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6 Best Korean Sunscreen For Acne-Prone Skin (2022)

6 Best Korean Sunscreen For Acne-Prone Skin (2022)

Check out our top picks for sunscreens with both sun protection and skincare solutions for acne-prone skin.

Product Name Ranking Key Ingredient Physical/ Chemical SPF/ PA Alcohol/ Fragrance Free Price
AHC | Natural Perfection Double Shield Sun Stick
Best Overall
5 UV Filters; Centella Asiatica; Ceramide; Retinyl Palmitate Both SPF50 Y/N Check Here
COSRX | Aloe Soothing Sun Cream
Strong Runner-up
5 UV Filters; Aloe Leaf Extract; Vitamin E Both SPF50+ N/N Check Here
A’Pieu | Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream
Best Budget
5 UV Filters; Aloe Leaf Extract; Vitamin E Chemical SPF50+ Y/Y Check Here
Isntree | Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun gel
Best Premium
6 UV Filters; 8 types of Hyaluronic Acid; Centella Asiatica; Ceramides Chemical SPF50+ Y/Y Check Here
Etude House | Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream
Best for sensitive skin
2 UV Filters; Green Tea Leaf Extract; Vitamin E Physical SPF49 Y/Y Check Here
SOME BY MI | Truecica Mineral 100 Calming Suncream
Best Cica Sunscreen
2 UV Filters; Tea Tree Leaf Extract; Centella Asiatica; Niacinamide Physical SPF50+ Y/N Check Here

How to Pick the Best Korean Sunscreen for Acne-Prone Skin?

Acne-prone skin can be sensitive, and difficult to manage. This is especially true for those of us with oily, acne-prone skin, which can easily break out with comedogenic skincare ingredients. As such, we tend to steer clear of heavy products when preventing an acne breakout. And, unfortunately, this often includes sunscreen as well.

 

Many western sunscreens tend to feel greasy and thick, while others don’t absorb well and just sit on top of the skin. As such, it’s easy to see how they can aggravate oily, acne-prone skin.

 

Aside from consistency issues, some folks don’t wear sunscreen because they think the sun can help with acne. There is a grain of truth in this, as small amounts of UV light can kill acne bacteria and reduce inflammation.

But the reality is, sun exposure often does more harm than good. In most cases, too much of it can prevent the skin from healing, worsen post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and significantly increase the risk of skin cancer.

 

Ultimately, sunscreen is still a vital means of protection, especially for acne-prone skin.

 

But if you’re tired of the same old heavy, greasy sunscreens, you might want to try something new. Korean sunscreens, in particular, have gained huge popularity for their fresh, lightweight formulations. So, if you want something different, or just have a love for Korean skincare products, then this list is for you.

We’ve compiled our favorite Korean sunscreens for you to check out, plus a list of buying factors to help you choose the best Korean sunscreen for oily, acne-prone skin. So, let’s get to it!

Check for broad spectrum protection and the PA and SPF rating

There are three types of UV rays – UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA causes skin damage, while UVB is the main culprit of sunburns. Both UV types have long wavelengths. This means that they can easily reach us on the ground, and even penetrate through clouds and glass.

UVC, on the other hand, has more energy than UVA and UVB, but a shorter reach. This means it never actually makes it to the ground where it can cause damage to our skin.

Not all sunscreens offer the same type of protection. So, when buying any type of sunscreen, it’s important to check what type of UV protection it offers. Here are the common sun protection indicators in sunscreens:

SPF

An SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating tells you how long you’re protected from UVB rays before you start seeing the effects of a sunburn.

For example, an SPF 30 sunscreen can block as much as 97% of UVB rays. So, if you usually start turning red after 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF 30 sunscreen can double that time to 20 minutes. This means it’ll take twice as long for your skin to start becoming sunburned in comparison to how long it takes without sunscreen.

But this also depends on many external factors. For instance, sweating or swimming can cause sunscreen to wear off, lessening the amount of sun protection we get. This is why it’s essential to keep reapplying sunscreen every two hours, to ensure we’re always protected.

So, how much SPF is enough? This depends on how our skin reacts to sun exposure. If you notice that you tend to redden after five minutes of being out in the sun, multiply that number by the SPF rating of your sunscreen.

(5 minutes x 30 SPF = 150 minutes)

This means that an SPF 30 sunscreen will be enough to keep you safe for at least 150 minutes before your skin starts showing redness. If you have fair skin or tend to burn quicker, it’s best to go for a higher SPF rating like an SPF 50+.

