My Favourite Japanese Sunscreens

Sun beach sunscreen

Β© narstudio

What’s the most important item in your skincare routine? Eye cream? Serum? Moisturiser? For me, it isn’t any of these. It’s sunscreen.

I didn’t start wearing sunscreen regularly until I was in my early twenties. I know I should have started a lot earlier but when the only sunscreens I could get were from Banana Boat and Coppertone that didn’t only smell bad but were thick and greasy as well, it was hard to jump on the sunscreen bandwagon.

It was a huge relief when Malaysian pharmacies like Watsons and Guardian started selling sunscreen from Japanese brands like Biore and Skin Aqua. Finally, sunscreens that are lightweight, non-greasy, doesn’t smell awful and are so easy to use! I like them so much that I don’t just use them on my face, I use them on my body as well.

It’s better to spend a little more on sunscreen to use all over the body than sticking to only thick body sunscreens that turn me off and not want to use them at all. That’s my sunscreen motto!

My favourite Japanese sunscreens

Here are a few of my favourite Japanese sunscreens. I pick these up during my recent trip to Japan, most of which are multiple repurchases over the years. All of them are lightweight and non-greasy. In fact, they’re very similar to each other so it really doesn’t matter which one you choose. Best of all, they do not have a sunscreen scent (in fact, I’ve not tried any Japanese sunscreens that smells like sunscreen). Having said that, please bear in mind that these are chemical sunscreens, not physical ones.

Now it will look as though these sunscreens I’m about to show you are all new and unopened. Technically they are but I’ve used all of them (save for the Biore Aqua Rich Cool) before and these are the ones I’ve stocked up on in Japan.

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF50
This is my favourite sunscreen from Biore. I’ve tried pretty much all of the sunscreens they have and the one I enjoy using the most is the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF50. I love how light it is on my skin and how quickly it dries. When I saw the “cool” version, I quickly picked one up too. Can’t tell the difference really. πŸ˜›

Kanebo ALLIE UV Whitening SPF50+
The ALLIE sunscreens are slightly pricier than the rest but again, they’re very lightweight and doesn’t leave any residue behind.

Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid UV Moist Emulsion
There are two versions from the Hada Labo range of sunscreens: the regular sunscreen that comes in a white bottle and the whitening version that comes in a blue bottle. Both of them perform equally well. I didn’t notice any difference with the whitening version. I’ve reviewed the regular version before and I still really like it.

Skin Aqua Moisture Milk Whitening SPF50+
This is also a favourite next to the Biore. I’ve only seen and purchased the regular-sized bottle but when I saw that Japanese drugstores were stocking the pump bottle version AND there were foil packet refills for the sunscreen, I quickly snapped both up! I can use this on the face and body without any worry about it being thick and greasy. Quite the contrary, in fact!

Shiseido SENKA Mineral Water UV Gel SPF50
This was the only sunscreen I didn’t get in Japan. I picked one up in Malaysia last year and Bea kindly brought another one for me when she was here on holiday earlier this year. Again, it’s lightweight, non-greasy and effective even on hot and sweaty days.

Shiseido Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen EX SPF 50+
I didn’t buy any of the Anessa sunscreens this time but they were the first Japanese sunscreens I used when I was living in Japan years ago. They’re slightly thicker than the rest but still lightweight enough for me to use without any problems. The Anessa sunscreens are the priciest of the lot.

My favourite Japanese sunscreens

As great as these sunscreens are for me, there’s a caveat.

I love Japanese sunscreens, I really do but most of them have one ingredient that can be a deal breaker for many: they contain alcohol. Not every Japanese sunscreen contains alcohol but a lot of them do. E.g. Biore’s UV Daily Care Gel SPF30 (the one in the green bottle) contains quite a lot of alcohol even though it feels pretty damn good on the skin. It used to be a deal breaker for me but ever since I moved to Australia and tried most of their sunscreens (e.g. the ones from Cancer Council Australia, Hamilton, Invisible Zinc, etc) and while they’re very good, they’re still a tad too thick for my liking. It wasn’t long before I went back to the Japanese sunscreens. At the very least, they’re light, doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin, not sticky and doesn’t stain furniture if I have them on my legs.

