Guide to Picking the Right Sunscreen

Now that it’s summer, it’s time for me to do a post on sunscreen – in honor of the blog’s name!

In Asia, women have an intense relationship with the sun (i.e. avoid it at all costs) because having pale skin is the definition of being beautiful. Unlike the beauty industry here in the States, the majority of advertisements are for skin bleaching or UV-blocking products. I grew up in Taiwan with this extreme beauty standard and thus have been brainwashed by my mom since a young age on how to protect my skin. Though others may laugh at the way Asian women deck out in the summer months (Darth Vader-esque visors, sun umbrellas, driving gloves), they are on to something other than staying pale – the sun is the #1 cause for skin aging. UV rays not only cause wrinkles, but also decrease collagen and increase chances of skin cancer.

A few things to know about sunscreen:
– Sunscreens are separated into 2 types: physical and chemical. Chemical absorbs UV light and turns into heat, preventing it from passing onto skin. Physical reflects UV light by creating a layer on the skin. To differentiate, look at the list of active ingredients. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical, while those ending in “enzone” are chemical. If you have very sensitive skin or have eczema, you should use a physical formula.
– When to apply: chemical ones take at least 20 minutes to absorb (so apply early before you head out), and physical ones work immediately.
– Use at least a quarter-sized dollop of sunscreen on your face & neck, and reapply every 2 hours.
– There are 2 types of rays: UVA and UVB. UVA is the longer wavelength that causes cancer and ages skin, UVB is shorter and causes sunburn. Pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both. SPF only protects against UVB, and higher SPF isn’t necessarily better, just protects you from the sun longer. Day to day when I’m just going to work, I’ll put on SPF 30. For outdoor travel and activities, I’ll use SPF 50 and reapply when needed.
– If you wear makeup, you should check if your sunscreen has an oil base or water base, then pick a foundation with the same base. Otherwise your makeup may clump!
– Layer, layer, layer! Don’t be afraid if more than one of your products include SPF. And no, the one sweep of your tinted moisturizer with SPF is NOT ENOUGH!

Here are a few of my suggestions for which sunscreens to buy:


Soleil Toujours Face Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 45
This sunscreen is a physical one with no parabens or sulphates. The consistency is a bit thicker so requires a little more time to be worked in and absorbed, but it doesn’t leave a white sheen. It’s very comfortable on the skin, and works well with makeup on top.

Biore UV Aqua Rich SPF 50 PA+++
This is my favorite and I’ve used up at least 3 or 4 tubes. This is a great sunscreen even for guys because it is easily absorbed, doesn’t smell too strong nor leave a sticky/oily film. When you squeeze it out it’s consistency is like a light moisturizer. Affordable too!

Biore UV Aqua Rich SPF 30 PA+++
This is my go-to when I’m mostly staying indoors (hello desk job). Similar to the one above but with lower SPF, it is easier on the skin.

Supergoop SPF 50 PA+++
Taglined “never goopy”, this sunscreen is lightweight and easy to apply. It’s a fast absorbing, water resistant sunscreen good for going to tropical destinations or the beach. This feels slightly more oily than the other ones, so I like to use it when my skin is feeling particularly dry. Plus it smells amazing!


Happy summer everyone!

4 thoughts on “Guide to Picking the Right Sunscreen

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