The 10 Best Korean Sunscreens for Optimal Skin Protection

Wear these doctor- and editor-approved formulas all day, every day.

orange tube of sunscreen next to a pool
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you’re spending hours on the beach or sitting at your desk by the window, sun protection is key. Wearing sunscreen every day, in every location, reduces your risk of developing skin cancer, as well as the incidence of fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and, of course, sun spots. For around-the-clock sun protection, the best Korean sunscreens are the most versatile and hardworking option.

Few beauty routines emphasize the importance of sunscreen as much as the Korean beauty regimen, with every K-Beauty brand including a sunscreen meant to protect against UVA and UVB rays while sitting matte under your makeup. Korean sunscreens are packed with ingredients that promote long-term skin health, and they often don’t include a white cast—meaning there are versions for every skin tone and texture. 

"With Korean sunscreen, you feel like you're wearing skincare, and that sun protection is just part of that,” Dr. Zion Ko Lamm, a board-certified doctor of internal medicine and expert in Korean skincare, tells Marie Claire.

Ahead, Marie Claire has gathered the 10 best Korean sunscreens for seriously protected skin. Each one comes backed with Dr. Lamm's expert insight, as well as editor recommendations and reviews from satisfied shoppers.

The Best Korean Sunscreens

Why Korean Sunscreen?

Scores of K-Beauty fans swear by their Korean sunscreens, but for the uninitiated, the difference between these options and their Western counterparts is rather opaque. Sunscreen is sunscreen...right? As it turns out, wrong.

"The number one difference between Korean sunscreens and other ones would be their cosmetic elegance," says Dr. Lamm. "They're lightweight, absorb quickly, and there's really minimal to no white cast (unless the Korean sunscreen says tonal, which can look a little grayish, but they do that on purpose). They're truly suitable for everyday use and go under makeup beautifully."

She adds that Korean sunscreens come in a wide variety of textures, so there are plenty of options for all skin types—dry, oily, combination, and sensitive alike. "In Korea," the skincare expert explains, "you'll find gels, lotions, creams, essences, and even sunwater. You can choose what feels the most comfortable on your skin."

Finally, she applauds the "innovative ingredients" used in Korean sunscreens, which support long-term skin health in addition to providing a high degree of protection against sun damage. She lists centella asiatica, niacinamides, ginseng extract, and antioxidants among them.

What to Look for

SPF Level

SPF levels can seem confusing. Is higher really better? By how much? Which SPF level is best for the face?

"I tell my patients to go for at least SPF 30," Dr. Lamm answers. "Yes, higher SPF does offer more protection, but the increase is incremental and smaller. So, for example, SPF 30 offers 97 percent blockage of UVB rays, SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, and then SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. So a majority of us physicians say at least SPF 30, because the difference after that is not as big."

She notes, however, that if you are particularly sensitive to the sun (whether because of medication, diseases like lupus, very fair skin, or a history of skin cancer), or if you know that you'll be out in the sun all day when the rays are especially harsh, you should err on the higher side when it comes to SPF levels.

Broad Spectrum Coverage

Dr. Lamm says that no matter the formulation, your sunscreen should always be broad spectrum, which means that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. While UVB protection is measured by SPF (which stands for Sun Protection Factor), UVA protection is quantified in a sunscreen's PA rating—a detail more often included in Korean options than in Western ones. While UVB rays cause sunburn most often, UVA rays penetrate skin more deeply and play a greater role in wrinkle formation.

"If you use any Korean sunscreens you'll actually also see a PA rating, and means it offers UVA protection as well," says Dr. Lamm. "They don't really do any PA ratings in America. I always say I like PA with four pluses (PA++++)."


Once you've ensured that your sunscreen is SPF 30 or higher and that it has a high PA rating, you only need to worry about the finish of the formula. Dr. Lamm explains that someone with oily skin might want a Korean sunscreen with a matte finish, while those with oily skin might prefer a thicker, more hydrating formula.

"If you have sensitive skin, oftentimes we will recommend mineral sunscreens over chemical ones," she adds. "And if you want other skincare benefits, you can look for products that have antioxidants and other ingredients that make the sunscreen work even better." Someone looking for brightening options may prefer a Vitamin C-infused formula, for instance, while someone looking to refine the appearance of pores may opt for a niacinamide-infused sunscreen.


"In Korea, skincare doesn't have to break your bank," says Dr. Lamm. "Sometimes, the price of what you're starting to see on the Western side is just ridiculous, but these sunscreens are often 15 or 20 dollars, and they work great."

How to Apply It


When you apply sunscreen, you should always ensure that you have enough to fully cover your face and neck. Dr. Lamm recommends a "two finger length amount," which amounts to a drop about the size of a nickel.


Reapplication is key to all-day sun protection, particularly if you're sweating or swimming. (Yes, even if your formula of choice is waterproof.)

Regular reapplication is unrealistic if you're wearing sunscreen under a layer of makeup. The good news? "I tell my patients not to worry too much," Dr. Lamm says, "because primary application in the morning is still the most important. If you can only apply sunscreen once, the most important time to do so is in the morning, before you leave the house."

This applies even if you're only stepping outside for a quick errand, if you're taking a drive, or if you're sitting by a window.

"Sun damage and photo-aging is cumulative," she warns, "so those short car rides or short walks without any sun protection are one day going to show up on your skin cumulatively. Every time I get in the car and drive, I put on sunscreen, and if I have any amount of makeup on and don't want to ruin that, I may use a sun stick, a sun powder, or a sun cushion, which doesn't give as much coverage as two finger lengths of a cream, but it's something."

Meet the Expert

Dr. Zion Ko Lamm
Dr. Zion Ko Lamm

Dr. Zion Ko Lamm is a board-certified Internal Medicine Physician who specializes in skincare. She is known for her popular online content about skin health and Korean beauty, in particular. She is currently based in South Carolina.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, fashion, culture, and politics both at Marie Claire and for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.