Skin & Tonics : A Skincare Blog

Skincare guides & product reviews for beauty enthusiasts & ingredient connoisseurs

Review: Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

It’s not a secret that I enjoy splurging on pricy skincare products – luxury skincare is one of my absolute favorite ways to treat myself. But sunscreen, which is the product I consider to be the most important product in my daytime skincare routine, is one product I actually don’t splurge on. To a non-regular-sunscreen-wearer, this might seem baffling, but my fellow UV protected brethren and sistren probably understand why this makes perfect sense. Here’s the thing: because of the amount of sunscreen required to get the actual UV protection indicated on the front of the bottle (~ 1/4 teaspoon), I go through more sunscreen in a month than any other product I use on my face, except for possibly water. I generally use around 80-100 mL of sunscreen over a 30 day period, which, in Chanel sunscreen dollars for example, would set me back about $165 USD (for 3 x 30 mL bottles) a month. That’s a lot of money to spend on sunscreen; especially when there are so many great formulas to choose from at exponentially lower price points (I spend $32 USD a month on 2 x 50mL bottles of my favorite Hada Labo sunscreen). Every once in a while though, my curiosity gets the best of me, and I’ll pick up an expensive sunscreen just to see what I’m missing, which is how I ended up with the sunscreen I’ll be reviewing today: Sofina Beaute UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh) ($40, or $120 a month for 3 x 32 mL bottles).

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

What is it?

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ is a sunscreen and moisturizing product made by Japanese skincare brand Sofina Beauté, and is sold in Japan and a handful of other Asian markets. It promises to provide UVB and UVA protection, moisturize skin, provide firming and anti-aging benefits, and act as a makeup base, all without stickiness or a white cast. It comes in two varieties, Fresh (for oily skin) and Moist (for dry skin). Today I’ll be looking at the “Fresh” variety.

Just in case you’re new to the world of Japanese sunscreens and are wondering what the heck a PA++++ is, here’s a quick summary:

The PA rating is based on the widely used PPD (persistent pigment darkening) method, a system of measuring UVA protection. The PA system ranges from PA+ to PA++++, and each level corresponds with a range of PPD measurements. Here’s how the PA system works:

PA+ = 2-3 PPD
PA++ = 4-7 PPD
PA+++= 8-15 PPD
PA++++= 16+ PPD

For more information about UVA assessment in sunscreen, this is an excellent article published by BASF in September 2013:
The Evolution of UVA Protection.

One of the reasons I tend to reach for Japanese sunscreens more often than others is because they are among the best (along with European sunscreens) when it comes to UVA protection.

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

Active Ingredients:

Zinc Oxide 13%, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate 4%, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate 0.5%

Inactive Ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Alcohol, Talc, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl-PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Methicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Polysilicone-9, Bis-Methoxypropylamido Isodocosane, Fragrance (Parfum), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, BHT, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Extract, Tocopherol

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

Before I get into my breakdown of the UV protection agents in this formula, I’d like to touch a little bit on the inactive ingredients. All the marketing copy I could find for the Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion boats Ceramides as a beneficial ingredient, yet there are no actual Ceramide ingredients included in the ingredient translation I have for this product. This sunscreen was reformulated earlier this year in order to give it the PA ++++ UVA protection capabilities it now possesses, and the old formulation did include Ceramide 2 as an ingredient. I’m sad to see it go – I’m a sucker for Ceramides. Part of me hopes that the ingredient was omitted from the translation by accident. If any of you are up for checking the Japanese version of this ingredient list and can tell me whether or not Ceramide 2 is still a part of this new formula, I’d love your input.

Lack of Ceramides aside, this formula is similar to some of the other alcohol-based Japanese sunscreens I enjoy. It also contains a handful of plant extracts, which possess benefits including anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antioxidant properties.

As for the UVA/UVB agents, this formula has a solid mix of physical and chemical sunscreen ingredients. Here’s a breakdown:

Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide is a mineral that provides physical protection against both UVB and UVA rays. Additionally, zinc is often used as an acne treatment due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as its ability to control sebum.

