You’ve acknowledged the importance of using sunscreen on a daily basis and ensuring its reapplication every couple of hours or so.

Furthermore, you’ve also experimented with numerous sunscreen brands in order to discover the most suitable one for your skin type and our hot and humid weather conditions (which is no small feat, I must say).

And now you have to weed out counterfeits and fake sunscreens…talk about (sun) blocked and fraud alert, am I right?!

Busted by Science: Fake Sunscreen Exposes Major Risk

Sadly, fake sunscreens are more common than you may think.


This company may be selling a fake sunscreen… #skincare #spf #sunscreen #skincareproducts #skincarecommunity #beauty #sunscreenviral

♬ original sound – Dr. Julian Sass – Dr. Julian Sass

Earlier in the year, a TikTok video featuring Dr Julian Sass, who has a PhD in cosmetic science, gained immense popularity as it uncovered the startling reality behind a sunscreen with an alleged SPF 45.

Prepare yourself for this revelation: thorough testing indicated that it might actually provide a mere SPF of 3.6!

However, this isn’t your typical beauty exposé. Dr Sass went above and beyond by conducting tests on the Clear Choice Sport Shield SPF 45, a sunscreen that boasts dermatologist approval and is predominantly available in spas and esthetician offices.

fake sunscreens

Credit: @drjuliansass/TikTok

First, the sunscreen’s unusually thin texture raises concerns. Additionally, the list of ingredients does not include essential elements found in mineral sunscreens, such as zinc oxide.

Next, the UV light examination reveals the truth — authentic sunscreen blocks UV rays and appears black when exposed to this light, whereas this Clear Choice product allows light to pass through.

Lastly, the conclusive evidence from in-vitro lab testing deals the final blow. In comparison to genuine sunscreens, this counterfeit “SPF 45” provides a meagre one-third of the protection, and is solely against UVB rays!

Related read: Can SPF Foundations Replace Sunscreens in Skincare? Beauty Blogger Answers This Question Using UV Cameras

fake sunscreens

Credit: @drjuliansass/TikTok

Dr Sass suspects it lacks broad-spectrum protection (meaning no defence against UVA rays, which contribute to ageing and cancer).

Shockingly, he suggests the label’s sun-shielding ingredients might be entirely fabricated.

Regrettably, this is not an uncommon occurrence. The internet is flooded with counterfeit skincare products, and Korean beauty items are particularly vulnerable to such scams. Despite being renowned for their innovative sunscreens, K-beauty products ironically attract a high number of counterfeiters.

According to a 2018 report by Consumer Reports, 24 out of 73 tested sun protection products had an SPF number that was less than half of what was stated on the label.

Around three years ago, there was a controversy surrounding Korean sunscreens, often referred to as the “Korean sunscreen controversy” or the “Korean sunscreen saga.” During this time, a few K-beauty sunscreens faced scrutiny for falsely claiming a significantly higher SPF than they actually provided.

fake sunscreens

Credit: Heliocare

In October 2022, a man fell victim to buying a fake Biore UV Aqua Rich Essence on Shopee.

Late last year, Heliocare released a report comparing its real product to a fake sunscreen after the news broke out that counterfeit Heliocare sunscreens were being detected on the market.

Related read: Do Your Hair and Scalp Need Sunscreen Too? We Checked in With a Dermatologist to Find Out

The Alarming Increase in Fake Sunscreens

So, how did these counterfeits wiggle their way into our skincare routine and how are fake sunscreens pulling the wool over our eyes?


Excited to try Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun SPF 50+ PA++++, renowned for its elegant texture, hydrating formula and invisible finish…. That’s NOT aligning with this experience. But SO MANY PEOPLE, including some I know and trust, can’t ALL be wrong. Something is amiss. Stay tuned for PART 2. #SkinTok #SkinCare #koreanskincare #kbeauty #sunscreen #sunscreenviral #beautyofjoseon #counterfeit #korean_skincare #Beautygeeks

♬ X’s files parody _1 minute loop(1079525) – KeySets

Janine Falcon, a renowned beauty blogger and former Beauty Editor known as Beauty Geek, found herself unknowingly jeopardising her skin.

Tempted by an unbelievably low price, she fell into the trap of purchasing a counterfeit variant of the highly sought-after Korean sunscreen, the “Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun Rice and Probiotics SPF50 PA++++.”

“The seller even had the same brand photos. I had heard rumours of counterfeit products being sold online, but I told myself that they wouldn’t be able to do that with sunscreen, surely,” she shared with Refinery29.

Things took a frightening turn as soon as she started using the product. The signs of trouble were evident right away. The counterfeit sunscreen felt heavy and powdery, refusing to blend in.

The seal, supposedly tamper-proof, came off without any effort, signalling a serious issue.

Thankfully, Falcon had not cancelled her initial purchase from a trusted vendor. A comparison between the two products highlighted significant distinctions. The authentic sunscreen was a silky, lightweight cream that soaked in effortlessly.