 

It might be tempting to go for an SPF 100 or 130 sunscreen and call it a day. But keep in mind that anything above SPF 50 offers a very marginal improvement. Higher SPFs may also give you a false sense of security, leading you to stay out in the sun longer and reapply sunscreen less frequently.

Broad spectrum

A broad spectrum sunscreen offers both UVA and UVB protection. This not only protects against sunburns but early aging signs and skin cancers, as well. The broad spectrum rating is most commonly used in the US and adheres to FDA regulations.

One of the early problems with broad spectrum sunscreens was that they only came with SPF ratings. These only indicate UVB protection and nothing on UVA protection. Fortunately, in 2011, the FDA changed its regulations to ensure that all broad spectrum sunscreens offer UVA protection equal to its SPF rating.

PA

Sunscreens with PA (Protection Grade of UVA) ratings protect against UVA rays. It’s a system developed by the Japan Cosmetic Industry Association (JCIA) and is often used for Korean and Japanese sunscreens.

PA ratings are based on persistent pigment darkening (PPD) tests, which measures the darkening or tanning of the skin from UVA exposure. It basically indicates how long you can stay under the sun before your skin starts to darken or tan.

PA ratings are determined by their PPD values. For example, sunscreens with a PPD value of 3 (PA+) lets you handle thrice as much UVA exposure as you could without sunscreen. Here’s what each PA rating delivers in UVA protection:

  • PA+: PPD of 2-4 (Some UVA protection)
  • PA++: PPD of 4-8 (Moderate UVA protection)
  • PA+++: PPD of 8-16 (High UVA protection)
  • PA++++: PPD of 16 and up (Extremely High UVA protection)

 

PPD values differ per region since not everyone’s skin darkens the same way or at the same rate. As such, sunscreens that use the PA system may not be equally effective for everyone.

Physical or chemical sunscreen

There are two types of sunscreens – physical (or mineral) and chemical. Physical sunscreens make use of minerals like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. These sit on the surface of the skin and form a protective shield that deflects the sun’s harmful UV rays away. Unfortunately, this also means that they often leave a white cast on the face.

Advantages of physical sunscreens include the following:

  • Labeled as GRASE (“generally recognized as safe and effective”) by the FDA.
  • Offers broad spectrum sun protection.
  • Takes effect immediately after application on the skin.
  • Less likely to cause irritation or clog pores, making it ideal for sensitive skin.
  • Zinc Oxide has anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to the skin.
  • Lasts longer in direct sunlight, and has a longer shelf life.

On the other hand, chemical sunscreens make use of ingredients such as Tinosorb and Mexoryl that absorb UV rays. These ingredients create a chemical reaction that transforms UV rays into heat that is then dispersed in the body. Since these types of sunscreens rely on a chemical reaction, it means that it takes several minutes after application before it takes effect.

Advantages of chemical sunscreens include the following:

  • More lightweight consistency.
  • Offers broad spectrum sun protection.
  • Easy to apply and absorbs more easily into the skin.
  • No white cast.
  • More resistant to sweat and water.

Skincare benefits

Korean sunscreens boast more advanced formulas because they have access to more UV filters. This is mostly because the approval rate for new UV filters in Korea is much faster. Whereas in the US, sunscreen formulations have not been updated in over a decade due to its very slow approval process.

Thanks to innovative formulations, Korean sunscreens are generally more lightweight and less greasy. Most Korean sunscreens are also multitaskers. This means that in addition to protecting the skin from sun damage, they address skin issues as well. Many also contain skincare ingredients that are great for acne-prone skin, such as:

Drawbacks of Korean sunscreen

Those of us who love Korean skincare products will know that many tend to be heavily fragranced. The same goes for most Korean sunscreens. And while these fragrances typically smell amazing, they may still pose an irritation risk to those with very sensitive skin. Some Korean sunscreens also tend to use a lot of essential oils, which can be sensitizing to some people.

Another thing to look out for is alcohol content. That lovely lightweight texture that so many Korean sun creams and gels possess is often due to alcohol in the formulation. So, if you have sensitivities to that, it’s best to keep an eye out for it on the ingredients list.