The clinical effects of zinc as a topical or oral agent on the clinical response and pathophysiologic mechanisms of acne: a systematic review of the literature
Journal of Drugs & Dermatology, May 2013

Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate

This is a chemical UV protector that is often listed in products as Octinoxate. In addition to protecting against UV rays, it also helps stabilize light sensitive product formulations, so it’s sometimes seen in non-sunscreen skincare products (Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair is one example). 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.

Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate

This is a chemical sunscreen agent that effectively absorbs and breaks down UVA. It’s often referred to by its trade name, Uvinul A Plus, and is one of the safest chemical sunscreen agents available – a study published in 2008 by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products showed this ingredient not to 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, but pairs well with those that do. It’s approved for use in sunscreens in all of Europe, as well as Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, and South America.

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

There are no major red flags (major being a 3 or higher out of 5) in terms of potential acne triggers or irritants, according to CosDNA.

 

Performance

 

Appearance

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh) comes packed in a small, plastic, light blue bottle adorned with a daisy on the front. It has a plastic cap that reminds me a bit of the type of glassware everyone’s grandmother liked to keep in curio cabinets in the 70s and 80s.

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

The product itself is a bright, opaque white, and is a bit thicker than water, but not much.

Smell

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh) smells faintly of flowers, citrus, and SD alcohol. It’s not overpowering, and the fragrance disappears within a minute or so after application.

Application

I apply ¼ teaspoon of Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh) in the morning as the last step in my skincare routine. The product description on various retail sites indicate that no moisturizer is needed with this sunscreen. However, this sunscreen isn’t even close to be moisturizing enough on its own for my dry skin type. I really should have purchased the Moist variety of the Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion, but at the time I purchased this one, I didn’t realize there were two varieties.

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion absorbs satisfyingly fast – faster than Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel, but not quite as quickly as Bioré UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence. Although it dries quickly, I let it sit for around 10 minutes before applying any makeup. Once Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion has been absorbed, it is completely matte and non-sticky. There is no visible white cast, which I found delightful  – but surprising given the zinc oxide content in this formula.

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

This is how my hand looks just seconds after rubbing the product in. Magnificently matte!

Results

I’ve used this sunscreen sporadically over the course of about 4 weeks. Because of the price, I’ve opted not use it daily, instead only using it on particularly humid days when I’m also wearing a lot of makeup. The matte finish has its own appeal. If I had an oilier skin type, I imagine I would appreciate this formula a lot more. Alas, I found it slightly drying for my skin type. I did not experience any breakouts or irritation as a result of using this sunscreen.

It provided plenty of protection for me, if my skin color is anything to go by – I’ve still managed not to tan in the summer sun of North Carolina. I also admittedly don’t spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the summer – I usually only experience direct sunlight in my commute to and from work, and to and from lunch.

I probably wouldn’t purchase the “Fresh” variety of Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion again, but only because it was designed for a different skin type than my own. I did enjoy this sunscreen enough that I am excited to try out its “Moist” counterpart, which is made for dry skin like mine. The Moist variety is reportedly more moisturizing, but still maintains the matte finish. If your skin leans oily, and you are someone who enjoys the matte finish of Biore UV Perfect Face Milk SPF 50 PA++++ (review forthcoming), but finds it too drying for your skin, Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion would be a great (though far more expensive) alternative for you.

Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
  • Great UVA & UVB protection
    Combination physical and chemical UV protection
    Absorbs quickly
    Dries matte
    Smells pleasant
    No white cast
  • Slightly drying for dry skin types

Skin & Tonics Rating

A- 17/20 Efficacy 15/20 Ingredients 20/20 Application 20/20 Wear 20/20 Packaging
Total: 92 Rating system details »

Where to Buy

Store Price Offers
BeautyKat eBay seller $40 Ships from US. buy
WhiteCat3845724 eBay seller $46.75 Ships from Taiwan. buy

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43 comments onReview: Sofina Beauté UV Cut Emulsion NS SPF50 PA++++ (Fresh)

  1. Em

    Thanks for the review! Very in-depth and informative as always.

    Do you happen to know of any PA++++ sunscreens that don’t have alcohol in them? I’ve tried a few Japanese PA++++’s, including the Hada Labo Creamy Gel that you reviewed, and while I’m sure the protection is lovely, my skin seems to hate them. (It would be a bonus if I could find it somewhere other than Ebay!) My current sunscreen is on the low end of PA+++, but so far nothing stronger has worked out. Thanks either way!

