Sunscreen showdown 2K16: Review of Biore, Missha, TonyMoly, Sunbears and Holika Holika Sunscreens

Followers on my Instagram (@peepingpomeranian) and Snapchat (@peepingpompom) have already seen some of the testing and peeks at how the different sunscreens in my collection fared. But for the rest of the internet and posterity. It’s time to publish my process and results.

Goal

  • Test out 8 sunscreens to see how effective they were in preventing sunburn & tanning on dry parts of my body (i.e. the top of my forearms)
    • This is not a test for skincare interactions
    • This is not a test to see how they wear with makeup
    • This is not a test to see how sweatproof they are, I test once on dry skin that’s sitting in the sun and once on skin who has three 6min swimming sessions
    • I won’t be discussing in depth how they ‘feel’ or their textures
      • That will come later in individual reviews
    • This review is testing their ability to do their job as UV radiation protectors

Materials & Methods

  • Start with each forearm by washing with hand soap and air drying to create that perfect canvas
  • tape off each arm to have separate rectangles
    • This prevents sunscreen from leaking into each other
    • This also makes sharp edges to see where potential burns can occur

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  • Sunscreens in question with their corresponding numbers (I used a sharpie)
    • Right arm
      • 1 = Sunbears Strong Cool Plus SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • 2 = Biore UV Perfect Bright milk SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • 3 = Biore UV Aqua Rich watery Essence SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • 4 = TonyMoly Mango Mild Sun Block SPF 50+ PA +++
    • Left arm
      • 5 = Holika Holika Dazling Sunshine Waterproof Sun cream SPF 50+ PA +++
      • 6 = Biore UV Perfect Milk SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • 7 = Missha all around Safe Block Waterproof Sun Milk SPF 50+ PA +++
      • 8 = Missha all around Safe Block Sun Milk for MEN  SPF 50+ PA+++

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  • I aimed to apply about a pea sized amount to each section and spread the sunscreen around with a separate finger each time to avoid cross contamination.
    • The sun bears was a lot more watery/runny than I thought which made me have a slight heart attack that it would spread into a Biore sector but I just kept my arm horizontal
    • I added a bit more holika holika after I took the picture since the initial amount was too small
  • I also did not apply any sunscreen to the rest of my forearm so that I could compare the impending sunburn to areas protected by sunscreen
  • Test time
    • *Edit 8/21/2016* I forgot to mention I waited indoors for 15 mins prior to going out into the sun.
    • Each day I spent 2hours with my forearms in direct sunlight. I had to alternate lying on my stomach and on my back but I made sure that my arms were facing the sun as much as possible
    • I also was in the sun starting at 1pm and ending at 3pm to try and get the strongest sun possible for at least an hour.
    • On day 2 which was the waterproof-ness test I spent 3 6min sessions swimming while trying to keep my arms still in direct sunlight while underwater. I made sure that I didn’t rub my arms or run into anything. After swimming I either sat on the pool stairs with my arms up and in the sun or I went back to the lounge chair.
  • 16-07-05-11-59-07-590_deco
  • In the above image I wanted to kind of show what the sunscreens looked like on my arms after 1 hour of wear. As you can see my arms are quite swole and unsweaty. It was only maybe 80 degrees Fahrenheit where I was so I wasn’t in uncomfortable weather for just lounging.
  • You can already see some shade differentiation between the sun screened and bare portions of my arms with some mild erythema developing.

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    I washed the sunscreen off before taking a picture

  • After 2 Hours I went inside and took pictures with Flash to try and capture a clear image showing where any burns occured.  I’ve tried to mark burn locations with white arrows.
      • Right arm
        • 1 = Sunbears Strong Cool Plus SPF 50+ PA ++++
        • 2 = Biore UV Perfect Bright milk SPF 50+ PA ++++
        • 3 = Biore UV Aqua Rich watery Essence SPF 50+ PA ++++
        • 4 = TonyMoly Mango Mild Sun Block SPF 50+ PA +++
      • Left arm
        • 5 = Holika Holika Dazling Sunshine Waterproof Sun cream SPF 50+ PA +++
        • 6 = Biore UV Perfect Milk SPF 50+ PA ++++
        • 7 = Missha all around Safe Block Waterproof Sun Milk SPF 50+ PA +++
        • 8 = Missha all around Safe Block Sun Milk for MEN  SPF 50+ PA+++
    • What I did notice was that some of sunscreens number 1 and number 8 due to their proximity to my elbow rubbed off a bit.
      • We can already see the left arm sunscreens are out performing the right arm sunscreens but I wanted to wait a few hours to see how my burns/tans developed before further review

RESULTS DAY 1

So far nothing outright led me to burn, but there were some that still let me get Tan.

