Summer is on its way and as the weather begins to heat up, it’s important to stay protected when spending outdoors in the sun. A good sunscreen is a summer skincare essential to keep skin protected against harmful UV rays and to keep it feeling hydrated.
Why it’s important to choose a good sunscreen
UV rays can cause damage, dark spots, and signs of aging to our skin all year round, not only during the summertime. Applying sunscreen ideally should be an essential part of our skincare routine throughout the year.
By using an effective sunscreen, you can help to protect your skin from skin cancer, wrinkles, freckles, sagging skin, dark spots and other damage caused by the sun.
Understanding Japanese sunscreen protection ratings
Japanese sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays, which can both have a damaging effect on your skin. To protect against both these kinds of rays, Japanese sunscreen will include information about the SPF and PA levels on the packaging.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures the sunscreen's ability to block UVB rays. A high SPF 50 means that it would take 50 times longer to burn your skin than if no sunscreen is used.
PA stands for Protective Grade of UVA and measures the sunscreen's ability to block UVA rays. The higher the PA rating, the more protected your skin is from sun damage.
How does Japanese sunscreen compare to other countries?
Japanese sunscreens come in many types and forms, so you have plenty of choices available to make the best decision for your health and our environment. In Japan, watery gel-based sunscreens are very popular, whilst Korean sunscreens tend to be more of a creamier consistency.
Japanese sunscreens are extremely lightweight in texture, compared to American sunscreens and other chemical sunscreens manufactured in western countries, which can be quite sticky and heavy on the skin. Japanese sunscreens have a non-greasy, non-sticky texture that doesn’t leave any white cast behind after application.
What makes Japanese sunscreen so good?
Japanese sunscreens contain extremely high-quality ingredients, have clear product label information, and are made under strict controls of production making them very safe to use.
They are usually hypoallergenic and contain gentle ingredients that don’t aggravate your skin making them ideal for users who suffer from skin allergies or sensitivities. Many Japanese sunscreens are also multifunctional – acting as makeup primers and moisturizers as well as powerful sunscreens, saving you time in your daily skincare routine.
Finally, the best sunscreens also incorporate the best in skincare technology within their complex formulations to create extremely effective products. For example, there are products that contain formulas that become more powerful when in contact with water or sweat instead of wearing off.
Many Japanese sunscreens renew their products every year with updated formulas to reflect the latest breakthroughs in skincare technology. In this article we’ll introduce some of our favorite best-selling Japanese sunscreens and include details of the latest updates including:
- Shiseido Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk N SPF50+ PA++++ - Best waterproof sunscreen for sensitive skin and children
- Biore UV Aqua Rich Light Up Essence Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ - Best for individuals with dull skin to brighten complexion
- Kao Bioré UV Athlizm Skin Protect Milk Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ - Best for protection in very hot and humid environments
- Kanebo Allie Gel Sunscreen UV EX (Coral Reef Safe Sunscreen) SPF50+ PA++++ - Best environmentally friendly sunscreen
- Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ - Best sunscreen/makeup base
- Rohto Skin Aqua Moisture Gel Sunscreen SPF35 PA+++ - Best value daily-use sunscreen
- & Be UV Milk SPF50 PA++++ - Best natural ingredient non-chemical sunscreen
- Ishizawa Lab Shigaisen Yohou UV Stick SPF50+ PA++++ - Best for convenience and fast application
- Nivea UV Deep Protect & Care Gel Sunscreen SPF50 – Best value and most popular sunscreen-
- Astalift Perfect UV Protector SPF50+ PA++++ Best premium branded sunscreen
Top 10 Japanese Sunscreens for Summer 2022
Best waterproof sunscreen for sensitive skin and children
Shiseido Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk N SPF50+ PA++++ 60ml
The sunscreen’s Auto Booster Technology means that the product becomes more powerful upon contact with water or sweat where most other products would weaken in their protection. It even increases protection if there is water in the air, perfect for humid climates like Japanese summers.
Another unique feature of this sunscreen is that it resists against rubbing, so even when you dry off with a towel after swimming the sunscreen doesn’t easily come off. Despite its strong waterproof effect, it can be easily removed with regular soap.
Anessa sunscreen also contains some lovely moisturizing ingredients such as marine collagen which also helps to boost skin elasticity and delay signs of aging. It has a refreshing citrusy fragrance and is non-greasy.
Best for brightening skin tone
Biore UV Aqua Rich Light Up Essence Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ 70g
This popular and innovative sunscreen won a Cosme award in 2021 – Japan’s most popular beauty rankings site, based on real product reviews. The sunscreen’s formula has been updated in 2022 and has a transparent texture that can also be used as a makeup base whilst still benefitting from a high level of SPF protection.
Biore’s UV Aqua Rich Light Up Essence Sunscreen contains Light Diffusion UV technology, which when applied, creates a coating film on the skin that diffuses light. This gives the effect of a glowing and brighter complexion and skin tone, especially in sunlight.
The sunscreen’s waterproof formula can be removed easily with cleanser and is suitable for use on the face and body.
Best protection for harsh environments
Kao Bioré UV Athlizm Skin Protect Milk Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ 65g
Updated in 2022, this milky lotion contains Kao’s new “tough boost” technology that helps to protect the skin in the harshest environments and is particularly effective in very hot and humid conditions.
