These 12 SPF Products Are Proof That Korean Sunscreens Are Just Better

K-beauty wins again.
Last Updated
Jul 14, 2022

When you think of Korean skincare, you likely conjure up thoughts of plump, dewy, impossibly smooth skin—and as you should. K-beauty products are known for their soft, cushiony textures, intensely moisturizing ingredients, and more importantly, their impressive, complexion-enhancing results. But if you thought those accolades just pertained to its plethora of serums, essences, and moisturizers, think again. 

Among those in the know, Korean sunscreens are widely considered some of the best SPF products on the market, thanks largely to their multipurpose formulas, innovative textures, and advanced, skin-loving ingredients (think niacinamide, sunflower oil, bamboo extract, and hyaluronic acid). "I personally like the textures and the variety of sunscreen products that cater to specific types of skin," says Cle Cosmetics founder Lauren Jin. "Most sunscreens tend to break me out or feel too dry. But Korean sunscreens have a lightness to their formulas and an outstanding balance of skin-benefitting ingredients, which makes a huge difference in my complexion."

SPF vs. PA Ratings

Before you go tossing out your tried-and-true Coppertone, there are a couple of key things to note about Korean sunscreens. For starters, Korean sunscreens use a different rating system than the U.S.'s SPF rating, called the PA, or Protection Grade of UVA. According to Jin, while SPF focuses on UVB light (light that burns our skin) and protects the outer surface of the dermis from sunburn, PA is all about UVA light, which is what visibly ages our skin. "UVA protection is critical as this light penetrates the deeper layers of our dermis, damaging the layers that hold our collagen and elastin," explains Jin. "This is what ultimately damages and ages our skin."

There are currently four grades in the PA system: PA+, PA++, PA+++, PA++++. Each rating covers a specific range of the Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) test, which measures the amount of time it takes for skin to tan compared to unprotected skin. Essentially, the higher number of plus signs a product has, the better UVA protection it provides. 

If this is all starting to sound a little confusing—don't worry. One of the great things about Korean sunscreens is that they often include both the product's SPF rating and PA rating on the packaging, making it easy to understand the formula's full level of broad-spectrum protection.

"The PA + system gives me a better idea of how much protection I am receiving, as the SPF number only refers to the UVB protection," adds Jin. "If I know that a product has SPF 50 PA +++, then I am better able to understand that my UVB protection is 50 and that the three plus signs give me fairly high UVA protection." That said, not every K-beauty brand sold in the U.S will include the PA rating on their packing rating. So when in doubt, Jin recommends looking for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 protection and as many plus signs as possible (ideally all four). 

Ready to give your skin the daily SPF upgrade it's been craving? Ahead, we've rounded up the 12 best Korean sunscreens that offer both increased sun protection and complexion-enhancing benefits. 

Shop the Best Korean Sunscreens

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