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This was taken 3 hours after coming indoors

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This was taken 6 hours after coming indoors

  • Right arm
    • 1 = Sunbears Strong Cool Plus SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • Definitely some tanning even on the areas that I didn’t compress accidently by bending my elbow
    • 2 = Biore UV Perfect Bright milk SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • There was some slight erythema as seen in above photos but that went away and didn’t seem to expose a tan
    • 3 = Biore UV Aqua Rich watery Essence SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • Was some tanning even though I felt like this made the thickest layer of product
    • 4 = TonyMoly Mango Mild Sun Block SPF 50+ PA +++
      • Clearly least effective here. Which is sad because it smells amazing
  • Left arm
    • 5 = Holika Holika Dazzling Sunshine Waterproof Sun cream SPF 50+ PA +++
      • This one I might not have spread evening enough as the white portion didn’t show clear edges along the sides. Minus for difficult application
    • 6 = Biore UV Perfect Milk SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • This one doesn’t seem as good as the pink version. If you compare the skin color for each the pink Biore seems to provide a little stronger protection. I equate this to how ‘white’ my skin looks
    • 7 = Missha all around Safe Block Waterproof Sun Milk SPF 50+ PA +++
      • This one definitely had the whitest looking skin i.e. it seems to protect the best
    • 8 = Missha all around Safe Block Sun Milk for MEN  SPF 50+ PA+++
      • Definitely got a little tan, somewhere near the Biore watery essence, but it also had the hard job of living close to my elbow.

DAY 2 Swim test

  • I used tape once again to separate the sunscreens
  • I applied about a pea sized amount of sunscreen on each arm.
  • I was out in the sun for a total of 2 hours from 1pm to 3pm
  • I swam 3 times for 6mins each occurrence
  • I also waited till the next morning to see the results… and I even applied aloe just to sooth my sore arms.
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Excuse the pixels the only camera I got is my cellphone

  • Right arm
    • 1 = Sunbears Strong Cool Plus SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • It’s not advertised as waterproof and yeah…. it isn’t
    • 2 = Biore UV Perfect Bright milk SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • Is advertised as being waterproof. But is not the strongest one here
    • 3 = Biore UV Aqua Rich watery Essence SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • I actually really hate this sunscreen but my opinion aside… yeah burned a little and that’s because it’s not waterproof
    • 4 = TonyMoly Mango Mild Sun Block SPF 50+ PA +++
      • This is not advertised as being waterproof and it wasn’t. Mild burn
  • Left arm
    • 5 = Holika Holika Dazling Sunshine Waterproof Sun cream SPF 50+ PA +++
      • yes I would say it’s waterresistant but it seems like it doesn’t apply well leaving some weird tanning patterns still
    • 6 = Biore UV Perfect Milk SPF 50+ PA ++++
      • This one seems to perform a little better than the pink in water conditions
    • 7 = Missha all around Safe Block Waterproof Sun Milk SPF 50+ PA +++
      • The clear winner, least amount of tan and still the whitest patch on my arm
    • 8 = Missha all around Safe Block Sun Milk for MEN  SPF 50+ PA+++
      • Actually seems a little waterproof. Which I have said often on instagram, which is from anecdotal evidence.

