(Image courtesy of Hilary Hui)

Opinion

Opinion: Can we trust Korean sunscreens again?

Among the many uprising trends throughout 2020, skincare has proven to be one of the most prominent among them, especially the promotion of sun protection products. “Up to 90% of premature skin aging is a direct result of UV exposure,” according to La Roche Posay, and many have started to adapt their lifestyles to prioritize…
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hilaryhui

August 26, 2021

Among the many uprising trends throughout 2020, skincare has proven to be one of the most prominent among them, especially the promotion of sun protection products. “Up to 90% of premature skin aging is a direct result of UV exposure,” according to La Roche Posay, and many have started to adapt their lifestyles to prioritize sun protection. 

But finding a quality sunscreen can be challenging, especially in the U.S., where sunscreen technology hasn’t been advanced to its fullest potential. 

Customers often find difficulty in finding the “perfect” sunscreen and encounter problems such as skin irritation, white cast and environmentally friendly products. The world of skincare consumers has also evolved from mindlessly purchasing products to carefully examining ingredient lists and the ethics of companies, forcing brands to warily formulate their products in order to please customers. 

As a result, many influencers have started to advertise Korean sunscreens, saying that their formulations are non-irritable, affordable, made ethically and friendly to people of color. In 2020, popular YouTubers such as Hyram, James Welsh and Liah Yoo brought to the attention of their audience the importance of sunscreen and the benefits of purchasing Korean sun protection products, one, in particular, being the “Purito Centella Unscented Sunscreen.” 

This product, along with many other Korean sunscreens, was soon sold out everywhere, and these sunscreens were deemed by many to be a “holy grail.” It was non-irritable, comfortable, affordable and most of all, marked “SPF 50.”

However, in late 2020, ingredient database INCIDecoder decided to individually test Purito’s famous sunscreen, with results finding their SPF advertising to be deceitful. In contrast to Purito’s SPF 50 claims, the sunscreen was found to be around SPF 19, less than half the amount of SPF measure advertised.

Inevitably, customers panicked and grew suspicious of other brands’ SPF advertisements, especially since multiple brands were rumored to have their products made by the same manufacturer. Other well-known Korean sunscreens such as the Klairs’ “Soft UV Airy Essence” and Krave Beauty’s “Beet the Sun” were soon pulled off the market after being found to have lower SPF labels than advertised. 

With chaos ensuing amongst the world of skincare, we were able to receive different responses and apologies amidst Korean skincare brands. Most companies, including Purito, Klairs and Krave issued formal apologies regarding their false SPF labels while also promising new and improved formulations soon, temporarily pulling their sunscreens off the market.

These apologies raised respect for these brands despite the scandal, while other companies such as Keep Cool had a different approach. After Keep Cool’s “Bamboo Sun Essence” was exposed by small creators to have lower SPF measures than advertised, the company sent out legal threats and accusations to these influencers, causing consumers’ respect for the company to falter. 

Responses such as these have led people to believe that Korean sunscreens are “tainted,” resulting in mass amounts of customers boycotting Korean skincare products. 

With the ongoing controversy with Korean sunscreens, consumers have turned to Japanese, Western, and even European sunscreen brands. Particularly in 2021, UV agents in sunscreens have advanced, giving customers a wider range of products to choose from.

Influencer Sarah Cheung has found Western sunscreens such as the “Black Girl Sunscreen” and the “Bondi Sans” sunscreen to be friendly to people of color skin. Meanwhile, TikTok influencer Jenny Lee has dove into the world of European and Japanese Sunscreen, sharing brands such as Vichy and Biore with her audience.

Despite the setback we’ve had with Korean sunscreens, other brands are constantly improving their formulas, giving their customers countless products to choose from. All of the products and companies we’ve found this year have allowed us to see all the options for sunscreens within the market that is not limited to the Korean skincare vend.

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