Skip to content

Big in Japan – Zinc based sunscreens with a twist

May 29, 2012

Here in Australia we (well the natural side of the market) have an obsession with zinc-only sunscreens and as such I have spent much of the last three years working on various ways to marry a  high SPF with a great skin feel.  While it is possible to tick both boxes it isn’t easy and that’s why I occasionally resort to showing my clients some Asian magic.

When it comes to sunscreen elegance I’ve never failed to be impressed by what comes out of Asia and more specifically Japan.   In Japan sunscreens are quasi drugs and as such are regulated much more closely than general cosmetics.  Laws in Japan mean that you can claim whatever SPF you can validate (Australia currently has a limit of SPF 30 plus but is close to changing that to SPF 50 plus) and so it is common to find products offering SPF 50, 60 and even 100 which, in reality  is  more than most of us would ever need but very reassuring.  On top of that Japan uses the PA method to communicate UVA protection  and is derived by measuring the delayed  pigmentation changes occurring after sun exposure.  PA levels range from +, ++ and +++ with +++ offering the best protection.

One of the best zinc dominant sunscreens that I’ve found from this region is from the Kao Corp (another is from Shiseido)  as it is light weight, ghosting-free and has an SPF of 50 plus.  So what has it got that my zinc sunscreens havent?


Japan has to be the home of skin tactic silicone technology and while My Australian customers are after ‘natural’ the  Japanese are more interested in the feel and there is nothing quite like silicone for that light, oil-free touch.

On top of that the top Japanese brands know the value of blending actives and while the lead UV filter is zinc it is supported the synthetic workhorse ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate – a commonly used UVB filter and a little bit of titanium dioxide to boot!

Protection is also increased monumentally by the help of a few choice film forming technologies of while none are natural!   This one contains functional silicones and acrylamide polymers.

Further the emollients used (the feel enhansers) include the synthetic-but-silky-feeling PEG-12 Dimethicone and dry feeling hydrogenated polyisobutene.

Of course this product does contain some natural ingredients including a chamomile extract to help whiten the skin (whitening sunscreens are not something that Australian regulators encourage)  not the bits that make this product feel so amazing which leaves me with a dilemma!

So far I can report that it has been possible to get an all natural zinc sunscreen with a lighter touch but getting beyond SPF 30 without resorting to some kind of synthetic polymer has proved a challenge too far for me at least!

So, my question is does it really matter?

Is SPF 30, all natural but not-quite-so-elegant enough or do we want the whole Japanese experience?  Only you can answer that and when you do, I’ll be waiting with my homogeniser and spatula!

Whatever you do play safe!

Ingredients: water, cyclopentasiloxane, zinc oxide, alcohol, dimethicone, ethyl hexyl methoxycinnamate,  PEG-12 Dimethicone, hydrogenated polyisobutene, glycerine, poly silicone-9, lauryl methacrylate/ sodium methacrylate cross polymer, magnesium sulfate, methyl gluceth-20, methicine, dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone cross polymer, dextrin palmitate, squalene, tocopherol, tocopherol, cetyl dimethicone, fragrance, aluminium hydroxide, silica, chamomile flower extract,  sodium hyaluronate, orange fruit extract, lemon fruit extract, CI 77891. 

PS: It is interesting to note (maybe) that in the EU Titanium Dioxide is the preferred mineral sunscreen filter of choice rather than zinc.  From my perspective that would have been a whole lot easier to work with but somewhere somebody told us all it had to be zinc.  Dam that idiot!!!!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2012 10:16 am

    My Sister in Japan mentioned this to me one time and kinda curious of what it really does and the different with other products.. thanks for the info!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      May 29, 2012 11:08 am

      It is a beautiful product, really elegant and light weight. If you get a chance give it a go!

  2. May 29, 2012 12:38 pm

    That is interesting re TD versus zinc in Europe. In Australia so many people are scared of Titanium Dioxide as a potential skin irritant. But I suppose the nano particles issue with zinc has gained ground too – maybe more so in Europe than here?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      May 29, 2012 1:14 pm

      I am not so sure that potential skin irritancy is the issue as in a sunscreen both zinc and titanium would have similar skin irritancy potential. Also both can and are made into micro or nano sized so that doesn’t seem to be the problem either. What I suspect is that some bright spark on the back of a badly coated titanium news story decided that titanium was bad and zinc was good and we have all just followed on behind. Both zinc and titanium can and are used as photocatalysts too (used to speed up reactions) but this property can be resolved through efficiently coating the particles. This is why you can’t use baby bum zinc for sunscreens – it isn’t coated 🙂 Anyway, it is interesting but unfortunately I don’t currently have the time to delve deeper. One day…..

  3. June 2, 2012 10:57 am

    Actually, sunscreens in Japan are classified as cosmetics not quasi-drugs (although there’re some that are classified as such due to additional active ingredients). “Laws in Japan mean that you can claim whatever SPF you can validate… and so it is common to find products offering SPF 50, 60 and even 100” is completely untrue. Japan like Europe has a limit of SPF50, which is why you see the “+” sign after 50 on the Biore UV sunscreen you have instead of just a higher number.

    Shiseido’s main sunscreen line in Japan is not actually zinc dominant. It uses chemical filters only.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      June 6, 2012 6:27 pm

      Ok thanks for the info. I’ll look into it all again!

  4. Julius permalink
    June 4, 2014 11:31 pm

    Hello, can you tell me which zinc oxide based sunscreen you were referring to in this post because kao corp is the mother company and has a lot of sub-brands. The one in your picture is a chemical sunscreen not a physical one. I was recently diagnosed with melasma and am trying to switch to physical sunscreen. I have had no luck in finding one that is esthetically pleasing in Canada so I am now looking for a Japanese one.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      June 15, 2014 9:51 am

      This one has Zinc Oxide as the key ingredient with the other filters getting the SPF up to 50. It is tricky to get such a high SPF without other SPF actives. Australia has a zinc obsession so you might find an option here although all-zinc sunscreens are quite heavy anyway. Do you need SPF 50 and is it OK to contain other synthetic ingredients such as silicones?

  5. Anna permalink
    February 16, 2015 11:34 am

    Titanium dioxide tends to feel nicer than zinc oxide in a sunscreen, but it doesn’t protect from UVA II very well (possibly at all).

    I’m currently using Ultraceuticals Sunactive Mineral SPF 50, which is pretty good, though I would still like to find one that is a little less oily (and cheaper). I utterly loved the Becca Mineral SPF Primer and have never found anything as good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: