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Review: Etude Soon Jung × Director’s Moisture Sun Cream

Etude Soon Jung Director's Moisture Sun Cream Review
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.

Etude Soon Jung Director's Moisture Sun Cream review swatch
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.

Screenshot from Etude

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.

Etude Soon Jung Director's Moisture Sun Cream ingredients

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.

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10 Comments on Review: Etude Soon Jung × Director’s Moisture Sun Cream

  1. I went ahead and bought this at full price. It’s okay but I wish I didn’t. I’ll use it up for everyday wear but the Biore light up essence is wayyyy better and so much cheaper.

    • I paid $16 for mine and I feel the same. I’m happy to use it up for everyday wear but not a sunscreen I’d personally repurchase even on sale.

    • What did you prefer about the Biore Light Up Essence? I tried that one because it was a “Best Pick” and I really hate it. I hate that it’s so shiny on my face (because of the shimmer – it makes me look like a disco ball), never dries down, and breaks up on my face in the middle of the day. I also hate the heavy fragrance. I haven’t tried the Biore Watery Essence though, so I couldn’t compare to that. I vastly prefer the Skin Aqua UV line. I’m wondering if I would like this Etude Soon Jung one or not.

  2. I have to agree with you. After the sunscreen controversy, I’ve found it very hard to trust K-Beauty sunscreens. I’ve bought a few, worn them 1-2x indoors, and then relegate them to the bottom of my drawer. I still can’t trust them to wear them outside (especially against the desert sun). I know SPF fails aren’t limited to South Korea, but still…

    • Has the KFDA even fixed the loophole with allowed this fiasco to happen in the first place? If not, I don’t think anyone should rely on Korean sunscreens for sun production…brands claiming that their products have been tested means next to nothing IMO.

  3. I’ve tried wearing this a few times to work, and I end up scrubbing it off my face each time. I have rosacea and this irritates my skin like no other. Funnily enough I’ve found sunscreens with alcohol in them that cause less redness. I do have exceptionally sensitive skin tho, so I won’t hold it against this one. I will however say I hated how one day I rubbed my eye and it just peeled off my skin in visible clumps. Like you said this is not super moisturizing and needs moisturizer underneath, and I’m not willing to change up my moisturizer to try and fix that problem.

    This was an expensive purchase, but it looks like I should have just bought Allie again this year. I was cautious because of the new “coral reef safe,” ingredients. But it’s gotta be better than this was.
    I’ve never found a kr sunscreen I like, and like you they haven’t done much to assure me that they work like they say they do.

    Thanks for the review.

    • I was hoping that this would be a nice moisturiser with SPF option, but it was barely moisturising on my normal skin. It’s absurdly expensive for what it is. There’s no reason why an Etude sunscreen costs more at retail than Allie and Anessa.

  4. Sorry, just a quick question. What is the biggest difference on how japan and korea rule any spf containing product? I heard japan asks for in vivo uva and uvb testing. I assume that happens when a brand reformulate its products as well. My question, is there any rules in japan that will fine a brand whenever they fail to meet their claim? How japan prevents sort of things that happen in Korea? Thank you

    • Japan requires SPF and UVA tests performed according to in-vivo ISO 24444 & ISO 24442/3 protocols. Each version/formula is tested separately. There’s zero chance a sunscreen is allowed to be released into the market using test results from another formula. These loopholes that are currently in South Korean regulations don’t exist in Japan.

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