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Korean sunscreens are in a little trouble recently. Popular sunscreens from well-loved K-beauty brands such as Purito, Dear, Klairs, and KEEP COOL have been called out for sunscreens that have lower SPF than what is indicated on their packaging.

You may have seen some chatters in beauty communities on Reddit or Twitter about the “Korean sunscreen controversy” or the “Korean sunscreen saga”. What is this whole saga about? Read on to understand the full story.

Background to the Korean sunscreen controversy

Purito Sunscreen Controversy Product Moodshot

It started after test results from two European labs found that the SPF in K-beauty brand Purito’s highly popular sunscreen, Centella Green Level Unscented Sun, was significantly lower than what was claimed. The sunscreen allegedly only carries SPF19, and not SPF50+, as they have indicated on the packaging.

A spokesperson for the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore told The New Paper that the Purito sunscreen in question, as well as all other Purito sunscreen products, are no longer allowed to be sold in Singapore.

All e-commerce sites have been asked to take down affected product listings because under Singapore’s regulations, cosmetic products with misleading product labels are not allowed to be supplied.

What happened after Purito-gate?

This news has brought about a backlash to Purito, a well-loved vegan brand, and cast a shadow on other K-beauty brands.

In light of this saga, the beauty community further revealed that Korean sunscreens can’t be sold in Australia, which has one of the most stringent regulations for sunscreens because of the high rate of skin cancer there.

Dear Klairs Sunscreen Under Scrutiny

After the Purito incident, Dear, Klairs products also came under scrutiny.

The brand released an announcement as a response to concerns about their SPF index. The brand said that while their sunscreen products are produced in accordance to Korean regulations, they recognise that a different result may be produced when they are tested under non-Korean guidelines.

They have since suspended all overseas sale of their sunscreen products and said they will conduct global standardised tests on them.

HSA in Singapore said that there are three Dear, Klairs products – Illuminating Supple Blemish Cream, Soft Airy UV Essence, and Mid Day Blue UV Shield – that are marketed in Singapore. Its local distributor Seras told The New Paper it has stopped the sale of the three products and recalled them from retailers.

Many large e-commerce stores have also started issuing refunds or coupons for affected consumers. For instance, Wishtrend gives a US$25 voucher for every Dear, Klairs’ sunscreen bought from their website in 2020.

Besides Purito and Dear, Klairs, here are a few other sunscreens from Korean brands that are affected:

Be Cool Sunscreen Saga

  • Be Plain Clean Ocean Moisture Sunscreen and Clean Ocean Nonnano Mild Sunscreen: A Redditor messaged them on Instagram to ask them about their sunscreens and the brand said that they have stopped sales of these products and are in the midst of re-testing the SPF of both their sunscreens.
  • KEEP COOL Soothe Bamboo Sun Essence: The Korean brand released an announcement to admit that the SPF index stated on the product is less than the number indicated on the packaging after they’ve requested for a separate test. They have since stopped the sale of the product and offered voucher compensation to customers.
  • B.LAB I Am Sorry Just Sun Cream: There wasn’t any official announcement about it but the product has been quietly removed from its official retailer Jolse. Jolse has also issued refunds to any customer who enquire about it.
  • Round Lab sunscreens: A Youtuber Ahn Insuk released a video to say that Round Lab’s sunscreen’s SPF is lower than what’s indicated. Round Lab released a statement to say that it meets Korean testing guidelines but they will let a third party test their sunscreens in the future. They also said that they are currently working on a improving their sunscreen formula so that it carries stronger SPF. There is no indication whether Round Lab will be recalling their products.