PART 4 in this fake Beauty of Joseon SPF 50 PA++++ saga… Yes, ANOTHER COUNTERFEIT from, plus tips on buying legit @Beauty of Joseon skincare online safely. Refund for THIS fake via was prompt and accompanied by “We are sorry we disappointed you.” 😑 Up next: how to get your refund from Amazon even if the third-party seller lies, becomes difficult – or the product page disappears before you realize you got a counterfeit… #SkinTok #SkinCare #koreanskincare #sunscreenviral #sunscreen #counterfeit #BuyerBeware #beautyofjoseon #Beautygeeks

♬ original sound – Beautygeeks SHE/HER

The imitation appeared low-cost, featuring an aluminium-like finish rather than plastic. Pressing the tube resulted in dents, and there was no clear expiration date.

These minor inconsistencies complicate the detection of counterfeit products. Fraudsters frequently replicate brand visuals, and glowing seller feedback can be deceptive.

Fortunately, companies like Beauty of Joseon are taking action. They’ve integrated QR codes into their packaging for buyers to authenticate products.

Round Lab, a prominent K-beauty brand, has encountered similar issues with their popular “Birch Juice Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF50+PA++++.”

Their website now includes an “authenticity page” to assist customers in spotting fakes. The variances are often subtle — a different font, lack of spacing — easily mistaken for printing mistakes.

Related read: Shocking Photos That Prove Sunscreen Should Be Your New Best Friend

A Risky Gamble with Your Skin


Replying to @ꫝꪖ𝕣𝕥ⅈꪀⅈꫀ ᥇𝕛 in this video ill share the side efgects of what will happen if someone uses fake sunscreen. #fakesunscreen #fake #sunscreen #spf #danger #sunprotection #pigmentation

♬ original sound – SoapLab Malaysia – SoapLab Malaysia

Counterfeit sunscreens may appear to be a good deal, but the consequences are too significant to overlook.

The American Academy of Dermatology issues a strong caution that fake sunscreen can result in various problems, such as skin damage, sunburns, premature ageing, and, most importantly, an elevated risk of skin cancer.

The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays in two primary forms: UVA and UVB. Both can harm your skin but in different ways.

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin, contributing to wrinkles and premature ageing. UVB rays cause sunburns and harm the surface layers of the skin. What’s worse, both UVA and UVB rays can heighten your chances of developing skin cancer.

The absence of adequate UV protection in these counterfeit products exposes your skin to the sun’s harmful rays, completely defeating the purpose of using sunscreen.


should i buy some fake products and make this a series? @Beauty of Joseon pls send help! #kbeauty #beautyofjoseonsunscreen #fakeskincareproducts #scam #koreanskincare #counterfeitskincare

♬ 3D (feat. Jack Harlow) – Jung Kook & Jack Harlow

  • Increased skin cancer risk: UV rays from sunlight are a major cause of skin cancer. Real sunscreen protects against these rays, but a fake with no SPF leaves your skin vulnerable. This raises your chances of developing basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or even melanoma, the deadliest form.
  • Ineffective ingredients: You can’t rely on the label of a counterfeit product. It may contain cheap, ineffective ingredients or even harmful ones that irritate your skin.
  • False sense of security: Applying a fake sunscreen gives you a false sense of security. You think you’re protected, but you’re not. This can lead to sunburn and premature ageing.

Related read: This Colour-Changing Sunscreen Is In Every Beauty Creator’s Haul These Days

How to Spot Fake Sunscreens

Recognising fake sunscreen is essential for protecting your skin.


Make sure to look at the details of the listing! Check the attached video to learn more! #roundlab #roundlabsunscreen #fakeroundlab #fakekbeauty #koreanskincare #kbeauty @David🌘

♬ Creepy and simple horror background music(1070744) – howlingindicator

Here are some key indicators to help you identify authentic products:

  • Trustworthy sources: Purchase sunscreen from reputable retailers and official brand websites.
  • Beware of low prices: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious of significantly discounted prices and products sold by unverified sellers.
  • Inspect the label: Check the packaging for any misspellings, faded colours, or irregular fonts. Authentic sunscreens have clear, professionally designed labels.
  • Look for certifications: Seek out recognised certifications like BPOM approval or similar regulatory endorsements specific to your region. Some brands use QR codes or authenticity checks on their packaging.
  • Texture and scent: Genuine sunscreens typically have a consistent texture and scent. Be wary of products with unusual textures or smells.

By staying vigilant against counterfeit tactics and utilising brand-provided resources, we can safeguard ourselves and ensure we’re getting the authentic sun protection we need.

Related read: These UV Stickers Inform You When You Need to Reapply Your Suncreen

What to Do When Shopping for Sunscreens (Your Skin’s Best Friend)

fake sunscreens

Credit: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

When it comes to sun protection, sunscreen is your best friend. But not all sunscreens are created equal!

Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and it tells you how well the sunscreen protects against UVB rays.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50 blocks about 98% of UVB rays
  • SPF 100 blocks about 99% of UVB rays

It’s crucial to prioritize our skin over saving a few dollars. Protecting against UVA rays is just as important as using SPF, as they are the main cause of sun-induced ageing.

Remember, the lower the SPF, the greater the risk of hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. Be sure to buy sunscreen from reputable sources to ensure authenticity.

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Featured image credit: @drjuliansass/TikTok, @janinefalcon/TikTok, @davidzolanski/TikTok