The FINAL VERDICT

  1. The overall winner: Missha all around Safe Block Waterproof Sun Milk
    1. This suncreen performed the best overall in both dry and wet conditions.
    2. I have actually already repurchased a backup from Missha and they’re still running their 40% off sale btw Missha.com
  2. Second Place tie: I’d put the Biore UV perfect sunscreens in bright milk (the pink bottle) and the regular milk. The pink milk seemed the stronger of the two under the dry conditions but with the water test it seems like the blue one is slightly stronger.
  3. Third place tie: In terms of functionality I would say the holika holika and Missha Men are a little similar in output.
    1. The holika holika seems to be a bit better for both dry and watery conditions but its thicker fomula seems to make application a bit harder
    2. The missha men seems to be slightly waterproof but not enough to last though lots of swimming.
  4. Fourth Place: Biore UV Aqua Rich watery essence. This one seems to survive alright if you’re dry and unmoving, but sitting in the sun it seems like it’s not quite as strong as the perfect milks. I’m not going to buy this again sadly.
  5. Last place *omg literal tears I wanted it to win so badly* TonyMoly Mango Mild Sun block. I love this packaging and scent but sadly, it didn’t seem to offer anywhere near the the same SPF rating as any of the others. I guess If you’d like to tan and not burn this would be the mango for you.

 

And there you have it. The first round of sunscreen tests. I’d like to continue testing out sunscreens this way, so if you’d like to see me do more, leave a message in the comments saying a brand you might like to see. Im usually around.




29 Comments

  1. Thank you for doing this test and confirming my suspicions about the biore watery essence sunscreen! I’ve always suspected it had subpar abilities when it came to protecting from a tan (despite its pa++++ rating), and I’ve read reviews where people have said the same thing, which is why I stopped using it. Such a shame, it had such a nice texture. Good to know about the Missha sunscreen, I’ve always heard good things about it!

  2. This was so awesome and helpful! I almost want to say, thank you for your sacrifice to give us this review!!! There are so many on the market to look at and try so this really helps out! I’ve seen that Missha has a TON of variety but I just can’t tell them apart especially since I see them on Instagram so frequently, but this really, really helped! Thank you!

    • Peepingpomeranian

      No problem!! I know even myself I was wondering how they all compared since I only use one at a time. So I’m very glad to hear this was helpful!

  3. Auw too bad the watery essence wasn’t as good as the others, but on my face I really like it because it doesn’t make my skin oily or gives me a white cast ☺ it’s fine for my lifestyle and weather here… since I usually hide from the sun.

    Super intrigur with the missha one! I bought one because of the line characters. Good to know they are really good !

    Thanks for sacrificing your arms ?

  4. Cristine

    Loved this, it was super helpful! It’s a shame about the Tony Moly Mango, I was hoping I might be able to use that to convince my sister to start using sunscreen since I recently found out that she’s a sucker for cute packaging. Glad to see the Missha performed well though, since that’s the one I had been looking into purchasing for myself. Thanks for the comparison!

  5. Sydney

    I would love to see you do the Secret Key Snail Repair Sun Cream . Its very cheap and I’m curious if it’s effective.

  6. Catherine

    OMG! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!!
    I was in need of buying some new sunscreen but didn’t know where to even begin because there’s so many!! People have been keep recommending the Biore Watery one but I was a little skeptical of that because it sounds too lightweight to work properly. I hope you will be making more of these soon! I was wondering how other brands like Nature Republic or Innisfree sunscreen works too compared to Biore / Missha…

    • 😄 thank you for taking the time to read! And I chose to test the Biore watery essence against the others because of its popularity. I’m definitely working on figuring out how to test more! So any suggestions are helpful! Thank you again

  7. Cat

    OMG! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!! I’m so happy I saw this on Reddit! Totally following you on Insta (because I love skincare and pomeranians!!) But that aside, I was in need of buying some new sunscreen but didn’t know where to even begin because there’s so many!! People have been keep recommending the Biore Watery one but I was a little skeptical of that because it sounds too lightweight to work properly (and seeing that it doesn’t work well, I’m glad I didn’t buy it!)

    I hope you will be making more of these soon! I was wondering how other brands like Nature Republic or Innisfree sunscreen works too compared to Biore / Missha…

      • Cat

        No problem! Sorry for the double post .. I thought my first post didn’t go through! My IG is kewpie.cat! Could I also recommend these products: Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel and Nature Republic Provence Calendula Daily Sun Block if you were to do this experiment in the future? Thanks again for the helpful post!!

        • Oh! I wasn’t sure if it was the same person! I was like yolo let’s approve both comments 🙂 And I definitely was interested in trying the Nivea and I’ll see if I grab both the nivea and Nature Republic when I’m up in NYC next!