    • Kerry

      Hi Em! You know, I don’t really know of any alcohol free Japanese sunscreens that are PA++++. I am on the hunt for some of those myself. So far the alcohol-free Japanese sunscreen formulas I’ve found cap out at PA+++. I like Hada Labo’s UV Moist Emulsion SPF50 PA+++, Hada Labo UV Whitening Emulsion SPF50 PA+++, Mentholatum Sunplay Skin Aqua UV Moisture Milk SPF50 PA+++, and Mentholatum Sunplay Skin Aqua UV Whitening Moisture Milk SPF50 PA+++ for alcohol-free Japanese sunscreens.

      Which one are you using and how do you like it?

    • Rin

      Mentholatum SUNPLAY Super Block SPF 50+ PA++++ is alcohol free! Very very slight white cast, good for normal to drier skin! It’s a bit more moisturizing than Skin Aqua UV Moisture Milk.

  2. RJ

    I wonder if this is micronized or nano Zinc since it seems to not show so white or pasty on the skin. This looks amazing. I am definitely going to try it out after this review though. Also, by 1/4 teaspoon SPF do you spread that for your face and neck?

    • Kerry

      Hi RJ! That’s an excellent question. It seems like it must be for it to be so transparent! I’ll write Hada Labo and see if they can tell us if the Zinc is, in fact, micronized.

      Also, yes, the 1/4 teaspoon is for face only. 1/4 teaspoon is really just a general approximation – what we are truly aiming for is 2 milligrams per square centimeter of skin, which, for an average sized face, comes out to be about a 1/4 teaspoon (but the amount can vary slightly based on face size and product thickness). The 2 mg/cm2 amount is the industry standard for lab testing sunscreen efficacy, and is generally the measurement used to come up with the SPF/PA/PPD rating on the product label. 🙂

  3. HL

    I also wanted to ask for your opinion on alcohol in skincare? I’ve heard that alcohol in skincare is very damaging to the skin, so since a lot of Japanese sunscreens have alcohol in them, I’ve stayed away from trying them. However I feel like I’m missing out since there seems to be so many good Japanese sunscreens!

    • Kerry

      Hi HL! It’s definitely a controversial ingredient, as there are two schools of thought: Paula Begoun’s stance is that alcohol is never okay, and that it causes cell death. Nick Zevola’s (FutureDerm) stance is that it’s fine in a well formulated product, and that it can actually enhance the penetration of beneficial skin ingredients. When I interviewed cosmetic chemist, Perry Romanowski (The Beauty Brains & author of several skin care books), he stated unequivocally that alcohol was not a harmful ingredient, and that it not only helps with ingredient penetration, but that it also kills microbes. I find that I personally tolerate alcohol well in a properly formulated product.

      In general, I think alcohol in a properly formulated product is fine as long as you aren’t sensitive to it. I personally don’t go out of my way to avoid it, though I would never put straight alcohol on my skin either! 😀

      • Chiara

        The amount of alcohol here isn’t likely to be cause any damage to normal, healthy skin.
        Cannot wait for your review of the moist formula!

  4. Noe

    Hi Kerry!
    Nice review, as always 😉
    I also bought the Hada Labo Creamy Gel and I really like it. First it was a bit drying, but adding the Misha Night Repair Serum in my evening routine changed that feeling (or maybe something else, not sure ^^).

  5. Amazing! Your reviews are always so in-depth, I learn a whole lot through them, so thank you! I’ll definitely be looking into sunscreen with a PA++++ rating now since I want to avoid as much darkening and spots as possible. This one is attractive! I am one with slightly oilier skin, so the Fresh type would probably suit me in the summer (or whatever is left of it by now). I like that it doesn’t seem to leave much of a white cast.

  6. ellie

    i havent finished reading your post, but have you ever tried neutrogena spf 50-75 sunscreen with helioplex technology? i cant stand mineral sunscreens because of the goddamn white cast. i really like neutrogena’s chemical sunscreen for this reason. my dermatologist uses it himself, and he gave me a tube sample of spf 80. no more splurging on murad sunscreen for me.

