Sunscreen is essential because it protects your skin from dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays. There are many beloved Japanese sunscreen brands, including ANESSA, ALLIE, and Bioré, and they come in a range of formulations including emulsions, gels, creams, and sprays. How do you choose the Japanese sunscreen that’s right for you?
You should just choose the sunscreen with the highest SPF and PA values, right? Not necessarily. Sunscreens with greater UV protection and waterproof performance place a heavier burden on the skin. Daily use of a “high performance” sunscreen can cause skin irritation, dryness, and clogged pores.
It’s important to check the labels and select a sunscreen according to your lifestyle, based on factors such as the activity, the setting, the intensity of UV rays, the time of day, and the duration of exposure.
Some people use different sunscreens in summer and winter. As the seasons change and the sun gets stronger, you have to be more careful about ultraviolet rays. The amount of UV light begins to increase around April and peaks between May and August.
Here are some important factors to consider when choosing a sunscreen:
- Sunburn protection (SPF and PA ratings)
- Water resistance
- Ease of removal
- User experience
In some ways the last factor, user experience, is the most important. This refers to the “usability” of the sunscreen product, or how easy and pleasant it is to apply to your skin. How does the sunscreen feel, smell, and look when you put it on? Is applying it a pleasant experience or a chore?
The user experience is where Japanese sunscreens really shine compared to Western sunscreens. User experience is important because it’s what ensures that you will feel motivated to keep using the sunscreen every day to stay protected from harmful UV rays. If applying sunscreen is an unpleasant chore, you’re more likely to “forget” to do it and won’t protect yourself.
The user experience varies depending on the sunscreen ingredients and product formulation, as we’ll see below.
Sunscreens contain UV scattering agents and UV absorbing agents as active ingredients. Some brands include both types of ingredients. Both scattering agents and absorbing agents have their advantages and disadvantages, so you should understand their features and choose the one that best suits your skin type.
UV absorbing agents are typically carbon-based chemical ingredients like oxybenzone, butylparaben, and octinoxate. An absorbing agent absorbs the UV light into the skin and then converts it into heat energy. Absorbing sunscreens are characterized by good usability and low cost. They have a high UV blocking effect and blend easily into the skin. This is a popular type of sunscreen, but if your skin is sensitive, the energy required to evaporate the heat may cause irritation. If you are concerned, test the sunscreen on a small patch of skin before applying it everywhere.
UV absorbing agents can irritate the skin when used daily. For everyday use, dermatologists recommend cream and emulsion type sunscreens based on UV scattering agents.
Scattering type sunscreens cover the skin with powders such as titanium oxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxide, which repel UV rays through a physical, not chemical, mechanism. The drawbacks of scattering type sunscreens are that they tend to make your skin turn white, and the cost is slightly higher. However, they are a good choice for sensitive skin because they do not need to absorb heat energy into the skin.
Sunscreens also come in a variety of formulations including emulsions, gels, creams, and sprays. Each format has different characteristics and a different comfort level, so choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences.
Sunscreen is basically something you should use every day, so choose one that you like the feel of. For example, if you want a smooth texture, you can use a milky lotion; if you want something fresh and light, you can use a gel. Sprays and mists are handy for reapplication and for covering hard-to-reach places on the body.