SKINCARE || My Top 5 Affordable Korean and Japanese Sunscreens for oily/combination, clogged pores, milia prone, closed comedones & bumpy skin

Wow, things have changed a lot since I last blogged. It's crazy just how much life has changed in such a short space of time. In Manc...

Top 5 Korean Japanese sunscreens for milia prone bumpy oily skin

Wow, things have changed a lot since I last blogged. It's crazy just how much life has changed in such a short space of time. In Manchester at the moment, we're experiencing some unseasonably warm weather, so whilst I'm outside, in the garden, catching some rays, I thought it might be a good time to write some words about my current top 5 K-beauty and J-beauty sunscreens!

I did a post back in 2017 looking at products that have helped reduce the amount of milia and closed comedones on my skin (like here), and ever since, I seem to find myself getting messages on a daily basis asking which products I'm using to help tackle closed comedones and milia - whether it's serums, ampoules, SPFs etc. My guess is, there are many others who suffer from closed comedones/milia, and many, many others who suffer from them without knowing what they are.

As some of my readers may be aware, I have largely moved away from Western skincare, and moved on to Korean and Japanese beauty, with a little bit of The Ordinary and even some Taiwanese beauty thrown in for good measure. Why though? Well, I've found that generally, these products work on my skin, and Western brands generally don't. That's not to say that all J and K-beauty products are great, because they're not, but the best they have, is better than the best we have.

Throughout all of my adult life, the main skin concerns I've had are hyperpigmentation, closed comedones and milia. To give a rundown on my skin type: I'm oily skinned, but it's also dehydrated. Overall, it's relatively clear, but under certain lighting you could always see bumps across my face, particularly on my cheeks, chin and around the nose. But thankfully, those bumps have largely disappeared, and that's all down to K-beauty and J-beauty.

I think I've pinpointed the cause of the closed comedones and milia, and I'm laying the blame on western beauty products, hear me out! Western beauty products are just too thick and creamy for my skin, whereas the likes of K-Beauty and J-Beauty actively seek to make lightweight products. In recent times, the explosion in popularity of these eastern beauty products has caused western brands to lean slightly away from their tried and tested formulas, but they're still just pale imitations of the real thing, with sub-par ingredient lists. When you buy K-beauty or J-beauty products, you're paying Boots level prices, for Space NK level products.

Back to the main topic of this post though, I visited Seoul last March, and naturally hauled as much skincare as I could afford, including picking up a whole bunch of SPFs. I've worked my way through them all for the past year, and have finally came up with a list of the top 5 that I LOVE.

When it comes to sunscreen, I'm looking for three things. Firstly, I need a high level of protection, so it needs to be SPF50. It needs to have a lightweight texture, non-drying, but not greasy, so ideally it needs to be water-based too. I would also like it to sit well under my makeup. I usually lean towards tinted moisturisers, BB creams and lighter coverage foundations, so I need an SPF that ensures my makeup stays put and doesn't leave me looking like a greaseball by lunch.

Western sunscreens are truly, truly awful, in my opinion. They are far too thick for my skin, resulting in clogged up pores and ultimately the pesky closed comedones return. Not only that, they often feel like you're applying thick, heavy gloop to your face, which is deeply unpleasant. In contrast, the Korean and Japanese beauty industry seem to have nailed SPF, and this list will show you why.

All of the sunscreens listed below are PA ++++, which means that they block out the UVA rays, which cause skin ageing, wrinkles and freckles. The more + signs, the better it is at blocking those UVA rays. I purchased all 5 of the products featured myself, with the cheapest at £8 ($10) and the most expensive at £21 ($26), so there's something for all budgets.

Let's begin, with my first pick:

BIORE Aqua Rich UV Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA ++++

Japanese sunscreens Biore Aqua Rich SPF sunscreen for milia prone skin

INGREDIENTS

Water, ethanol, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, ethylhexyl triazone, isopropyl palmitate, (lauryl methacrylate / Na methacrylate) crosspolymer, diethylaminohydroxybenzoylhexylbenzoate, hydrogenated polyisobutene, bisethylhexyl oxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine, palmitic acid Dextrin, BG, xylitol, (acrylate / alkyl acrylate (C10-30)) crosspolymer, dimethicone, alkyl benzoate (C12-15), glycerin, glyceryl stearate, propanediol, glyceryl behenate, (vinyl dimethicone / methicone Silsesquioxane) crosspolymer, cetanol, agar, sorbitan distearate, isoceteth-20, polyvinyl alcohol, (dimethicone / vinyl dimethicone) Suporima, stearoyl glutamate, arginine, hydroxide K, hydroxide Na, royal jelly extract, hyaluronic acid Na, phenoxyethanol, EDTA-2Na, BHT, perfume