  7. The packaging on this really does have sort of a retro 70s feel. It reminds me of a candy dish my grandma had, actually!
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  8. Kristina

    I’m only slightly embarrassed of how giddy I am when I see you’ve posted a new review. Fabulous job as always. 🙂

  9. Sarah

    I hope you haven’t addressed this in another post I missed, but I am curious how you deal with reapplication issues when using sunscreen under makeup. I haven’t figured out my ideal system yet because reapplying throughout the day leaves way too much stuff on my face, powdered options get cakey if I use enough to get decent sun protection, and I certainly don’t have time to wash my face and reapply sunscreen before taking a walk during my lunch break :/ I have started only using formulas that contain zinc since my understanding is that physical blockers don’t have as strict of a 2-hour efficacy range…

    • Kerry

      Hi Sarah! That’s a great question. I struggled with this myself. I have a few different solutions I use for reapplication throughout the day. If it’s a regular work day and I’m not going to be out in the sun much, I carry a spray sunscreen in my purse. You’re not supposed to breathe it in, so they say you shouldn’t spray it directly on your face, advising instead to spray it in your hands and pat it on. The idea is that the formula is thin enough that it shouldn’t be too disruptive to your makeup. However, I opt instead to hold my breath, spray my face, and then run away from the spot I was just standing in. I repeat this a few times, and hope that no one walks in the office bathroom and sees me doing this, because it looks ridiculous.

      I also carry a touch up pressed powder that has SPF50 PA+++ protection. I could never apply enough for it to be a standalone sunscreen, but as a touch up before I drive home, it gets the job done. Sometimes I’ll just opt to apply a quick layer of high SPF/PA BB or CC cream before the drive home instead.

      If I’m going to be in the sun awhile, I’ll just skip the complexion makeup so I can reapply my regular face sunscreen. 🙂

      • Lucas

        Sorry, but the idea of you spraying your face and running away is so funny! hahaha I wish we had video. (:

        Also, about ceramides, I was just reading something about nano-sized ones produced by fujifilm and used on their Astalift line. Have you heard of them, perhaps tried it?

        Best,
        Lucas.

        • Kerry

          Don’t be sorry, Lucas! I can confirm that it looks as funny as it sounds. 🙂

          I haven’t heard of the nano Ceramides yet, or the Astalift line. Actually, I wasn’t even aware the Fujifilm made skin care! Is Astalift their only line, or do they have others as well?

          • ellie

            my dermatologist says that the neutrogena helioplex technology is intended to give better staying power, assuming you aren’t engaging in any sweat intensive activities, or touching your face too much.

          • Lucas

            Yeah, I think they have at least a couple of lines (including the flagship brand Astalift). It’s mainly sold in Asia, but I found the concept of nano ceramides very interesting. Plus they use astaxanthin as well, making every product orange-red; pretty cool. Plan on trying it.

  10. This is actually the first time I ever see a PA++++ product. I’m not a fan of chemical filters, most of them make my normal skin with perfect oil control super shiny after application. The sun protection I currently use is by Missha and it has only physical filters. I think I will continue to repurchase it until I find something better. Plus the thing I love in physical filters is they’re so opaque I can always see if I applied the needed amount because my face turns ghost white.

    Also, I wanted to ask you what are your thoughts of powder sun protection? I was thinking about trying one of those because I can’t just reapply my Show White sunscreen over my flawless makeup in the middle of the day. Have you used any yourself?

    • Kerry

      Hi Teti! I have a couple of favorite high SPF/PA powders. I never use them for standalone sun protection, but they work fine as touch-ups throughout the day. The two I like most are Missha Signature Science Blanc Pact SPF50 PA+++ and History of Whoo – Whitening Pact SPF45 PA+++. 🙂

  11. Hi Kerry,
    Actually, it was reformulated last year in 2013, because that’s when the new rules came into effect. Some products didn’t need to change the formula, which means that their PA +++ was already equivalent to PA++++ under the new rules.
    Some products chose not to change the formula and keep PA+++ (like my beloved Sofina Perfect White Protect, yay!)
    I’m surprised you got Beaute, because it’s a product line for “mature” ladies (more my age than yours 😉
    Other products in the Beaute line contain ceramide, but not the sunblocks.
    Have a great day!
    Anna