6 Best Korean Sunscreen For Acne-Prone Skin (2022)

AHC Natural Perfection Double Shield Sun Stick

Best Overall
AHC Natural Perfection Double Shield Sun Stick (From:Amazon).

AHC Natural Perfection Double Shield Sun Stick (From:Amazon).

Key features:

  • 5 UV Filters (UVA & UVB) for sun protection.
  • Licorice Leaf, Green Tea, and Centella Asiatica Extract to fight acne-causing bacteria.
  • Glycerin, Panthenol, Ceramide NP, and Hyaluronic Acid for hydration.
  • Retinyl Palmitate to improve the appearance of wrinkles.
  • SPF 50+ and PA++++.
  • Water and sweat resistant.

The AHC Natural Perfection Double Shield Sun Stick offers high UV protection with five UV filters. This lightweight sunscreen contains acne-fighting and anti-aging ingredients to improve skin quality. It also goes on completely clear and is easy to carry around, making this our top Korean sunscreen for acne-prone skin.

This sun stick contains a patented UV IR Block™ technology that makes use of five different UV filters for sun protection. These filters include:

  • Octinoxate (UVB protection)
  • Uvinul A Plus (UVA protection)
  • Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, and Tinosorb S (Broad Spectrum protection)

Besides UV protection, this technology also protects the skin from IR rays, which can negatively affect our skin. This effect becomes worse in hotter climates, as it can speed up skin aging and moisture loss.

The sun stick also contains Glycerin, Panthenol, Ceramide NP, and Hyaluronic Acid, which further boosts hydration. Glycerin, Panthenol, and Hyaluronic Acid are humectants that attract and lock moisture in, while Ceramide NP restores and heals the skin barrier.

The AHC Double Shield Sun Stick contains acne-fighting ingredients like Licorice Leaf, Green Tea, and Centella Asiatica Extract. These reduce acne breakouts and boost wound healing, while soothing inflammation. And thanks to AHC’s Nano Emulsion Technology, ingredients penetrate the skin more effectively.

Those with aging concerns will benefit from Retinyl Palmitate, a gentle anti-aging ingredient that minimizes wrinkles. A nice bonus is that it also helps prevent DNA damage from UV exposure.

But what we love most is the packaging. The unique stick form keeps your hands clean and makes for hygienic applications anytime, anywhere. The sunscreen stick is also slim and slightly angled, making it easy to apply around the eye area.

 

The AHC Natural Perfection Double Shield Sun Stick is formulated without alcohol but contains flower and fruit extracts for fragrance. The good news is that it has undergone as many as 33 clinical tests that authenticate its benefits for sensitive skin and sun protection.

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COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream

Strong Runner-Up
COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream (From:Amazon).

COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream (From:Amazon).

Key features:

  • 5 UV Filters (UVA & UVB) for sun protection.
  • Aloe Leaf Extract to soothe irritation and reduce acne-causing bacteria.
  • Glycerin and Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E) for hydration and wound healing.
  • SPF 50+ and PA+++.

The COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream uses five UV filters for effective protection against UV rays. It’s lightweight, easily absorbed, and doesn’t leave a white cast. It also contains Aloe Leaf Extract to soothe acne-prone skin. Overall, it’s a great sunscreen but places 2nd on our list due to its lower PA rating.

As mentioned, this sun cream provides excellent UV protection with help from five different UV filters. These include:

  • Octinoxate (UVB protection)
  • Ensulizole (UVB protection)
  • Tinosorb S, Amiloxate, and Titanium Dioxide (Broad Spectrum protection)

Aside from sun protection, this sun cream provides great anti-acne benefits. It contains 55,000 ppm of Aloe Leaf Extract, a popular hydrating skin soother. Aloe Leaf Extract is known for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties that help reduce acne-causing bacteria. It also has moisturizing properties that restore and strengthen the skin barrier.

This effect is further boosted by Glycerin and Vitamin E. Glycerin is a humectant that draws water into the outer layers of the skin to keep it hydrated. And Vitamin E improves wound healing, which is essential for acne-prone skin.

The COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream is great for oily skin because it’s lightweight and absorbs well. It doesn’t leave a sticky residue either, making it easy to wear under makeup.

But since it’s also a physical sunscreen, it’s not resistant to sweat or water. So you’ll need frequent reapplications, especially if you’re outdoors a lot. You’ll also have to wait at least 30 minutes after every application before heading out to make sure you’re fully protected.

