few sunscreens that cost about twice what this sunscreen does.
Best for: Dehydrated, combo-oily, normal and dry skin types.
Ingredients: Water, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (octinoxate), ethylhexyl salicylate (octisalate), butylene glycol, phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid (ensulizole), caprylic/capric triglyceride, butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (avobenzone), bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine (Tinosorb S), methyl methacrylate crosspolymer, glyceryl stearate, citrus aurantifolia (lime) flower extract, cetearyl olivate, sea water, prunus persica (peach) flower extract, cetearyl alcohol, nylon-12, sorbitan olivate, sodium hydroxide, pyrus malus (apple) flower extract, dimethicone, polyacrylate-13, panthenol, polyisobutene, PEG-100 stearate, tocopheryl acetate, punica granatum flower extract, sorbitan stearate, oryza sativa (rice) bran extract, malpighia emarginata (acerola) fruit extract, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, eucalyptus globulus leaf extract, rosa centifolia flower water, prunus avium (sweet cherry) flower extract, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) flower extract, citrullus lanatus (watermelon) fruit extract, sorbitan isostearate, polysorbate 20, BHT, disodium EDTA, 1,2-hexanediol, ethylhexylglycerin, caprylyl glycol, fragrance
This is such a holy-grail sunscreen for me. When I first tried this sunscreen it was a true revelation to me, a sunscreen that felt like nothing at all on my skin! While I’ve gotten used to wearing sunscreen over the years, I’m still very acutely aware of its presence on my face. Whether it’s because the sunscreen feels heavy, greasy/oily or drying on my skin, I never forget that I’m wearing sunscreen.
But this sunscreen really changed all that for me. The first time I applied it I was distracted, doing something else and about half way though applying I thought to myself, “hey wait a minute! This feels like skincare, not sunscreen!” I think that’s why this is called a UV Essence (I was confused too, don’t worry it’s sunscreen) because it has the feeling of a light essence, rather than a heavy sun cream.
This is also a winner for its lack of drying alcohols, no pilling, easily plays well with makeup, fast drying time (3ish minutes) and virtually zero white cast.
Best for: All skin types! (seriously)
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Butylene Glycol, Dibutyl Adipate, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Silica, Cetearyl Olivate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sorbitan Olivate, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Sorbitan Stearate, Panthenol, Beta-Glucan, Disodium EDTA, Citrus Junos Fruit Extract, Adenosine, Sodium Hyaluornate, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tocopherol, Allantoin, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil
Make P:rem Defense Me Blue Ray Sun Cream SPF 50+, PA ++++ (Mineral Filters) Amazon* | Yesstyle* | CrediThink*
Mineral sunscreens have a bit of a reputation for being thick, gloopy, not working well under makeup, pilling and having a crazy-bad white cast.
And I wholeheartedly believed that rep was well earned until I tried this 100% mineral sunscreen from Make P:rem. Not only does this sunscreen sink into skin quickly, never pills and plays super well with makeup, it also has minimal white cast! (Reference: I’m a #23 in Korean base makeup and I do not experience issues with white cast; as always, your results may vary).
This sunscreen also has the added benefit of cooling the skin’s temperature in order to protect against heat-aging from IR (inferred radiation). Added bonuses are that this sunscreen is pretty sweat-resistant and has some oil-controlling properties from the zinc oxide.
Best for: Combo, normal and oily skin that doesn’t mind a cream consistency.
Ingredients: Water, Cyclomethicone, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Propanediol, Polyglyceryl-3 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Dibutyl Adipate, Caprylyl Methicone, 1, 2-Hexanediol, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Magnesium Sulfate, Hydrogen Dimethicone, Aluminum Hydroxide, C30-45 Alkyl Cetearyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Polyglyceryl-2 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Stearic Acid, Fructooligosaccharides, Saccharide Hydrolysate, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Pullulan, Octyldodecanol, Centella Asiatica Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Salvia Hispanica Seed Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Betula Alba Juice, Dipropylene Glycol, Echium Plantagineum Seed Oil, Xylitylglucoside, Sodium Palmitoyl Proline, Anhydroxylitol, Xylitol, Nymphaea Alba Flower Extract, Butylene Glycol, Cardiospermum Halicacabum Flower/Leaf/Vine Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil Unsaponifiables, Glucose, Tocopherol
Amazon* | Yesstyle* | CrediThink*
*Indicates use of affiliate links that pay a small commission to help run this blog