I feel like a lot of what I’ve been writing lately have been mediocre or negative reviews. It’s kind of a bummer, to be honest. So, inspired by the Simple Skincare Science blog I’m going to do a series of reviews of my “holy grail” products because doggone it, they deserve to be gushed about.
So the first one I’m going to write about is Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun SPF 45 PA+++ because I think of all the products I use it’s had the most impact on my skin directly and indirectly, by both protecting my skin from damage and allowing me to use actives like tretinoin and alpha hydroxy acids safely.
I know I’ve mentioned this before (and will probably do so any time I talk about sun protection for the rest of my days), but sunscreen was my Mount Everest. A beautiful, dangerous dream. Because my skin’s reaction to sunscreen prior to switching to Korean products was either contact dermatitis or acne, generally of the cystic variety. And finally, I reached a point where I thought I would never be able to use sunscreen. That it was something I’d have to suffer through on the rare occasion my need for sun protection far outweighed the recovery I knew I’d have to make from using it.
But I’m nothing if not a risk taker when it comes to my skincare, so when I decided to dive head first into K-Beauty of course I included sunscreen in my initial haul, and I learned a few things: 1.) my skin will tolerate some chemical filters, 2.) my skin will not tolerate any silicones that start with “cyclo”, and 3.) HOLY SHIT THIS IS SO COSMETICALLY ELEGANT I CAN’T EVEN.
So yeah, a convert was made that day. And identifying what chemical filters and silicones meant I could finally plant a flag in sunscreen and called it conquered. No more acne. No more contact dermatitis.
But enough about me, let’s talk about this sunscreen.
Product information: Water and sweat resistant essence sun cream nourishes and moisturizes skin while providing superior UVA & UVB protection. New Double Layer UV Blocking System provides long-lasting and impenetrable UV protection, even as the humidity rises. Stands up against sweat and water from water sports and other outdoor activities. Double Layer Polymer provides long-lasting, water and sweat resistant UV protection. 6 ingredients – Aloe, Cucumber, Mulberry Root, Licorice, Portulaca Oleracea, and Witch Hazel extracts – combine to create 6 Essence Complex which hydrates and nourishes the skin. Comprised of 7 Asian tea extracts, Oriental Tea Newplex protects against environmental stressors.
Ingredients: Water, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Butylene Glycol, Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Polyacrylate-13, Dimethicone, Polyisobutene, PEG-100 Stearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, Fragrance, Propylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Limonia Acidissima Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Polysorbate 20, Sorbitan Isostearate, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Sorbitan Stearate, Panthenol, BHT, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Morus Alba Root Extract, Chrysanthemum Indicum flower Extract, Rosa Davurica Bud Extract, Artemisia princeps Leaf Extract, Cinnamomum Cassia Bark Extract, Diospyros Kaki Leaf Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Morus Alba Fruit Extract, Alcohol, Potassium sorbate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate
In order of priority:
1.) Gentle, relatively non-irritating chemical filters.
- Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate
- Ethylhexyl salicylate
- Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid
- Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate
- Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine
I should note that neither Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate or BisEthylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine are approved by the FDA though they have been used by Asia and the European Union for years. That said, these filters are much gentler than the traditional avobenzone and oxybenzone common in U.S. sunscreens, which is why I can use this sunscreen on a daily basis without suffering bouts of contact dermatitis.
2.) Excellent UVB protection.
- 4 of the 5 filters offer UVB protection, and of those four their protection is considered “extensive” by the FDA
- Of the UVB filters included in this and regulated by the FDA, they use the maximum – or close to the maximum – percentage allowed.
3.) Very good UVA protection.
- This is rated a “PA+++” sunscreen, which translates to a PPD of 8-16. What does that mean?
The persistent pigment darkening (PPD) method is a method of measuring UVA protection […] Instead of measuring erythema or reddening of the skin, the PPD method uses UVA radiation to cause a persistent darkening or tanning of the skin. Theoretically, a sunscreen with a PPD rating of 10 should allow a person 10 times as much UVA exposure as would be without protection. (source)
4.) While this is not silicone free it is free of “cyclo” type silicones, which break me out in a trice. As far as I can tell from the ingredients list the only silicone in this is dimethicone, which is about midway through the ingredients list.
5.) Despite the minimal use of silicones this is extremely cosmetically elegant. This applies light a mid-weight moisturizer, sinks in fully within 10 minutes, and thereafter doesn’t look or feel like I’m wearing sunscreen at all, even after liberal reapplication. It wears beautifully under BB cream, though it does not act as a foundation primer the way a more silicone-heavy sunscreen would.
6.) There’s a garden basket of extracts, which are nice, but not necessary for me to love this sunscreen.
This is definitely fragranced and though it fades quickly and isn’t an offensive scent (to my nose, anyway) I can see where it would be a problem for some people.
As far as Asian sunscreens go the tube is actually pretty generous at 50ml/1.7oz, especially when it’s recommended to use a full 1/4tsp (about the size of an almond not a pea, btw), but I can see where the tube would seem tiny when you’re used to buying a 4 or 8 ounce bottle of sunscreen at the drugstore.
That in mind, I can also understand where people might balk at the $14 a tube price tag, but I also think that’s a small price to pay for what you’re getting in return.
So Missha likes to tout that this is sweat resistant and meant to be used while engaging in water sports (stop giggling) and outdoor activities. I’m not going to argue whether this provides adequate UV protection through those scenarios, but I will say when I sweat moderately this melts into my eyes. Without fail. It’s not a great experience, and generally requires flushing with copious amounts of Visine.
For me it’s not a deal breaker, but it’s definitely something to be aware of, and if I was going to go swimming or sweating a lot I would rely on some other sunscreen.
So this wasn’t the first Korean sunscreen I tried, but it was the last, and the one that – though I will literally stray from every other product in my routine – I am never really tempted to step out on. I think that says it all.