 

The COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream is formulated with minimal fragrances suitable even for sensitive skin. However, it does contain alcohol, so those with extra sensitive skin should look out for that.

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A’Pieu Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream

Best Budget
A’Pieu Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream (From:Amazon).

A’Pieu Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream (From:Amazon).

Key features:

  • 5 UV Filters (UVA & UVB) for sun protection.
  • Watermelon Fruit Extract to nourish and boost UV protection.
  • Aloe Leaf Extract to soothe irritation and reduce acne-causing bacteria.
  • Berry Blossom Complex to revitalize dull skin.
  • Panthenol and Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E) for wound healing.
  • SPF 45 and PA+++.

The A’Pieu Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream contains five UV filters that offer broad-spectrum sun protection. It leaves no white cast, has a long-lasting matte finish, and is very affordable, making this our favorite budget sunscreen for acne-prone skin.

Despite being a budget sunscreen, the A’Pieu Daily Sun Cream still packs a punch when it comes to sun protection. It contains five effective UV filters, which include:

  • Avobenzone (UVA protection)
  • Ensulizole, Octisalate, and Octinoxate (UVB protection)
  • Tinosorb S (Broad Spectrum protection)

This sun cream has a lightweight formulation that’s easily absorbed, making it ideal for oily, acne-prone skin. It has a matte finish that lasts all day and doesn’t leave a white cast either. It also contains Aloe Leaf Extract which moisturizes and prevents the growth of acne-causing bacteria.

The A’Pieu Daily Sun Cream is rich in antioxidants, thanks to its Berry Blossom Complex and Watermelon Fruit Extract. The Berry Blossom Complex contains six fruit and flower extracts that revitalize dull skin and protect it from free radical damage. Watermelon Fruit Extract, rich in vitamins and amino acids, inhibits free radicals and protects the skin cells from DNA damage.

Lastly, Panthenol and Vitamin E work together to hydrate and heal the skin. This improves its ability to keep bacteria out and moisture in, which is vital for acne-prone skin.

 

The A’Pieu Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream is a chemical sunscreen, which means that it takes effect immediately after it’s applied to the skin. It also has better water and sweat resistance. However, it’s best not applied over or near the eyes, as some ingredients can sting. The sun cream also contains a mild concentration of fragrance, but is generally safe for sensitive skin.[/note]

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Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel

Best Premium
Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel (From:Amazon).

Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel (From:Amazon).

Key features:

  • 6 UV Filters (UVA & UVB) for sun protection.
  • 8 Types of Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramide NP, & Glycerin for hydration.
  • Centella Asiatica, Portulaca Oleracea, & Houttuynia Cordata Extracts to soothe skin.
  • Niacinamide to improve hyperpigmentation.
  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E) for wound healing.
  • SPF 50+ and PA++++.

The Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel is a PA++++ sunscreen, which offers the highest level of protection against UVA rays. It’s loaded with hydrating, soothing, and wound-healing ingredients. Its gel-like texture is easily absorbed and leaves no white cast, making it great for daytime use or under makeup. As such, this is our favorite premium sunscreen for acne-prone skin.

This sunscreen offers the strongest UV protection amongst all the other options on this list. It contains six UV filters, which include:

  • Octisalate, Homosalate, and Polysilicone-15 (UVB protection)
  • Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M (Broad Spectrum protection)
  • Uvinul A Plus (UVA protection)

This sun gel is made for oily, dehydrated skin. It contains 8 different types of Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin, which work together to maintain the skin’s oil-moisture balance. Ceramide NP works on the skin barrier, strengthening it to stop moisture loss. And Brightening Niacinamide improves dark acne spots and controls sebum while protecting the skin from DNA damage.

Antioxidant-rich Centella Asiatica, Portulaca Oleracea, and Houttuynia Cordata Extracts make for a super soothing treatment that relieves irritated and inflamed acne-prone skin. And Vitamin E restores skin barrier resilience by improving wound healing.

 

The Isntree Watery Sun Gel is very light and refreshing on the skin, making it easy to wear anytime. Since it’s a chemical sunscreen, it’s also more resistant to sweat and water. But it’s important to remember to wait at least 30 minutes after application before going out.

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Etude House Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream

Best for sensitive skin
Etude House Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream (From:Amazon).

Etude House Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream (From:Amazon).

