If you’ve been online (in Japanese) in the past few months, you’ve seen SKIN AQUA Tone Up UV Essence in its natural habitat: Instagram. It has quite the social buzz and is one of the most hyped-up beauty hits this year among millennials in Japan. The pink-and-blue “unicorn” sunscreen seemed like it was designed with Instagram in mind, and it most certainly was! Rohto (the company behind it) developed it specifically to be social media-friendly.
And not just in the packaging design. The daily sunscreen has a lavender tint that is supposed to colour-correct and brighten skin tone to optimise it for a filtered selfie. Protecting the skin from everyday UV exposure looks more like an afterthought.
I fit in its targeted demographic and I like it a lot. It has a weightless, fast-absorbing feel that glides over skin with absolutely no chalky or gunky residue. I find it disappears into my skin while making skin tone brighter in the most believable and subtle way. The finish is matte on my normal skin, but there’s a gentle luminescence about it. I can also slather it generously on my arms and legs without worrying that it’ll transfer to my clothes.
For complexion deeper than the average Japanese woman, the lavender tint will most likely lend a white cast to the skin. (As a reference, MAC NC20–25 are the most commonly used shades in Japan).
SKIN AQUA Tone Up UV Essence is great if you’re light-skinned and love the aesthetic of magical unicorn colours. So light and fresh-feeling, such nice skin-brightening effect — I can see why this has huge appeal. The packaging alone is enough to (temporarily) capture the fickle heart of millennials who have previously found sunscreens to be uninteresting.
The downside, of course, is that it suits a narrow range of skin tones. If you match Japanese face makeup shades, the SKIN AQUA Tone Up UV Essence SPF50+ PA++++ is US$12.30 for 80g at eBay or US$12.90 at YesStyle. In Japan, you can find it in most drugstores — RRP is ¥740.