Asian Sunscreen Showdown: Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence vs Shiseido Senka Mineral Perfect UV Gel

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How to cite: Wong M. Asian Sunscreen Showdown: Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence vs Shiseido Senka Mineral Perfect UV Gel. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. November 2, 2014. Accessed May 28, 2024.

This is part of a continuing series on sunscreens. The first installment with two physical sunscreens is here.

One of my biggest issues with sunscreen is the greasy feel and the pain of trying to get them to sink in, so I was bound to eventually end up at Asian sunscreens.

Asian sunscreens are well known for their high SPF values and pleasant textures. Two of the most talked-about sunscreens are Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence and Shiseido Senka Mineral Perfect UV Gel, so of course I bought them and road tested them. Here’s what I thought…

asian sunscreens

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50 PA+++

Price on eBay: $12 for 50 g

A friend grabbed this for me when she went to Hong Kong. The sunscreen itself has a weird, grainy looking gel sort of texture, kind of like natural yoghurt, but don’t let that put you off.

It’s a very light, completely non-greasy sunscreen that sinks in with zero effort. The texture is honestly like no other sunscreen I’ve tried – it’s super weightless, and I would totally believe it if someone official announced that they’ve discovered that it gave zero sun protection. It’s that good. But it’s been approved in a lot of Asian countries, so I’ll believe the label!

Unfortunately there are no UVA1 filters in the formula, and PA+++ only translates to around PPD 8-16, so it doesn’t offer the best UVA protection.

– Amazing texture, not sunscreeny at all
– Pretty damn cheap
– Awesome UVB protection

– Contains a lot of alcohol, so can be drying for people prone to dryness (but moisturiser on top will fix that).
– Lower-than-optimal UVA protection

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Lauryl Methacrylate/Sodium Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Dimethicone, Acrylates/C10-30 Acrylate Crosspolymer, Glyceryl Stearate, Agar, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Xylitol, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Fragrance (Parfum)

Shiseido Senka Mineral Water UV Gel SPF50 PA+++

Price on eBay: $12 for 40 mL

Senka is Shiseido’s budget-friendly line. Mineral Water UV Gel looks a lot nicer out of the bottle than Aqua Rich – it’s a smooth runny white liquid, much like the French liquid sunscreens (e.g. Bioderma Fluid, La Roche-Posay Anthelios Fluid) than like Biore Watery Essence. There’s more emphasis on the silicones than the French sunscreens though, particularly cyclomethicone. This makes it glide on smoothly, but it also feels quite greasy in comparison to the Biore sunscreen. It does work great as a combination sunscreen/primer though, and it has a lower alcohol content so it’ll be less drying.

Again, the UV protection with this sunscreen is quite low (PA+++ = PPD 8-16), although there is a bit of UVA1 protection here thanks to zinc oxide (though it’s still not super effective – chemical sunscreens are far better at absorbing UVA).

– Also pretty damn cheap
– Priming ability
– Some UVA1 protection

– Requires rubbing in (though less than most other sunscreens)
– Gets greasy throughout the day
– Lower-than-optimal UVA protection

Ingredients: Cyclomethicone, Water, Isododecane, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (7.5%), Alcohol, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Octocrylene (3%), Polysilicone-15 (3%), Zinc Oxide (2.8%), PPG-17, PEG-9 Dolydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Sorbitan Sesquiisostearate, Sucrose Tetrastearate Triacetate, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid (1%), Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate (0.5%), Talc, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Isostearic Acid, Aminomethyl Propanediol, Sodium Chloride, Triethyloxycapriylylsilane, Trisodium EDTA, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, BHT, Magnesium Chloride, Calcium Chloride

Verdict: Biore wins for its game-changing texture, but if your skin is dry I would go for the Shiseido. My main gripe is the low UVA protection with both sunscreens – with all the new research about the effects of UVA sun damage, I’d like to get as much UVA protection as possible. These just don’t measure up to the French sunscreens in this department (reviews of those to come!).

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4 thoughts on “Asian Sunscreen Showdown: Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence vs Shiseido Senka Mineral Perfect UV Gel”

  1. Really liking these posts, keep them coming! I, myself, have been hunting for the most suitable sunscreen for a few years. Currently, trying out “Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 For Face” would be very interested in seeing what you think of it and how it compares with other sunscreens.

  2. hello, i found your blog today. I was looking for reviews about the biore UV and was happy about an ungreasy sunscreen but now i read your post and i am a little bit sad because of the bad UVA prtection (need to look for another one). how do you know how much of uvb and uva protection a sunscreen has?? i was looking for articles in german but could not find anything that helps :S. do you know about the hadalabo sunscreen (it does not have any alcohol)?. if yes, what do you think about it?


    • You can check the PA, PPD or UVAPF value for UVA protection. There are quite a few Hada Labo sunscreens all with different PA values, the more +’s the better!


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