  8. BlueAnchora

    Thank you so much for doing this experiment! I really like Asian skincare and I’ve learned so much about ingredients and amazing products but the one US product I’m most hesitant on giving up is sunscreen. Asian sunscreens just seem to good to be true 🙁 How come they have an amazing cosmetic look when the US can’t even do the same? I mean if Neutrogena could make one as cosmetically pleasing and protective as Missha or something, they’d make so much money! Even though I know that the Asian skincare industry is a lot larger than that of the US and does have regulations, I can’t bring myself to risk the protection. I wanna know the difference among sunscreens like Neutrogena Clear Face SPF 55 (chemical), Neutrogena Baby SPF 60+ (physical), Missha, Thank You Farmer, etc. I currently use the two Neutrogena sunscreens above and I’m really happy with the ingredients and results so far. I just wanna know how protective the US sunscreens and Asians sunscreens are in comparison and maybe I could switch things up one day. But for now, I’m going to stick with sunglasses, a hat, and Neutrogena (a brand that definitely isn’t perfect, but when it gets things right, they’re amazing. Plus they have to live up to US standards–which also isn’t perfect but, have some of the highest standards in comparison to many countries. I know tons of people complain about the ineffectiveness/slowness of the FDA, but after living in other countries for a good while, I believe they are doing a pretty good job. There’s definitely room for improvement but I’m glad that I live in a country where the FDA truly has made a difference.)
    Ack sorry for the kinda long rant. In the end I just wanna say thanks for showing me that there is a difference among sunscreens. I’m definitely gonna keep following your blog and I hope to learn lots more in the future from you 🙂

    • Hey! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! I haven’t quite finished looking into why there are differences in formulations etc. between say, US and Korean/Japanese sunscreens, but I would say that if you compare East vs West sunscreen culture, I would say that daily sunscreen use was adopted a lot earlier than the West. And because it was daily use I’m sure consumers jumped on formulas that were much more comfortable to wear hence we see the more ‘elegant’ formulations. If I think about most of my colleagues here in the states, sunscreen is often only used in summer, when swimming or occasionally when spending long periods of time outdoors. I do think this is changing though since people are becoming better educated about UV light and photoaging and cancer risks. I will say my favorite US sunscreen has been Neutrogena for a long time, and that’s because they offered high SPF without the heavy/greasy feeling. One of my sunscreens I used while training for a triathlon was actually a neutrogena waterproof spf 45 and I felt like it was comparable to Asian formulations.

  9. Ednalyn Abichuela

    If you were to add the Klairs Midday Blue Sun Lotion to the list, where do you think would have it landed in the ranking? 🙂

    • Hello there! You know I’m not 100% sure but I’m generally on the skeptical side for most formulas that are moisturizing. Since the SPF is lower I don’t think it would have done as well as most of these. But I still have it and do plan on testing it again this year!

  10. Deb

    Thanks for this! I’m not surprised the Missha waterproof one since it has tinosorb M pretty high up in the ingredient list along with zinc oxide and Octinoxate. Unfortunately the finish is a bit too shiny for me so I just mostly use it on my body. I decided on the Biore Pink Milk and hopefully that holds up to intense Texas heat! It’s very light and dries quickly so I’ll have no problems reapplying!

    I was wondering if you have done any more tests like this with different sunscreens also. Anyway, Thanks for doing this, it was so helpful!!!

  11. Erika

    Thank you for this post, I really love it , I decided to order a missha sunscreen , I’m fan of neurogena but it’s very difficult to find it in U.K, I used to get it at heb in USA 🙁

  12. Nimi

    Hello~~~ Thank you so much for testing them out. I’m so skeptical when it comes to purchasing anything. I is poor school girl (つ╥﹏╥)つ

    Just one question tho.. I found the
    Missha Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF50+V (pink) cheaper than the Waterproof (blue) one. I don’t necessarily need it waterproof, so I was wondering if they both work just as well. (considering the one for MENs wasn’t as effective)
    **bows
    (シ_ _)シ (thank you if you read and answer this)

  13. Amanda

    Than you so much! The Missha you rated highest is my favorite sunscreen – I’m so glad to see that it actually does the job in addition to being lightweight and lovely to apply.

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