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How To Choose a Sunscreen

The one skincare product you should never go without isn’t a miracle serum or expensive essence. It’s humble, everyday sunscreen. Wearing sunscreen daily is the single best thing you can do for your skin. Not only does it protect you from skin cancer, but it provides the ultimate aging prevention. Damaging UV rays cause everything from wrinkles, decreased collagen production, and hyperpigmentation, to plain old sunburn.

With that said, it’s worth taking a little time to consider such an important product. Let’s look at how to choose sunscreen for your skin type and preferences.


Filters are the ingredients in the sunscreen that protect from harmful UV rays. There are two types of sunscreen filters, chemical and physical.

Chemical filters contain organic chemicals, so they’re sometimes known as “organic filters”. They absorb UV radiation and release it as heat. There are many kinds of chemical filters - some of the more traditional sunscreens use oxybenzone and avobenzone, though European and Korean sunscreens may use filters like tinosorb and mexoryl. They usually need to be applied in advance (15-30 minutes), but they’re thinner and easier to spread. You’re also less likely to get a white cast with chemical filters because they get absorbed into the skin. 

Physical filters are also known as “mineral” or “inorganic” and contain metal oxides. They sit on top of the skin, blocking UV rays before they reach your skin. You’ll usually see them listed as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. This type of sunscreen tends to be thicker and can sometimes leave a bit of white cast, but can be less irritating if your skin is sensitive. They also start working right away.

If you aren’t sure, it’s becoming popular for sunscreens to use a combination of chemical and physical filters, to give you the best of both worlds. 

SPF/PA ratings

SPF is something most people are familiar with. It stands for “sun protection factor”, and experts suggest you use a sunscreen that has at least an SPF 30 rating. What you may not know, is that SPF only protects from UVB rays. UVB rays are the type of radiation that causes sunburn. While many sunscreens are labeled as “broad spectrum”, brands aren’t obligated to show how much UVA protection the product provides.

This is where a PA rating comes in. The “protection grade of UVA rays” is shown by “+” signs, ranging from one to four (four has the most protection). UVA rays get deeper into the skin than UVB rays and are associated with the breakdown of collagen and aging. Korean sunscreens show both the SPF and PA ratings so you know how much protection you’re getting.

Skin types/concerns

Gone are the days when there was only one type of sunscreen available. There are now formulations that suit every skin type and concern.

Dry/flakey skin

A sunscreen with hydrating aloe or hyaluronic acid is perfect if your skin is dry and flakey. A chemical or hybrid sunscreen will provide you with more moisture, like Purito Go-To Sunscreen.

Normal skin

Your choice! You are one of the lucky people who can choose whichever kind of sunscreen you like. Go for a comfortable, light formula, like Neogen Airy Sun.

Combination skin

A well-rounded sunscreen that contains loads of antioxidants will protect your skin from UV rays and free radicals that cause signs of aging, like Beauty of Joseon’s Relief Sun.

Oily skin

A mattifying, sebum regulating formula will keep your skin from getting slick and shiny. Try Dr. Ceuracle’s Pro-Balance Clear Up Sun formula, which contains oil-balancing niacinamide.


If your skin is reactive, you may want to opt for a physical sunscreen with calming, soothing ingredients, like SomeByMi Truecica Mineral Sunscreen.

Most sunscreens come with some added benefits, so don’t be afraid to look around until you find one you like.


Most people associate sunscreen with a greasy, sticky or chalky texture. Korean sunscreens are known for their lightweight, smooth formulas. You’ll see words like “fluid” to describe a liquidy, thin textured product. “Milk” usually means a sunscreen that is spreadable and smooth. Gels are light and easily absorbed, while mattifying products reduce shine and greasiness.

“Waterproof” sunscreen and application

Physical filters usually don’t last as long if you’re doing activities that cause you sweat, or if you’re swimming. Anytime you’re in a situation where your sunscreen may have washed or been wiped off, you’ll need to reapply, even if the sunscreen is labelled as “waterproof”.

Otherwise, sunscreen generally needs to be reapplied every 2 hours or so. You’ll want to use about a shot glass worth of product to cover your whole body. Some skincare gurus suggest you do two thinner layers on your face, just to make sure you cover every area. And sorry, using makeup with SPF isn’t going to cut it - you just don’t get enough coverage.


If you only have time to put one thing on your face in the morning, make it sunscreen. In rain, shine, hot, and cold weather, the long term difference sunscreen makes to your skin can’t be replicated by any other product. If you take the time to find a product you like, it will become a habit you don’t need to think twice about!