This one is the OG. My SPF world was turned upside down when I first encountered this product way back in 2016 whilst I was in Tokyo. I'd done minimal research before heading out, but what little research I did do, seemed to point me in the direction of Biore. So I picked some up, and this was really my introduction to Eastern SPFs. My god, did it deliver. The texture looks like a light cream, but as you apply it, you notice it feels much more like a lightweight gel, with a lovely, cooling watery effect. The finish on your skin is a soft matte, absolutely non-greasy, it sits well beneath makeup, and it doesn't leave a slip and slide situation on my face.

It spreads really well onto the skin, and absorbs pretty well once you start patting it in. For those of you, like me (MAC NC40), with darker skin, you will be delighted to know that this doesn't leave the classic-yet-tragic white cast on your skin either. I can't understate how much of a big deal this was, and still is, to me. When I first tried it out though, I didn't actually think it was working at all. Then I took it away with me on holiday and noticed that I was tanning pretty evenly, yet on the days where I didn't use SPF (I know, I know), my tan would come through pretty patchy. Obviously, I hang my head in shame for ever doubting the Japanese.

The only real negative I can think of with this SPF is one that frankly, I wasn't even aware of until I tried some other SPFs from Korea and Japan, so it might not be such a big deal. At the time, I was so enamoured with how lightweight it felt, and how different it was, that I didn't even notice the scent of alcohol. I guess I kind of expected that, as there are a lot of western SPFs that are similar. This may cause issues for those with dryer, sensitive skin though - my sister says that this felt a little drying on her. This hasn't been an issue for me, with my oily skin, so I would definitely recommend it if you have a similar skin type to me.

From my research, I also believe that there are different versions of Biore's Aqua Rich UV Watery essence floating around, as Biore reformulate every now and then. I've read online that some prefer previous versions, but I can only judge on what I've tried. The one I have is the 2019 version, which contains hyaluronic acid, royal jelly extract and other moisturising ingredients. Biore also claim that it prevents uneven application, down to micro-crevices, whilst also protecting vulnerable skin from UV damage.

Biore's Aqua Rich UV Watery Essence will always hold a special place in my heart. In my opinion though, there are better sunscreens out there, but this was the game changer for me, it was the one that made me realise that there was another way. It's a great introduction to Japanese and Korean SPFs, and you can purchase it from YesStyle for £8.57, or from eBay at a similar price. For your money, you get 50g of product in a standard tube.

Please exercise caution when purchasing from eBay or Amazon in particular, make sure you purchase directly from a Korean or Japanese seller, as there are fakes floating around on the internet, and you're much more likely to get the real thing if you buy from Japanese or Korean sellers - or, to remove all doubt, just buy from YesStyle.

CANMAKE MERMAID SKIN GEL UV SPF 50 PA ++++

Japanese SPF Canmake Mermaid Gel UV gel review for bumpy oily milia prone skin

INGREDIENTS

Water, ethyl hexyl methoxycinnamate, BG, titanium oxide, hexyl diethylaminohydroxybenzoyl benzoate, zinc oxide, methyl heptyl laurate, dimethicone, (hydroxyethyl acrylate / acryloyl dimethyl taurine sodium) copolymer, cyclopentasiloxane, bisethylhexyloxy Phenolmethoxyphenyltriazine, diisostearyl malate, octyldodecanol, Al hydroxide, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, polyglyceryl-3 polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone, stearic acid, phenoxyethanol, polyhydroxystearic acid, jojoba ester, xanthan gum , Trihydroxystearin, alumina, silica, arginine, sodium hyaluronate, α-glucan, phytic acid, saxifrage extract, glucosylceramide, sodium Mayo yoshino leaf extract, adlay seed extract, magwa root bark extract, Japanese primrose seed extract, silver oxide, oilseed flower extract, bilberry leaf extract, arch chalk leaf extract

Next up is another Japanese sunscreen! There are actually two versions of this SPF - a clear one, and a white one. I chose the clear one, and unlike Biore's Aqua Rich UV Watery Essence, this one is alcohol free!

In truth, this is pretty similar to the Biore SPF, in that it appears as a cream until you begin to spread it around, and it breaks down in to a gel-like formula. Where they differ, is that Canmake's SPF feels far more watery and is much more spreadable. For an alcohol-free sunscreen, I was really surprised to see just how quickly it dried down on the skin, and it didn't leave a tacky feeling behind either. And just like Biore, Canmake's Mermaid Skin Gel doesn't leave that tragic white cast people of colour often struggle with when it comes to sunscreen.

