The first time I used Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen, my immediate thought was, “Oh good, the perfect sunscreen! Sunscreen chemists, you can all go home now. Nice job, everyone!” Then I started researching the ingredients and thought, “Actually guys, you need to come back to work. We’re not quite there yet.” I’ve been struggling with this product because I love the application and wear of it so much, but there’s a lot more to sunscreen than the way it feels. Let’s take a closer look.
What is it?
Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen ($15) is a facial sunscreen. Biore is a global brand, but this sunscreen is part of a line made specifically for their Japanese market. It’s chemical rather than mineral, and boasts SPF 50 / PA+++, providing both UVA and UVB protection. The water-based formula promises to be non-sticky, non-greasy, and to provide sun protection without a white cast.
Water, 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, Citrus Medica Limonum, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis, Xylitol, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Fragrance
This ingredient list is polarizing. On the one hand, there are some great actives in this formula. On the other hand, there are a handful of controversial ingredients, one of which I’m having a hard time justifying. Here’s a breakdown of the good, the controversial, and the bad:
Sodium Hyaluronate – Able to hold up 1,000 times it’s weight in water, this humectant does a great job attracting and maintaining water in the skin. It also helps promote blood circulation and nutrient absorption in the skin.
Citrus Medica Limonum – Better known as Citron, this citrus extract is rich in brightening Vitamin C and other antioxidants, and also possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
Citrus Aurantium Dulcis – An orange derived extract with Vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties.
Xylitol – Often used as a sweetener in foods, this sugar alcohol is also a humectant that moisturizes skin when applied topically, and is thought to increase ceramide synthesis (though there are currently no studies on the ceramide claim). Don’t let your dog get ahold of it though – xylitol is extremely toxic to pets if ingested.
EDIT 08/25/2013: Added a new ingredient to the good list – Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate. Diana correctly pointed out to me in the comments that this ingredient is a UVA absorber. That sunscreen agent was a new one to me, but I’ve spent a lot of time reading about it, and I’ve got to say, it looks pretty interesting. The product rating will be changing to reflect this new information. Hooray!
Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate – This is a chemical sunscreen agent that effectively absorbs and breaks down UVA. Prior to last night, it wasn’t on my radar, though the fact that it ends in -ate should have tipped me off – chemical suncreen ingredients typically end in -ate, -ene, or -one. Now that I’ve read up on it, I’m pretty pumped about it. It’s one of the safest chemical sunscreen agents available – a study by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (a scientific European Committee that reviews cosmetic safety) showed that it does not pose any phototoxicity, photoallergenic, photomutagenicity, or photoclastogenicity risks. It’s a very effective UVA absorber, and works well with other sunscreen agents. It does not protect against UVB, which is fine since sunscreen agents that work for UVA seems to be far fewer than those that protect against UVB, and this ingredients pairs well with those that do.
Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate – Also known as Octinoxate, this ingredient is a chemical sunscreen agent. Of the chemical sunscreen agents, this is one of the gentlest, but like most chemical sunscreen ingredients, it can still cause a photoallergic effects or photosensitization in some people. Additionally, after UV exposure, all chemical sunscreens generate some free radicals in the skin, a byproduct of the absorption and break-down of UV (which is how chemical sunscreens work). The antioxidant ingredients in this formula and most sunscreen formulas containing chemical sunscreens counteract this effect to some degree. It would be less of a concern if there were also a mineral sunscreen in the formula, which deflects the UV rays so that the amount of UV being broken down by the chemical sunscreen agents is minimized.
Alcohol – There are two schools of though on alcohol and the skin – there are some who believe that alcohol in any amount and in any formula is harmful to the skin. Then there are those who believe that alcohol, when included in a well-formulated product, can actually be beneficial because it increases the absorption of other skin care actives. Based on the research available, which is best summed up in this FutureDerm article, I’m inclined to fall into the “alcohol can be good in a well-formulated product” camp. That said, there is a boatload of alcohol in this product – it’s the second ingredient listed – yikes! Because of the large amount contained in this sunscreen, I’m not sure whether the alcohol ingredient counts as “part of a well-formulated product” in this instance.
Sodium Hydroxide (EDIT: January 27, 2014) – This ingredient is commonly used in cosmetic products as a pH adjuster. Here’s the thing though – Sodium Hydroxide is the scientific name for lye. Lye is a strong irritant and corrosive on its own, but in this formula, it’s already been reacted – it’s acting as a pH adjuster, and is simply balancing out a highly acid formula. Because it has been reacted, it is no longer an irritant in this sunscreen.
When viewing this list in COSDNA, both Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide score a whopping 5 out of 5 as irritants.
I apply Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen after my toner and essence, but before applying my moisturizer. It’s important to note that this sunscreen is not a moisturizer replacement. It is designed to be used in conjunction with a moisturizer, not as a substitute. As with all sunscreens, you need about a ¼ teaspoon to get the full SPF protection listed on the front of the bottle.
One of the things I love about this formula is how quickly it absorbs upon application. I suspect that this is due to the high alcohol content, but I can’t deny what a pleasure it is to apply. It spreads easily, absorbs quickly, despite the amount of alcohol it contains, it doesn’t feel overly drying. It takes less than a minute to fully absorb, does not leave a white cast or shine.
This product comes in a soft, plastic tube with a standard tip. Nothing too fancy, but it works!
Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen has a light, pleasant, citrusy scent that dissipates quickly after application.
If I didn’t know anything about the ingredients in this product, I would think Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen was the perfect sunscreen. The application is so easy and pleasant, and I love how non-greasy it is. Knowing what’s in it, I’m actually surprised that it hasn’t dried my skin out, but it hasn’t. I also haven’t experienced any irritation or breakouts after using it daily for 4 weeks.
My skin is not tan, which is great – that’s a pretty good indicator that the UVB protection is solid. Even better, Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen also provides an adequate amount of UVA protection. For the curious – UVB rays are the cause of tans and sunburns, while UVA rays are responsible for photoaging and damage in the deeper layers of the skin. Prior to my knowledge of Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, I was concerned that I wasn’t getting enough UVA protection from this product since Ethylhexyl Methoxy Cinnamate is primarily a UVB absorber. I’m happy to report that Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate is an effective UVA absorber, so I feel pretty confident now that I am getting adequate UVA protection. (EDIT: 08/25/2013 – changes reflect Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate information)
I love the application and wear of this formula so much; my only wish is that it did not contain Sodium Hydroxide. It is very affordable, which is important since I go through sunscreen pretty rapidly. If this formula dropped the Sodium Hydroxide, my search for the perfect sunscreen would be over.
+ Great UVB & UVA protection
+ Not drying
+ Easy to apply
+ Absorbs quickly
+ Smells great
+ Didn’t break me out
- Contains some questionable ingredients
- Could be irritating for sensitive skin
Skin & Tonics Rating:
Performance: 5 – Great UVA & UVB protection, wears well, absorbs quickly
Quality: 3 – There are some pretty good ingredients in this formula – unfortunately, they appear alongside a couple less desirable ingredients. The alcohol content is very high.
Value: 5 – At $15, it’s an extremely affordable and overall, a decent contender compared to other chemical sunscreen available
Where to Buy:
I picked mine up on Amazon.com for $15.
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