One of many K-beauty sunscreens launched after what I refer to as the Great Korean Sunscreen Controversy, or “GKSC” for short, is the Soon Jung Director’s Moisture Sun Cream from Etude. I’m sure many of you already know the story but here’s a quick rundown of what happened.
In 2021, some Korean cosmetic companies were found to be intentionally lying about their sunscreens’ UVA and UVB label claims. They exploited legal loopholes in lax cosmetic regulations. (After a product received KFDA approval and has undergone in vivo SPF/UVA tests, the manufacturer is allowed to make changes to its formula without having to retest.) When confronted with proof, brands decided to point fingers, feign ignorance, or simply remain silent instead of taking accountability.
Soon Jung Director’s Moisture Sun Cream is a collaboration with Director Pi, a popular Korean beauty creator on YouTube. She’s a former beauty editor that often speaks about cosmetic safety and product formulas based on EWG ratings. Its blurb says it has a clean, vegan, reef-friendly formula with tiger grass (aka “cica”) to soothe and moisturise skin. Most importantly, it boasts to be a “verified sunscreen”. Apparently, it has been tested to meet its SPF and UVA label claims.
The sunscreen is very wearable but absolutely not the sort of feel or finish you’d expect from the name. Its texture is akin to Japanese sunscreen essence — a fresh, lightweight texture that doesn’t leave the skin sticky or tight. I just apply and forget that it’s even on. It has a slightly matte finish but none of the dullness. My normal skin detects just a hint of hydration. Very elegant in feel, it slips across the skin beautifully but never feels greasy.
Many post-GKSC Korean sunscreens say their UV label claims have been tested to be true. I can’t help but wonder whether they’re telling the truth. Regaining a customer’s trust takes time and effort. Most brands failed to take accountability. They are only sorry because they got caught. What makes their claims believable now? Is it because they have (often blurry and half-concealed) screenshots of the test results in their banner advertisements as evidence? These can be very easily edited or forged. They aren’t enough to prove anything. These brands’ lack of accountability makes their claims ring hollow.
I can see that Etude Soon Jung Director’s Moisture Sun Cream will have a huge appeal to K-beauty lovers who perhaps don’t already use an SPF on regular basis. It’s so pleasant to use and sits brilliantly beneath makeup. If your skin is dry you’ll want a standalone moisturiser underneath.
Price-wise, it’s on a par with Allie and Anessa sunscreens. It’s listed for US$30 (global) / ₩25,000 (Korea) / ¥2,750 (Japan) for 50ml, which is nearly double the price of Etude’s other sunscreens. Surprisingly expensive, but there’s always a sale running. YesStyle has it for around US$18. Olive Young Global, where I bought mine, currently has a 2-for-1 set with an additional 30% off.
While I find the sunscreen enjoyable to use, I can only see myself reaching for it on cool, cloudy days. Its lack of resistance to anything means I wouldn’t ever use it underneath a mask or when it’s getting warm outside. I find the verified SPF claims absolutely ridiculous. Like parents wanting credit for providing food and shelter to their children. Is the expectation so low for K-beauty that doing the bare minimum is somehow an achievement? Yes, it seems so.