Another difference is that this feels a lot more hydrating on the skin, without leaving behind a greasy finish. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that it leaves a dewy finish to the skin. And just remember folks, this is supposed to be an SPF. But this is no ordinary SPF, this is an SPF that contains hyaluronic acid, jojoba esters, ceramide and skin brightening ingredients such as phytic acid.

Canmake themselves claim that this can also be used as a makeup primer. Now, I don't often use primers beneath my foundation, but what I will say, is that the product doesn't pill, and makeup does spread well over this. It contains silicones too, which isn't unusual to find in Japanese and Korean sunscreens, and the appearance it gives over makeup is of moist skin - a total vibe!

Whilst Biore's SPF introduced me to the world of eastern sunscreens, and opened up my mind to the possibilities, Canmake's Mermaid Skin Gel UV goes even further, and actually trumps Biore. Soz. I would recommend this SPF to anyone who has dry, sensitive skin, and also to my fellow oily-skinned people that love a bit of dew. 

The only drawback to the product is the size of the tube - the 40G tube is the biggest they do, and that makes me sad. The finish it gives on the skin is just incredible, and with a larger product size, I'd love to slather it all over the body on days like today, with the sun out, beating down on my skin.

You can purchase a 40g sized tube of Canmake's Mermaid Skin Gel for £12.31 ($15) from YesStyle, or you can nab it from eBay for around £8 ($10), shipped directly from a Japanese seller.

DEAR KLAIRS SOFT AIRY UV ESSENCE EVERYDAY SUN PROTECTOR - SPF 50 PA ++++

Kbeauty Dear Klairs Airy Sun Essence review for oily bumpy milia prone skin

INGREDIENTS

Water, 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 Hyaluronate, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tocopherol, Allantoin, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil

Third up in this list is a Korean number, from a cruelty-free brand called Dear Klairs. Whilst the brand name may come across as a little cutesie, don't let that distract you from the quality of their products in general. This SPF has been raved about online, so whilst I was in Seoul last year, I just had to track it down,

Dear Klair's Soft Airy UV Essence is exactly what it say it is. Soft and airy. Similar to Canmake's Mermaid Skin Gel, it has a much thinner texture than Biore's Aqua Rich UV essence, although I'd say that Canmake has a much more watery feel to it than Dear Klair. This one has the texture of a creamy gel, with high spreadability, that sinks easily into the skin with minimal rubbing, leaving a luminous finish - perfect for those that don't want something that's matte, nor something that looks dewy.

Once again, this SPF doesn't leave behind the dreaded white cast, and under makeup, there is zero pilling. This too is also alcohol free, though it does have a slight scent which comes from the essential oils, like orange peel powder, but this isn't particular noticeable or offensive. The formula contains hydrating, skin brightening ingredients and an anti-oxidant like vitamin E, beta-glucan, niacinamide and of course, hyaluronic acid! A quick glance through the ingredients list would suggest that this is a low irritant sunscreen, ideal for those with sensitive skin.

Upon application, it does feel somewhat hydrating, but not quite in the same league as Canmake's. That being said, it does feel more like a creamy gel moisturiser as opposed to an SPF.

Personally, I'd say that this is much more of a summer sunscreen, for when I'm at my most oiliest, but don't want something completely matte either. Another real plus point about this SPF is that it comes in a nice big 80ml tube, much larger than the previous two products. The bigger tube does mean that it's a touch pricier too, coming in at £20.90 ($26) from YesStyle, or for a similar price from Korean sellers on eBay.

SKIN & LAB FRE C SUN LOTION - SPF 50+ PA ++++

Korean Skin & Lab Fre C Sun Lotion review for oily bumpy milia prone skin

INGREDIENTS

Water, Dibutyl adipate, Homosalate, Propanediol, Ethylhexyl salicylate, Ethylhexyl triazone, Butylene glycol, Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, 1,2-hexanediol, Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol, Methoxyphenyl triazine, Pentylene glycol, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Saccharide hydrolysate, Fragrance, Octyldodecanol, Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, Stearoxy ether, Acrylates/c10-30 alkyl acrylate, Crosspolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tromethamine, Curcuma longa (turmeric) root extract, Portulaca oleracea extract, Centella asiatica extract, Houttuynia cordata extract, Salvia hispanica seed extract, Echium plantagineum seed oil, Ascorbic acid, Cardiospermum halicacabum, Flower/leaf/vine extract, Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, Unsaponifiables, Tocopherol

Skin & Lab's offering is a vitamin enriched sunscreen, containing both vitamins C and E, as well as Centella (also known as Cica), which has healing properties. It's also alcohol free, paraben free and silicone free, so if any of those irritate your skin, this might be the one for you.

