With sunscreen becoming a part of everyone’s morning skincare routine, the days of tanning lotion and parents nagging about properly applying sunscreen seem like a distant memory. It’s also helpful that Japan, the land of the rising sun, ironically fears the sun more than most countries, and has developed an incredible selection of advanced sunscreen products. Many Japanese sunscreens don’t have that customary sticky feel or leave a white cast on the skin and make for great souvenirs to take home to lands that are lacking in such high-tech UV care.

With so many UV products out there, with few English guides on the matter, picking the right Japanese sunscreen can be overwhelming. Thankfully, we at Tokyo Weekender are here to help you understand Japanese sunscreens, and give you some of our top picks.

How to Pick the Right Sunscreen

When scouring the aisles for your next favorite sunscreen, the first thing you should check is how effective it is at, well, screening the sun. You’ll find labels that say “SPF” and “PA.” SPF stands for sun protection factor, and protects you against UVB rays, which cause the painful burns that also lead to skin cancer. SPF can range from 10 to upwards of 100, but as a rule of thumb, if you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period, you should get a product with at least SPF 30, and if you’re spending a day at the beach, at least 50.

PA stands for protection grade of UVA. UVA damages the skin’s collagen, making it lose its elasticity. It also creates wrinkles. PA comes in four different stages, ranging from PA+ to PA++++. If you are planning to be in the sun for a while, opt for PA+++ or PA++++. 

However, regardless of what SPF or PA levels you’re using, it’s important to reapply sunscreen throughout the day, at least every couple of hours if you’ve been in the sun.

There are also a few different types of sunscreens.  

  • Cream: One of the most common types of sunscreen. It sticks well to the skin and is resistant to water and sweat. It won’t come off with just water, so it’s recommended to use a cleanser to remove it. 
  • Milk lotion: Spreads easily and absorbs well into the skin, so it creates minimal white cast. It’s not particularly resistant to water, however, so frequent reapplication is recommended during the summer. 
  • Gel: Satin finish, good for people with sensitive skin or those who dislike the sticky feeling of sunscreen. 
  • Spray: Easy, quick application, and simple to apply over makeup. It can lead to uneven application, however, and doesn’t offer as strong UV protection. 
  • Powder: Can be used on top of makeup to create a matte finish. It is recommended to use this in combination with a liquid sunscreen.

The Best Cream Sunscreen

Skin Aqua Tone Up UV Essence

SPF 50+ PA++++

One of the best-selling sunscreens in Japan, the Skin Aqua Tone Up UV Essence offers a wide range of colors, such as lavender and mint green to use as a color corrector. Waterproof but removes easily with soap, it’s a great everyday sunscreen.

Nivea UV Deep Protect and Care

SPF 50+ PA++++

The entirety of Nivea’s UV Deep Protect and Care line has effective sun protection while incorporating moisturizing essences to nourish the skin.

Curel Intensive Moisture Care UV Protection Essence

SPF 30 PA+++

Curel’s Intensive Moisture Care UV Protection Essence blocks harmful UV rays while deeply moisturizing the skin with ceramides and preventing breakouts. Made for sensitive, dry skin, this product can even be used on babies.

Cle de Peau Beauté UV Protective Cream

SPF 50+ PA++++

This product is a splurge, but it’s incredibly popular for a reason. Cle de Peau’s UV Protection Cream feels like luxurious skincare, blocking out harmful UV rays while enhancing the skin’s barrier.

The Best Milk Lotion Sunscreen

Shiseido Anessa Sun Dual Care Day Serum

SPF 50+ PA++++

With hyaluronic acid and “Sun Dual Care” technology that uses the sun’s rays to brighten the skin, Anessa’s Sun Dual Care Day Serum is next-level sun protection.

Haku Melanofocus UV

SPF 50+ PA++++

Haku’s Melanofocus UV emphasizes its ability to brighten skin, minimize the appearance of blemishes and works as a great primer under makeup.

Melano CC Deep Day Care UV Milky Lotion

SPF 50+ PA++++

The Melano CC line is popular for its skincare, but as the name and bright yellow packaging suggest, the Deep Day Care UV Milky Lotion incorporates vitamin C that helps protect against sun damage and increases skin cell turnover.

The Best Gel Sunscreen

Skin Aqua Super Moisture Barrier UV Gel

SPF 50+ PA++++

Another product from the extremely popular Skin Aqua line is the Super Moisture Barrier UV Gel. This product blends into the skin easily, but since it’s a gel formula, it moisturizes the skin without leaving that tacky sunscreen sensation. 

Shigaisen Yohou Sarasara UV Smooth Gel

SPF 30 PA+++

If you absolutely can’t stand the sticky residue some sunscreens leave behind, this product is for you. The Sarasara UV Smooth Gel is perfect for full-body use and is gentle enough to use on toddlers.

Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV

SPF50+ PA++++

Canmake is famous for its high-quality, affordable products, and the Mermaid Skin Gel UV is no different. A super smooth, watery gel formula, this item comes in various shades for color correcting.

The Best Spray Sunscreen

Biore UV Aqua Rich Aqua Protect Mist

SPF 50+ PA++++

Biore’s Aqua Rich line is popular and a staple in Japanese drugstores. The mist version is refreshing and effective. It’s also perfect to carry around during the summer for on-the-go reapplication.

Kose Suncut UV Protect Spray

SPF 50+ PA++++

Kose’s Suncut is another top-selling sunscreen line, and the spray sunscreen sticks to the skin without feeling tacky. 

Napla Mieufa Fragrance UV Spray

SPF 50+ PA++++

Napla’s Mieufa Fragrance UV Spray can be sprayed all over your skin and hair, while leaving a lovely scent. Coming in six scents as well as an unscented version, this product makes sun protection fragrant and fun.

The Best Stick Sunscreen

Paul & Joe Body Primer Stick UV

SPF 50+ PA++++

Paul & Joe is commonly known for its adorable cat-design packaging, but it also recently released a stick-type sunscreen. With a sweet floral scent, this product is sleek and convenient for sticking in your bag.

Nature Republic Fresh Powdery Sun Stick

SPF 50+ PA++++

This product is technically Korean, but it has sold really well in Japan. Leaving a silky, powdery feel, Nature Republic’s Fresh Powdery Sun Stick can be applied over makeup.

The Best Powder Sunscreen

Coppertone Secret Change UV Shiny Smooth Powder


Although this product isn’t in and of itself a powerful sunscreen, it’s a great topper to mattify and set any cream or gel sunscreen. It’s perfect for summer touch-ups for getting rid of any shininess.

Kokuryudo Privacy UV Powder

SPF 50+ PA++++

This powder kills two birds with one stone, as it removes shininess from one’s skin while also protecting it from UV rays. Since it’s translucent, it’s perfect for all skin shades and won’t leave a white cast.

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