It’s a compromise I made to carry on using sunscreen religiously which is why I’m still carrying on Japanese sunscreens. I try my best to get the ones without alcohol or the ones with the least amount of alcohol (unfortunately, at the time of writing, none of these sunscreens that I’ve mentioned above do). If it’s little consolation, it’s a good thing that despite the presence of alcohol in the sunscreens, they don’t irritate my skin at all nor dry it out. I’ve not had any negative issues with them at all.

However, if you have sensitive skin or if alcohol is an ingredient that doesn’t agree with your skin, then I’d advise checking out the ingredients of the sunscreen first before making a purchase. Like I said, not all Japanese sunscreens have alcohol. Still, if you’re unsure, it’s better to err on the side of caution and stay away from them.

Where can you get Japanese sunscreens? If they’re not easily available where you are, you can try SASA, Imomoko, eBay, Amazon, etc. I usually replenish mine from when I’ve run out. Unfortunately, the prices are quite inflated compared to the original price in Japan but it’s not that bad for a good sunscreen.

Have you tried Japanese sunscreens? Do you like them? What’s your favourite?

Shop the post!

For weekly updates, news and heaps more fun stuff, do subscribe and join the awesome BA Insider community!

Join the BA Insider Community



34 comments… add one
  1. Ozlicious

    Ahh, thanks for this post! This is so timely for me as my fiancΓ© is in Japan at the moment and he has one more free day before he comes home. I really wanted him to get me some Japanese sunscreens but I didn’t want to torture the poor bloke by telling him “just find me some good ones” and having him wander in and out of pharmacies like a lost kitten. I’ll send him this link. Thanks Tine! πŸ™‚

    1. LeGeeque

      “lost kitten” “find me some good ones” <– possibly the most adorable phrases I've read in a while πŸ˜€

    2. Tine

      Haha my pleasure! To be honest, even if you just leave him to find you some good ones, chances are he’ll come back with good ones because most if not all of them are good. πŸ˜›

  2. dom

    I like the Biore UV Aqua sunscreen too, but I’ve not seen the ‘Cool’ version yet. Your turdle is pretty cool too. Hello cute stuffed turdle (I think it’s cuter to spell it as ‘turdle’).
    dom recently posted..Mim’s Mini Manicures: BarryM Watermelon and Essie Shine of the TimesMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Hehehe turdle πŸ˜› I think the “cool” version must be new. You guys should be getting it soon, I reckon. πŸ™‚

  3. Allison

    Thanks, Tine! The alcohol thing was a bit of a disappointment because I have sensitive skin. I can handle some but not a lot of alcohol. Nevertheless, I will check HMart, the Korean supermarket first to see if they have any of the Hada Labo sunscreens or the Biore or Shiseido. If not, I’ll check I did find a decent American body sunscreen sample that may be my backup plan, but not for face.
    Allison recently posted..essie Nail Lacquer, Mojito MadnessMy Profile

    1. Tine

      I reckon it’s best for you to steer clear of Japanese sunscreens because the alcohol may irritate your skin. Back to the search πŸ™

  4. Emily

    Thanks for the post! I’ve really only tried a couple of the Biore ones, and the Shiseido one that Paris B recommended (which is great, but pricey). Think I’d really like to try the Skin Aqua one next after reading your review πŸ™‚

    1. Tine

      I like both the Biore and Skin Aqua sunscreens. Both are just as good in my books. Don’t know why I just prefer the Biore one just a tad more. πŸ˜›

  5. Efrain

    So you’re saying me that almost every Japanese sunscreen has alcohol, now I don’t know what to do because I’m almost sure that Biore UV Perfect Face made my my skin more dehydrated due to the alcohol in the formula so I stopped using it and only used Americans or Europeans ones and none of them are as good as the Biore.

    I think I’ll try another but I hate to wait for an overseas shipping.
    Efrain recently posted..Los imprescindibles en belleza cuando falta tiempoMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Sigh I know what you mean. Even a lot of Australian sunscreens are heavy in comparison to the Japanese ones. My skin has no problem with the alcohol, thank goodness. A light sunscreen that is quite similar to Japanese sunscreens is one by Dermalogica in the Medibac range. It helps with oil control too. Might be something you’d like to check out.

