Biore, Shiseido, Nivea, Sun Bears–those are some of the frequently mentioned brands when the topic of Japanese sunscreens come up in Asian beauty circles.
Solanoveil was new to me when I spotted it on Ratzilla Cosme, as a Best Pick no less! So I took a chance and ordered a bottle–sparking a loyalty to the brand that’s still going strong as multiple repurchases can confirm.
In the last year, I’ve tried both Solanoveil Watery Essence and Solanoveil Watery Gel (Ratzilla’s Best Pick), so this post reviews and compares the two. For reference, my skin is normal in the summer, dry and flaky in the winter, and I always wear foundation on top (mineral powder or cushion compact).
- SPF 50+
- PA++++ (i.e., highest rating in Japan for UVA protection)
- Smooth-wearing under makeup (no pilling)
- About $10 on Amazon with free shipping from Japan (takes a couple of weeks)
Solanoveil Watery Essence Review
Sunscreen Filters: Chemical (see full ingredients list on Ratzilla)
Consistency: Medium-weight cream, just like moisturizer. It feels wet, watery, and slippery as you massage it in. It doesn’t smooth out skin texture as well as Solanoveil Watery Gel does.
Finish: SO SHINY. Shine is covered up if I apply powder, but it shines through cushion foundation, turning ordinary cushions into dewy heaven!
Why I Like It: True to its “moisturizing effect” claim, this product is the closest I’ve ever found to the Western moisturizer+SPF all-in-ones that I used to use before switching to Japanese sunscreens. I’ve tried a few “moisturizing” Japanese sunscreens–50 Megumi, Shiseido Senka Mineral, Sunkiller Perfect Strong Moisture, Nivea Skin UV Cream–but they still required moisturizer (although the Nivea (discontinued) was pretty darn close).
But Solanoveil Watery Essence is the only one that actually moisturizes enough that I’m able to skip moisturizer if I want. (As insurance, I still use moisturizer on my driest spots, such as around the inner cheeks, and I’d probably still do a light layer in the winter.) Interestingly, alcohol is the second ingredient, but this moisturizes much better than some alcohol-free sunscreens–just further proof that ingredients can only tell you so much.
Why It Isn’t For Everyone: Wearing this without some makeup on top is out of the question. The blinding wet shine never really dries down, similar to the shininess of (discontinued) Hada Labo Creamy UV Gel, which I hated and which keeps Solanoveil Watery Essence from qualifying as HG.
Then why is this my current go-to sunscreen that I’ve bought backups of? Because the shine is accompanied by moisture. Hada Labo was shiny without actually moisturizing…even drying me out a little. And the shine’s nothing translucent powder can’t fix.
Solanoveil Watery Gel Review
Sunscreen Filters: Chemical and physical (see full ingredients on Ratzilla)
Consistency: A thin, creamy lotion–thinner and more liquidy than Solanoveil Watery Essence but thicker and heavier than a sunscreen milk. Shake before applying. Feels super oily and siliconey as you massage it in.
Finish: Initially shiny, but let it dry down for 5+ minutes. Then the finish is soft and satiny (shinier depending on the underlying skincare, such as a shiny moisturizer). True to its “extra smooth” claim, once dry, Solanoveil Watery Gel feels like an insanely smooth and cushy primer. No white flash even though it has zinc oxide; I’m guessing the amount of zinc oxide is relatively low compared to a sunscreen that uses solely physical filters.
Why I Like It: This is the only sunscreen where I’ve been able to wear a full 1/4-teaspoon without sucking the moisture out of my skin, making me shinier than a disco ball, pilling, or leaving a gummy/tacky feel that messes with makeup. I can’t skip moisturizer though.
Note: not all watery gels are created equal. Biore Watery Gel is thicker and creamier and dries down with a slightly drier feel. It also dries out my skin, especially under makeup. But it more reliably dries down to a dry-satin finish, making it a good choice if you don’t wear makeup.
Why It Isn’t For Everyone: Despite using this for a year and it being the best Japanese sunscreen overall that I’ve tried to date, it never became my HG because I sometimes still get some dry flakes and because it sometimes dries shinier than expected (moisturizer and humidity really affect it).
Comparison of Solanoveil Watery Essence vs. Watery Gel
I like both because of how well they work with makeup, but there are noticeable differences when wearing cushion foundation on top. (Mineral powder foundation looks pretty much the same with both products.)
Here’s how they look underneath the same cushion (Holika Holika x Gudetama Cushion in No. 23, which runs lighter than other No. 23s and is akin to MAC NW15-20, a bit pinker than my natural skin). The moisturizing Watery Essence makes the cushion look very glowy whereas the primer-like Watery Gel makes for a more natural, skin-like finish.
So which one do I like more? I reach for the Essence over the Gel because I like the dewy look (and have a higher tolerance for shininess than most people, ahem, Renee) and because the moisture is welcome for my normal-to-dry skin. However, I admit that all that shine is an…acquired…taste, and the Gel probably holds wider appeal.
I started off with the Gel originally and used it for a year before taking a chance on the Essence, and now I use the Essence more frequently! Sort of like dating a guy and then leaving him for his brother. C’est la vie!