This Japanese sunscreen also features a UV-blocking film function called "durable outer skin" which naturally adheres to the skin creating a second layer to protect vulnerable bare skin from UV damage.
The sunscreen has a lightweight texture with a matte finish and feels silky soft when applied to skin. It also contains moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and royal jelly extract and has a light floral scent.
Best environmentally friendly sunscreen
Kanebo Allie Gel Sunscreen UV EX (Coral Reef Safe Sunscreen) SPF50+ PA++++ 90g
This eco-friendly sunscreen is ideal for use at the beach as it does not include an ultraviolet absorber known as OMC which is found in many sunscreens and causes damage to coral reefs.
Kanebo Allie Gel Sunscreen has a powerful UV protection of SPF factor 50+ and does not easily wear off in water or when rubbed against towels, clothing, or face masks. It has a non-greasy and lightweight formula that makes skin look dewy.
It also works as a moisturizer as it contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin and is free from fragrances and colorants. This 5-star rated product is loved by consumers thanks to its light consistency and powerful waterproof and friction proof features.
Best sunscreen/makeup base
Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ 40g
This convenient portable sized sunscreen from Canmake is the ideal product to slip easily into your handbag and reapply when you’re out and about and doubles up as a makeup base. This sunscreen has a brightening effect on the skin and works great as a primer, especially when paired with a matte foundation.
We love the refreshing, non-greasy sensation this product has when applied onto the face. The sunscreen has a smooth, watery gel texture that glides easily onto skin, without feeling sticky or rough, helping foundation to sit better on top and last longer.
In addition to providing powerful UV protection of SPF 50+, it’s also packed full of moisturizing ingredients and is absorbed quickly onto the skin. Mermaid’s non-fragranced, alcohol-free formula makes it suitable for use on sensitive skin too.
Best-value sunscreen for everyday use
Rohto Skin Aqua Moisture Gel Sunscreen SPF35 PA+++ 110g
Rohto Skin Aqua Moisture Gel Sunscreen is an affordable, lightweight Japanese gel-type sunscreen that has a water-like texture and is easily absorbed into skin without leaving white marks.
Skin Aqua sunscreen is also blended with 4 kinds of moisturizing components, including hyaluronic acid and collagen, to keep your skin hydrated during sun exposure. It is also waterproof and sweat resistant so you can relax when swimming or exercising knowing that your skin is still protected.
The non-sticky, non-greasy formula is completely absorbed by skin making it ideal to apply before makeup as a primer.
& Be UV Milk SPF50 PA++++
Best natural ingredient non-chemical sunscreen
This popular sunscreen is rated number 2 in Japan’s biggest beauty rankings site Cosme and was released with an updated formula in 2022. & Be UV Milk is made from a gentle formula that has a pearly non-greasy texture that can easily be removed with soap and has a natural orange and lavender scent.
Its non-chemical formula does not contain any UV absorbers that cause damage to the environment and is also free from mineral oils, parabens, synthetic colorants, and synthetic fragrances. The sunscreen contains plenty of plant extracts that prevent dry skin and is easily absorbed after application, leaving your skin feeling glossy and moisturized.
Ishizawa Lab Shigaisen Yohou UV Stick SPF50+ PA++++
Best for convenience when out and about
This handy waterproof sunscreen in a pocket-sized stick is easy to apply when out and about without getting product on your hands and is a firm favorite among Japanese consumers. It has a high protection factor and can instantly be applied to areas prone to sweat under the sun, such as the back of your neck.
Suitable for children over the age of one year old and for individuals with sensitive skin, this sunscreen is colorless, fragrance free, alcohol free, and free from mineral oils. It also moisturizes and protects dry skin with its hydrating ingredients such as collagen and hyaluronic acid in addition to seven kinds of plant extracts.
Best value popular sunscreen
Nivea UV Deep Protect & Care Gel Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ 80g
This popular gel-type sunscreen is one of the top-rated products on Japan’s beauty rankings site Cosme and is suitable for all skin types. The sunscreen protects the skin from UV rays whilst preventing blemishes and freckles caused by sunburn. Its non-sticky, non-greasy texture has a light floral scent.
In addition to being an effective sunscreen, the Nivea UV Deep Protect & Care Gel also functions as a makeup base and can be used on the face and body. The smooth gel not only protects but also hydrates skin thanks to its beautifying ingredients such as Japanese honeysuckle flower extract, pearl protein extract, and Damask rose water.
Best premium branded sunscreen
Astalift Perfect UV Protector SPF50+ PA++++ 30g
Astalift UV Protector is a luxurious sunscreen that blocks up to 99.9% of UV rays, powered with the deep UV guard technology which protects against skin damage and prevents age spots and freckles.
This multi-functional moisturizing sunscreen protects against UVB, UVA, and Deep UVA and has deep antioxidant effects. It contains ingredients such as astaxanthin, lycopene, collagen, and hyaluronic acid to keep skin feeling firm and hydrated.
It has a non-greasy creamy texture with a light after-feel and can also be used as a great make-up base in addition to a beauty essence and waterproof sunscreen.