Why Asian Sunscreens Trump American Ones


And a roundup of our favorites

As much as you might be sick of reading about it, we’ll never stop writing about or stressing the importance of sunscreen. It is by and far the most important part of any morning skin-care routine (fight me!), but it’s also the hardest to navigate. The ones readily available in the U.S. are greasy and pore-clogging and leave a racist white caste for those whose skin veers darker than “mocha.” It’s a nuisance to find a good one, but things get easier if you look outside of North American borders and set your sights further afield.

It shouldn’t be surprising that some of the best sunscreen products come from Asia, since skin-care brands from Korea and Japan are so far ahead of the beauty curve, in general. Beyond that, sun protection has been prioritized for far longer in Asian countries than it has been in the States. But the sunscreen superiority from Asian skin-care brands isn't just a cultural difference, it also has to do with their products' formulation and its ingredient approval process.

“Sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs here in the United States,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner explains. “Because of this, the ultraviolet light blocker used in sunscreens is limited by an approval process by the FDA. Outside of the United States, including in Asia, there are newer ingredients used in sunscreens that actually provide broader protection against UVA light than what we currently have available in the U.S.” For example, manufacturers from Asian and European countries have been able to include filters like Tinosorb S and M in their formulations, which protects from both UVA and UVB rays (more on that in a bit). Cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson tells us that, since the FDA undergoes such strict testing requirements, it could take a while for U.S. sunscreens to gain access to ingredients already green-lit by other nations—possibly years.

People typically judge sunscreens based on the SPF number listed on its packaging. But, that number amounts to the UVB protection a product offers, not UVA rays. You should be worried about both. UVA rays, Dr. Zeichner explains, are dangerous because they “penetrate the skin and may be associated with the development of skin cancers and premature aging.” Some sunscreens developed in the U.S. do provide UVA protection (the ones that are labeled "broad-spectrum" on the packaging), but the ingredients available elsewhere do a more thorough job. You’ll often see things like "PA+++" on sunscreens produced in Asia which is equivalent of SPF but for UVA rays. The more "+"s, the more protection against UVA rays it provides. 

Dr. Zeichner says that both Asian and European sunscreens provide similar and adequate protection, but one aspect that gives Asian brands a leg up (for me!) is the texture of its products. They’re often lighter and have a serum-like consistency rather than a heavy, butter-like feel. Many even have hydrating and antioxidant ingredients mixed in, so that it works double-duty. This might turn some people off; the thought process is often, The thicker the product, the better, but Dr. Zeichner says that’s not the case. “The quality of the protection depends on the particular product rather than the consistency,” he tells us. So, why suffer through feeling like your pores are suffocating when you can give them room to actually breathe?

All of that is to say: The U.S. has a lot of catching up to do. Dr. Zeichner says that change might be on the way, but not for a while. He explains: “The sunscreen innovation act was put forth several years ago to encourage the FDA to expedite their review of new sunscreen ingredients, however, this is a slow process. I expect that in the future, we will have new ingredients available in our sunscreen, but it will take many years.” Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam, says that since there are so many limitations, some American brands have started to make their sunscreens in Korea or abroad.

But, friends, the damaging effects of the sun wait for no one. So, if you’re even the least bit curious, or simply care about your skin prematurely aging, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Asian sunscreens ahead.

Bioré, Sarasara UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF50+ PA+++, $22.91, available at Amazon.

Photo courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Netflix

We're shook and shaking our heads

Awards season is indeed on the horizon. Today the nominees for the 71st annual Emmy Award nominations were announced, crowning the best in television programming over the past year—from June 1, 2018, through May 31, 2019, specifically. For some performers, creators, crews, networks, and fans, this is a time for celebration and congratulations. For others, it's a moment of disappointment; or at the very least, an opportunity to complain a little bit.

Here are my snubs, surprises, and the nominations that I'm so excited about I could scream.

Snub: Tracee Ellis-Ross in 'black-ish'

Three-time Emmy nominee Tracee Ellis-Ross was not nominated for her role in black-ish, and I would like to speak to the manager.

Snub: 'The Masked Singer'

The Masked Singer might seem gimmicky, but it's actually really good and has shaken up the monotony of other singing competition shows. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough for the Emmy voters.

Surprise: 'Surviving R. Kelly'

I was admittedly surprised to see Surviving R. Kelly validated as one of the most impactful docu-series of the year. It has changed the conversation about sexual assault and grooming and added pressure to law enforcement to hold the singer accountable. It was nominated for Best Informational Series or Special.

Snub: Julia Roberts in 'Homecoming'

Julia Roberts stepped off of her well-established film actress pedestal to bring a PODCAST to life, and this is the thanks she gets? She killed it in Homecoming, and yet it didn't get a single nomination.

Surprise: Beyoncé's 'Homecoming'

Speaking of Homecoming, Beyoncé's Netflix documentary about her 2018 Coachella performance—which doubled as a tribute to HBCUs—was nominated for Best Variety Special. All she has to do is win this, snag an Oscar for The Lion King soundtrack, and put Broadway in her GPS, and Beyhive, we have ourselves an EGOT!

Snub: 'Gentleman Jack'

Gentleman Jack didn't get a single nomination. It hasn't even been a full month since Pride, and we're already shitting on gay rights. Wow.

Snub: 'Grace & Frankie'

I know that Grace & Frankie went off the rails a little bit this year, so I get the show being absent from the Best Comedy Series category. But for neither Lily Tomlin or Jane Fonda to be recognized just feels… wrong.

Snub: 'American Horror Story: Apocalypse'

Jessica Lange is that bitch and deserves her nomination for returning to American Horror Story: Apocalypse. But Evan Peters should have received some recognition for wearing that terrible wig while he played a Satan-worshipping tech bro; Sarah Paulson carried the show; and nothing but respect to MY antichrist, Cody Fern.

Snub: 'Haunting of Hill House'

Another horror series that deserved a chance this year was Haunting of Hill House. It was scary as hell, but also a great drama about a family dealing with grief and trauma. It could be that the Emmy voters were too damn terrified to make it to the end, though. Fair.

Surprise: Billy Porter in 'Pose'

Billy Porter got a Lead Actor nomination for Pose, and I can't think of anyone more deserving. I can't wait to see what he wears on award night.

Surprise: Jharrel Jerome In 'When They See Us'

It cannot be understated how much Jharrel Jerome deserves his nomination for Lead Actor in a Limited Drama Series. His performance in Ava DuVernay's When They See Us still haunts me.

Surprise: Kit Harington In 'Game of Thrones'

Kit Harington as Best Actor. IKYFL.

Photo by David Fisher/Shutterstock

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