Review: Japanese Drugstore Suncreens Shiseido, Biore, Curel, Hada Labo


I thought I would end the week with a much-requested post that was in the making for over a month now — Japanese sunscreens! This is by no means an exhaustive list because there are so many in the market and I could very well do a sequel to this when I get back to Tokyo to try another round of sunscreens.

I tested each sunscreen for a week at least and after I did that, I used the ones that I preferred so in all, I would say I probably tested some a bit longer than others. I think you can tell if you like a sunscreen or not within a short period of time in any given season. This is also my first time venturing into sunscreens that have alcohol in them and as a preface I would not use sunscreens with alcohol in non-summer months because they would be too drying.

With that long preamble outta the way, here goes from left to right…

Biore UV Bright Face Milk SPF50PA+++ is a physical sunscreen that also acts as a brightening primer before you put on your base makeup. This has excellent oil control and great for very humid days. However, it may have a slight white cast when worn on its own and might pool on your face especially during sports. Though I must add that this Biore sunscreen is not meant for vigorous activity and they have one variety, Perfect Milk, specially catered to that need. I love the way this one looks with makeup over as it has a smooth matte finish (due to the high alcohol content) and it feels invisible. The only downside is the strong alcohol scent it exudes when you first put it on though it does fade very quickly.

Shiseido Senka Mineral Water UV Gel SPF50PA+++ is a chemical sunscreen with high alcohol content which is probably not the best choice for sensitive skin types. This one performed well with makeup and on its own — it just stays put all day and doesn’t make me look shiny. However, I felt a wee bit itchy towards the end of a long day. I didn’t have that problem on shorter days, but when I wore this beyond 10-12 hours, I felt an almost imperceptible layer on my skin and it felt a little irritating. I really could be splitting hairs and I must add that this is popular with Asian skincare fans and I can see why but I personally prefer physical sunscreens because of my sensitive skin.

Shiseido Anessa Babycare Sunscreen N SPF34PA+++ seemed promising with its non-chemical, non-additive claims (no fragrance, parabens, and colouring). This one didn’t irritate my skin but the formula somehow made it very oily in no time, with or without makeup. I can’t understand why because alcohol is one of the top ingredients on its list but there isn’t a mattifying effect at all. I would not recommend this for those with oily skin. Even if you don’t have this skin type and are attracted to the other points in this sunscreen, I think you could find better formulas sans alcohol that are more nourishing for the skin.

Hada Labo UV Whitening Emulsion SPF50PA+++ is both a physical and chemical sunscreen without additives like fragrance, alcohol and parabens. This is a great sunscreen in colder months but may not have the oil control that many folks would like during the summer.

I could wear this under makeup but prefer not to use this on its own as it does make my skin look shiny. However, the appeal lies in the fact that it doesn’t irritate my skin and has added Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid which are nourishing ingredients. This acts as an all-in-one type of sunscreen as you could also skip moisturizer altogether which is something I do during very hot months — I just go straight to sunscreen and then base makeup which works very well for me.

Curel UV Protection Face Milk UV SPF25PA++ feels a lot like the Hada Labo UV Whitening Emulsion sunscreen in terms of texture and reads almost the same on the non-additive front. It is a physical sunscreen but surprisingly doesn’t have the white cast that can be seen in the Biore Bright Face Milk sunscreen. This sits well under makeup, like the Hada Labo one, but I find that this one causes clog pores on my forehead if I wear this for very long hours, e.g. eight hours or more. If I just wear this for a run which lasts about an hour or so and then I wash it off, I don’t face this problem.

The other downsides are the lower SPF factor and 20% more expensive too — but bear in mind that the sunscreens I have chosen are all drugstore ones which are below 1500JPY so the price point doesn’t really matter to me at the end of the day, except that if it is too cheap, I would be wary (e.g. Sun Bear sunscreens go for 300JPY which is a bit of a turn-off).

Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel SPF50PA+++  is an interesting sunscreen where its makers have made this a hybrid physical and chemical sunscreen where the UV filters are not absorbed by the skin, but yet has an incredibly silky product that sinks right into the skin. It has no fragrance and parabens but has alcohol. However, the superior formula doesn’t make the skin feel tight which can be felt with sunscreens that have alcohol. Perhaps the only disadvantage this product has is that it is quite big compared to the other slimmer containers that Japanese sunscreens are so well known for. If not for the fact that it comes in a big tube, I would’ve definitely brought it along on my trip.

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