  6. peijoo

    love this too! Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF50

    1. Tine

      Haha good to know! πŸ™‚

  7. Cheryl from BusinessChic

    Ooh love a good comparison post !

    I got the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Water Base SPF50 and don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and easy to apply but my husband reckons it made his eyes sting – perhaps caused by the alcohol in it?
    Cheryl from BusinessChic recently posted..Shoesday: Habbot Lords Dark BlueMy Profile

    1. Tine

      It could be. Japanese sunscreens, while they’re fantastically lightweight and doesn’t stink, contain quite a lot of alcohol. It hasn’t bothered me (yet), touch wood, but it could be the alcohol that’s stinging your husband’s eyes. Best to steer clear of it and stick to Aussie sunscreens in his case.

  8. Amy

    I love Japanese sunscreens. They having alcohol doesn’t much bother me if I’m applying it on my body. I’m been using for 2 years Mentholateum Sunplay SPF130. But the killer factor for me is talc as it is a comedogenic ingredient for me. I tried Anessa Sunscreen and BB cream within 1-2 week, my face started to break out and my neck received some weird skin bumps. Can you recommend any other Japanese sunscreen that has no talc in it?
    I started using La Roche Posay Uvidea Xl Aqua fresh Gel SPF30+++ that were started to be sold fast in Asia. Online, I only saw it on (who also offers free shipping to Australia) It has benzyl alcohol in it but it doesn’t feel like it dries out my skin, since I wear a moisturiser underneath it.

    1. Tine

      Hi Amy, I couldn’t get the ingredients from the packaging because I’ve chucked them but I checked for the list of ingredients of all the sunscreens I listed in this post on So far, the ones that do not contain talc are the ones from Biore, Kanebo Allie, Skin Aqua and Shiseido Senka. The Hada Labo one contains talc. Hope that helps!

      1. Amy

        Thank you. I’ll try them out πŸ™‚

  9. Victoria

    My HG sunscreen is the Shiseido Perfect UV Protector SPF 50+ PA++++. Works great as a makeup base too. My backup and the sunscreen which I used on weekends is the same one that you use from Hada Labo. It is a much cheaper version to have especially when Guardian are having sales πŸ™‚

    1. Tine

      I’ve heard good things about that one! Mum uses that one too. I’ve nicked her bottle of sunscreen a few times to try out. The Hada Labo one is good too. Thankfully most of the time I’m back in Malaysia, either Watsons or Guardian will have some sort of sale on and I’d be able to get them cheaper than retail. Score! πŸ™‚

  10. Laura Aranzola

    I live many years in Japan, and as far as I know (by experience) Japanese beauty products are for Asian skin, including hair dye (I got pumpkin orange in my hair instead of the brown that I choose) deodorants, etc. Fortunately for westeners, you can buy western beauty products online as well as food, hair dye, etc.
    This is unfortunate because I saw a lot of Japanese ladies with very nice skin!!!!

    1. Tine

      Oh how I envy the Japanese ladies and their beautiful skin. I remember trying really hard not to stare at an old lady sitting across from me on a train. She had the most beautiful skin for someone well in her 80s! It was very obvious that she took care of her skin very well. She sat away from the sunlight, wore a hat, gloves, etc. And you can tell she’s got nothing done, no cosmetic procedures, etc. They really do take very good care of their skin.

  11. Lily

    I wish I could find a really potent but simple UVA sunscreen that’s lightly moisturising and anti-inflammatory, and nothing else. I tried Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence but OMG it was awful for me – so dehydrating. I’m amazed anyone likes it. I guess it must be OK for very young skins or those with unusually thick/oily skin. My 40+ normal skin could not handle it at all. Lost all my glow.

    1. Tine

      Oh dear I’m so sorry it doesn’t work for you because my skin loves it! It’s definitely not for you when your skin loses its glow because of it. I hear that Shiseido does good ones, have you given those a go?