    • Kerry

      Thanks for the clarification, Anna! Sad that the ceramides aren’t a part of the sunscreens, but that does make me want to try other products in the line. What age group is Beauté geared toward? I’m in my mid 30s (closer to 40 than 30) – I figure all bets are off at this point. Bring on the mature lady creams! 😉

      • hahaha! It started as a line for women in their 30s. But now they market themselves as “stay young and beautiful in your 40s” or somesuch. With the recent flood of products for that age group, I wouldn’t be surprised if they rebranded themselves as 50+ next season. Because as far as I know, there aren’t any mid-priced brands specifically for the 50+ age group. (There are, but either higher-end, or really low-end like Evita).
        Ciao!
        A.

  12. Amazing discussion here! So in-depth but I never get bored. I’ve a question though. I’ve only followed pretty recently. Labels make a huge deal in UVA/UVB protection but you only seem concerned with UVA. Why’s that?

    • Kerry

      Hi Tellie! I care about both UVB and UVA, but I tend to talk about UVA protection more because it’s so neglected in the formulas and labeling on American sunscreens. American products aren’t required to list the actual amount of UVA protection the product contains – instead, products that do have UVA protection are only required to say “broad spectrum protection,” with no way to discern whether a product has a lot or a little UVA protection. The SPF number only shows the amount of UVB protection a product has. Because of this, I find a lot of people I talk to either don’t realize that UVA protection is important, or they don’t realize they might not be adequately protected from it. Japanese sunscreens take both UVB and UVA very seriously, which is one of the reasons I like them so much. I talk about their UVA protection properties a lot to raise awareness about its importance, but I don’t mean to come across as not caring about UVB. I’ll have to take that into consideration for future SS reviews! 😀

  13. Annie

    Hi Kerry,

    Great post! I bought the Hada Labo Creamy Gel SPF 50 based on your sunscreen comparison post. It hasn’t come yet, but how would you compare the performance of the Sofina Beaute or Skin Aqua Whitening Moisture Milk SPF 50? I want to buy one more sunscreen. For reference, I have sensitive skin and I don’t tolerate alcohol in products well.

    BTW, I also purchased the PC C15 and saw in one of your posts that you thought it smelled like hot dogs. It really does! I just put in on tonight (I’m on the internet trying to wait my obligatory 30 minutes) and I started laughing when I put it on then I thought of your hot dog comment. It smells like boiled hot dog water…like the leftover water after you boil hot dogs.

    Anyway, one last thing — are you going to review the Ciracle Red White Spot serum soon? That’s coming in the mail for me as well. I’m hoping that with use of the PC C15 and Ciracle I can get rid of my PIH. Thanks!

  14. Rin

    Hi Kerry, I LOVE your blog, what an amazing resource! I had a question, do you ever take pH into consideration for your sunscreen? Can the pH of sunscreen be properly measured and does it matter? I never see it mentioned as an issue so that’s why I was wondering. I have some pH strips and I tested my Skin Aqua UV Moisture Milk SPF50 PA+++ and it ended up being around 8.5 which is fairly alkaline, so I became a bit curious.

    I’m going to test my other sunscreens (I have quite a few asian as well as european and north american susncreens).

    Thank you for any insight!

  15. Hi Kerry,

    I love your blog it’s really amazing <3

  16. Aliya

    I really wish I discovered your blog sooner!
    This is like a gold mine!

    By the way, I have a question about this emulsion.
    Do you need to double-cleanse when you use the Sofina Beaute (if you don’t wear makeup)?

  17. Another great post from you. Thank you for this in depth review. I purchased the moist version of this sunscreen after reading your spectacular review. Thanks again

  18. Samantha

    I visited Japan earlier this month, Okinawa to be exact, and this sunscreen was sold EVERYWHERE for about $20. Aside from that, I have found that most of the individual 10-count packages of LuLuLun sheet masks are $3, but are generally sold in the USA for $6-$8. If any of you plan on going to Japan or Korea soon- STOCK UP! I wish I had bought this sunscreen when I was there because it’s so much more expensive online! Just sayin’.