Key features:

  • 2 UV Filters (Broad Spectrum) for sun protection.
  • Panthensoside to soothe and moisturize the skin.
  • Green Tea Leaf Extract to fight acne-causing bacteria.
  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E) to boost wound healing.
  • Low pH formula.
  • SPF 49 and PA++.

The Etude House Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream is a mild physical sunscreen with active sebum-control and wound healing ingredients. It has a low pH formula and helps minimize acne bacteria growth, making it our top alcohol and essential oils-free sunscreen for acne-prone skin.

Those who want a mild sunscreen with effective sun protection will love the Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream. This cream contains minimal chemical ingredients, making it suitable for sensitive skin. It has two mineral UV filters for broad spectrum protection, which are:

  • Zinc Oxide (Broad Spectrum protection)
  • Titanium Dioxide (Broad Spectrum protection)

The sunscreen has a hypoallergenic formula with minimal ingredients, making it perfect for sensitive skin. It contains Panthensoside (Panthenol + Madecassoside) which has a dual effect of moisturizing and calming irritated skin.

The formula is also enriched with Green Tea Leaf Extract, which has excellent anti-acne benefits. This not only lessens excess sebum but also kills acne bacteria, which is vital for stubborn acne. Those dealing with acne scars will also benefit from the wound-healing effects of Vitamin E.

In addition to being mild, the Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream has a low pH formula that helps strengthen the skin barrier and stops the growth of acne bacteria. It has a light, non-sticky texture that feels cool on the skin and is easy to blend in. However, since it only uses physical UV filters, it does leave an obvious white cast, which might not be ideal for those with darker skin.

 

All ingredients in the ​​Etude House Soon Jung Mild Defence Sun Cream are naturally derived and free from artificial ingredients like mineral oil, fragrances, colorants, talc, and parabens.

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SOME BY MI Truecica Mineral 100 Calming Sun Cream

Best Cica Sunscreen
SOME BY MI Truecica Mineral 100 Calming Sun Cream (From:Amazon).

SOME BY MI Truecica Mineral 100 Calming Sun Cream (From:Amazon).

Key features:

  • 2 UV Filters (Broad Spectrum) for sun protection.
  • Tea Tree Leaf Extract to fight acne-causing bacteria.
  • Centella Asiatica Extract and Madecassoside to soothe irritation and heal wounds.
  • Artemisia Extract for hydration.
  • Niacinamide to brighten the skin.
  • SPF 50+ and PA++++.

The SOME BY MI Truecica Mineral 100 Calming Sun Cream is a non-nano mineral sunscreen ideal for sensitive skin. It contains Tea Tree Leaf and Centella Asiatica Extracts to fight acne, reduce sebum, and heal wounds. It leaves a very minimal white cast, making it our favorite Cica sunscreen for acne-prone skin.

This sun cream provides effective UV protection with two popular mineral filters:

  • Zinc Oxide (Broad Spectrum protection)
  • Titanium Dioxide (Broad Spectrum protection)

Both UV filters come in a non-nano formula, which has larger-sized particles that are too big to be fully absorbed. As such, they keep to the skin’s surface where they can reflect UV rays more effectively. It’s also ideal for sensitive skin because it lessens the risk of irritation.

This sun cream contains 10,000 ppm of Centella Asiatica Extract, which reduces inflammation, speeds up wound healing, and calms active acne pimples. It also stimulates collagen production, which can improve the appearance of mild acne scars.

Madecassoside, the main component of Centella Asiatica, helps with post-acne marks. Besides soothing redness, it also lessens hyperpigmentation caused by UV damage. Together with Niacinamide, both restore a brighter, more even-looking complexion.

The Truecica Mineral Sun Cream also contains Tea Tree Extracts, which have antimicrobial properties that prevent new acne breakouts. You also have Artemisia Princeps Extract, which has a hydrating effect that keeps skin moisturized. This is especially important for dehydrated skin because it tends to overcompensate for the lack of moisture by producing excess sebum that, in turn, could clog pores.

The sun cream is lightweight and easy to blend in. But what we love most is that it leaves a barely-there white cast, which is unique for a physical sunscreen. It also has a cooling effect, making it comfortable to wear in hot weather.

 

The SOME BY MI Truecica Mineral 100 Calming Sun Cream has a Tea Tree scent but isn’t too overpowering. It contains essential oils but is still non-irritating even for those with dermatitis. The sunscreen also contains no alcohol or artificial colors.

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