  12. Kristen

    I’m very interested to try some Japanese sunblock. I’ve yet to find a Western one that doesn’t leave my combination skin greasy. Do you know what the whitening is for in some of their sunblocks for? Will this bleach clothing if it comes into contact?

    1. Tine

      The “whitening” bit doesn’t actually bleach the skin. It’s a good selling point because the Japanese love whitening skincare. There’s no bleach in the product. I wouldn’t worry about bleaching clothing; I’d be far more worried about bleaching the skin! πŸ˜›

  13. sushiroll

    I have 2 holy grail sunscreens that are both affordable and available locally: Cetaphil Suntivity Hydrating Lotion SPF 30 and Trishave 3 in 1 Post Shave Moisturising Lotion SPF 30+ Men.

    The Cetaphil is my HG face sunscreen, very light, non greasy, absorbs very fast, no alcohol, very good UVA protection (tinosorb s+m) and has vitamins A,C,E. No problem with applying a face full of makeup. I did read earlier that you blogged about one of the other Cetaphil Suntivity sunscreen, the ultra light SPF 50 one, I actually tried that one too but hated it, was far too heavy and greasy. I have pretty much tried all the Cetaphil Suntivity sunscreen range except for the spray one and the kids one. All were way too greasy….except for Hydrating lotion. I highly recommend trying this one, I have finally found the one.

    The Trishave one is also really good, but is a little harder to find, it’s in the men’s skincare section at Priceline but it’s always out of stock or low stocked. It’s also a hidden gem like the Cetaphil one. Very light and non sticky. The only thing that I don’t like is that the UVA protection isn’t as high as I like, but I have never gotten sunburned in summer. I don’t know, it’s also paired up with other sunscreen so I could be wrong on that.

    Both of these are less than $20, the Cetaphil is a bit dearer at $17 but they are both available to buy locally.

    1. Tine

      Oooh I’ve never thought of trying out the Trishave one for men! The sunscreen I mean. I’ve only used their shaving cream, which I like. I wasn’t a fan of the Cetaphil one but I’m definitely keen on checking out that Trishave one you mentioned. What’s the scent like? Is it, er, manly? πŸ˜›

      1. sushiroll

        There’s no scent to it, it’s fragrance free. It’s very light just like the Cetaphil Hydrating one. But I do prefer the Cetaphil one for my face and the trishave for my body.

        1. Tine

          Sounds good! I’m definitely going to check it out now. πŸ™‚

  14. sushiroll

    Also, same thing with me, never wore sunscreen until last year because I could never find the perfect one that could be compatible with both my skincare and makeup routine. I am now reaping the benefits of wearing sunscreen everyday. My face is slowly becoming clearer, redness and pigmentation has reduced a lot. The power of sunscreen….if only I found these two gems earlier….

    1. Tine

      That’s so good to hear! πŸ™‚

  15. Dee

    Great post Tine! I too didn’t start wearing sunscreens till my twenties. I have combination skin and used to avoid sunscreen at all costs because they were so thick and greasy and would cause me to break out. The first facial sunscreen I bought was from Anessa while I was holidaying in Japan. I liked it for a few weeks but eventually that broke me out too so I gave it to my mum πŸ™ Just wanted to see if you had tried out Missha’s Mild Essence Sun Milk (it’s a Korean brand)? It really was the first ever sunscreen that I started wearing every single day because it is soo lightweight, changed my life. We also just started stocking it on our website so please let us know if you’d like to try it!! πŸ™‚ –
    Dee recently posted..Skinship launches!My Profile

    1. Tine

      Thanks Dee! Anessa was the first Japanese sunscreen I used too!

Leave a Reply

Share your latest blog post with us!

Scroll To Top

Not another bloody pop-up! I know. But now that I've gotten your attention (because this is how I roll *ahem ahem*), come join the BA Insider community! Sign up for a weekly newsy letter for your beauty and lifestyle fix. Straight to your inbox.

Because I love you for reading this and not closing the pop-up just yet, you'll also receive a FREE Skincare Cheat Sheet where I share some of my tips for taking better care of your skin. Let's keep that gorgeous mug of yours glowing!

We hate spam as much as baked beans. We also won't share your details with anyone because we're selfish like that.