This one has a rather citrusy scent, which isn't too overbearing, and a texture which is just a little bit different. It feels more like a milky, runny lotion, but on application, it turns watery, sinks effortlessly into the skin and doesn't even require any form of rubbing or patting in. Again, and I know there's a theme emerging here, there's no ugly white cast in sight, and it leaves a gorgeous transparent dewy finish behind. After application, it almost looks like you've put nothing on your skin at all, there's no film-like appearance and the glow just looks ridiculously natural.

For those of you with dry skin, the OH gave this a whirl today, and despite his dry skin, it left a lovely sheen on his skin, and didn't accentuate any dry patches throughout the day. Overall, it feels pretty damn hydrating, and I'd say it's one of the most inoffensive sunscreens out there, meaning those with sensitive skin should get on well with this. My only qualm with this, is that it might take a bit of time to build up trust in the product, as in the west we're so used to big thick, nasty sunscreen that feels like it's doing something. This literally feels like you've put nothing on at all, and that might take time to adjust to!

Another big positive, is it's cheap as chips. A 50ml tube of Skin & Lab's Fre C Sun Lotion for £8.19 ($10) from YesStyle. I've seen tubes of this going around on eBay, but it does seem to be much more expensive there.

THANK YOU FARMER SUN PROJECT LIGHT SUN ESSENCE - SPF 50 PA ++++

Thank you Farmer Sun Essence Review for oily milia prone bumpy skin

INGREDIENTS

Water, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Homosalate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Butylene Glycol, Octocrylene, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Cyclopentasiloxane, C20-22 Alkyl Phosphate, C20-22 Alcohols, Silica, 1,2-Hexanediol, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera (Sacred Lotus) Flower Water, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Lipids, Echium Plantagineum Seed Oil, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Althaea Rosea Flower Extract, Cardiospermum Halicacabum Flower/Leaf/Vine Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil Unsaponifiables, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycerin, Tromethamine, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Octyldodecanol, Glyceryl Caprylate, Caprylyl Glycol, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polyisobutene, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Cellulose Gum, Sorbitan Oleate, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Fragrance

And last but not least, we have this number from the wonderfully named Thank You Farmer. There are two versions of this particular sunscreen, this one, and another that is SPF 30 with a bit of shimmer and aimed towards drier skin types. That one has a much more hydrating feel to it, and the shimmer (which is tiny) almost instantly gives you glass looking skin. The one I'm reviewing here seems to be aimed more at oily combination skin, which might seem a little surprising, given it leaves a slight dew on the skin giving you a radiant look.

The formula is a creamy, milky texture. It isn't runny like Skin & Lab's Fre C Sun Lotion, but my god, it blends like a dream and feels ridiculously moisturising! As soon it's applied though, it pretty much vanishes on the skin. Aside from that light, airy texture it contains skin repairing ingredients such as aloe vera extract, lotus flower water and soybean lipids.

It's also free of mineral oil, parabens, alcohol, dye and talc, so it's also pretty inoffensive. Due to the healing ingredients contained within, I'd say it's one of those sunscreens for those with a damaged skincare barrier. It also sits beautifully under makeup and as with every other product in this short list, no pilling. This one really does feel like an actual moisturiser, as opposed to an SPF!

If you really want to thank the farmers, you can get a 40ml tube of Sun Project Light Sun Essence from YesStyle for £17.97, or you can find it for around £13 from Korean sellers on eBay.

And there you have it, the list is complete! All of the sunscreens listed do share a few things in common, in that they are all lightweight textures, non-greasy, leave no white cast with zero pilling under makeup and doesn't cause those pesky bumps under my skin. I couldn't really pick one that stands out amongst its peers from this list, but I would heartily recommend them all.

I have included the ingredients for each product, and I know they can be a little tough to read, but this site called SkinCarisma helps decode these ingredients and explain the benefits. Also, it points out which ingredients might not be so good. The site is a little temperamental though, so don't give up if you can't get in first time!

I hope that this post has proven useful to you, and if you give any of them a try, do let me know how you get on! Alternatively, if you come across another sunscreen that you think is equally amazing, let me know that too, as I'm always on the lookout for SPFs to try!







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