2017 vs 2015 Biore Watery Rich Aqua Gel and Essence: Comparison Review & What Sunscreens You Should Use Instead

Biore recently reformulated the widely beloved Biore Aqua Rich watery Essence and Biore Aqua Rich Watery Gel released in 2015. I’ve been using the 2017 versions of the essence and gel for a few weeks now and wanted to summarize my thoughts along with answers to questions I’ve been asked about the new formulations all in one spot. This is kind of a text heavy post, so here’s a table of contents if you’re only interested in specific information:

In this post:

2015 Watery Essence vs 2017 Watery Essence

I need to come clean about something before we begin – I’ve gone through at least half a dozen tubes of the normal (citrus scented) 2015 Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence since its release, but I finished my last tube of it a good six months ago and haven’t repurchased. More recently, I’ve been using the limited edition rose-scented version, but to my knowledge the two sunscreens are identical in everything except scent (someone correct me if I’m wrong). Also, for purposes of this review I went out and bought a 15ml baby tube of the 2015 essence. LOOK HOW CUTE IT IS! The formula in the baby tube feels the same to what I remember the original version to be, so I will be using that to jog my memory and also for comparison pictures.

Ingredient Similarities and Differences

UV filters in the 2015 essence and  2017 essence are the same. They are:

Differences are entirely with the inactive ingredients in the sunscreen. Here are the ingredients that are different from one formulation to the other. The differences presumably make this sunscreen water and sweat resistant.

  • Unique to 2015 essence formulation: trisiloxane, potassium hydroxide, carbomer, PEG-400, PEG-50 hydrogenated castor oil triisostearate, PEG-3 castor oil
  • Unique to 2017 essence formulation: silica dimethyl silylate, dipropylene glycol, dimethicone / vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, aminomethyl propanol, isoceteth-20

Performance Similarities and Differences

I’ve been using the 2017 Biore essence on and off for almost 4 weeks. Here are my observations, in no particular order:

  • Out of the tube, the 2017 watery essence is noticeably stickier and thicker, which make it slightly more cumbersome to apply and takes longer to dry. I sometimes notice the 2017 essence will sometimes start to dry and thicken before I can distribute it evenly on my face, which is slightly annoying. It’s very arid where I live though, especially when it’s cold, so I wonder if that’s partially to blame


2015 Essence swatched on the left. 2017 on the right. The 2015 essence is a little more white in color but otherwise, they look very similar. The 2017 essence is definitely stickier, but capturing that on camera is challenging.


  • I would caution against using this sunscreen for extended outdoor use. I wore this sunscreen to Disneyland on a cloudy day and came back visibly more tan. A friend of mine wore this while hiking in the desert and came back with a pretty severe sunburn
  • I have dry skin and do not find the new formulation to be more moisturizing or drying – the 2017 version is thicker but also more mattifying. The 2017 version is less shiny on my skin, which I think is a positive
  • Both the 2015 and 2017 sunscreens leave a distinct silicone feel on my skin after application, but the feeling lingers more for the 2017 formulation than the 2015. Also, due to the silicone content, I find both versions to be extremely difficult to reapply in adequate amounts due to the silicone content (2mg of sunscreen per cm3 of skin) without first washing off the previous application of sunscreen, which is another reason why I would not use this sunscreen if I plan on spending a prolonged amount of time outdoors
  • For me, the biggest issue with the 2017 version for me is that it irritates my eyes. I’ve had this issue with various other sunscreens (ie Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel was the worst – the 2017 Biore isn’t nearly as bad as that), but this was not an issue I had with the 2015 version. This probably won’t be an issue for most people, but if you have sensitive eyes, grab a tube and test this out before buying too many

To summarize, the 2017 formulation of the essence is a noticeable step down in terms of cosmetic elegance, which is particularly annoying because it is still very much an “indoor” sunscreen despite the efforts to make it sweat and waterproof. That said, I don’t hate the 2017 version and find it very serviceable for every day use. It’s a bit stickier than the previous version, but still has the appreciable lightness and easy finish that Japanese sunscreens are known for. My feelings towards this reformulation are akin to my feelings about the 2003 McNuggets reformulation – the all white meat McNuggets are definitely not as good as the original McNuggets, and every once in awhile the memory of the McNuggets from the good old days makes me sad, but I still eat a lot of McNuggets because I still like them. With the 2017 essence, I don’t have plans to repurchase (I also wouldn’t repurchase the 2015 essence though, to be fair) but if someone handed me a tube I’d happily use it up.

2017 Biore Watery Rich Aqua Essence Overall Rating: 3.7/5

Where to Purchase the 2017 Biore Watery Rich Aqua Essence

I purchased my tube of the 2017 Biore Watery Rich Aqua Essence from Amazon JP, but it seems like Amazon JP is no longer shipping it internationally due to the alcohol content. It is also available on Amazon US, Ebay, or Rakuten. You can also try searching “ビオレUV アクアリッチウォータリーエッセンス” on other Japanese sites.

2015 Watery Gel vs 2017 Watery Gel

I mentioned in my comparison review of the 2015 essence and gel that I prefer the gel, so whereas I was fairly calm about the essence being reformulated I was much more anxious to see what they did with the gel. Spoilers: the new version sucks.

Ingredient Similarities and Differences

UV filters in the 2015 gel and  2017 gel are the same but the order is different. Titanium dioxide is the 5th UV filter listed (ie lowest concentration) in the 2015 formulation but in the 2017 formulation, it is the second UV filter listed. This is probably why the white cast is so much more prominent in the 2017 version. All filters included are:

There are only a handful of differences in inactive ingredients:

  • Unique to 2015 essence formulation: polymethylsilsesquioxane
  • Unique to 2017 essence formulation: hydrated silica, vinyl dimethicone / methicone silsesquioxane crosspolymer, triethoxycaprylysilane, C4-14 Perfluoroalkylethoxy Dimethicone

Performance Similarities and Differences

I’ve gone through probably 15+ tubes of the 2015 gel. It was my go-to sunscreen for a very long time. I received the 2017 gel a month ago and have used it 5 times, which admittedly is not very many, but I really do not like it. Here are my impressions:

  • What I liked so much about the 2015 gel is how fluid it was. I could pour some into my hand and pat it all over my face more quickly than I could with the essence. The 2017 gel feels like a coagulated version of the 2015 gel. It’s dense, stickier, more prone to pilling/flaking, and just overall not nearly as nice
  • The 2015 essence gel was functionally white-cast free. The 2017 essence leaves a noticeable cast. After a few minutes, this white cast does seem to fade but doesn’t completely disappear on my NC25-30 arm

On my forearm, the 2015 Biore Aqua Rich Watery Gel is on left and 2017 is on right. As you can see, the texture of the 2017 gel is thicker and whiter than the 2015 gel, and leaves a white cast that is very noticeable at first, fades, but is ultimately still a little noticeable.

This is not the worst sunscreen and part of me feels like I’m being extra-critical of the 2017 gel because I was so attached to the 2015 version, but I’ll put it to you like this: I find the 2017 gel to be less pleasant to use than the Japanese sports-sunscreens I’ve tried, namely Sun Bears Super Strong Plus and Sunplay Superblock (neither of which budge, even after soak in a swimming pool for an hour, btw) while offering inferior protection. Therefore, I just don’t see the point of the 2017 gel and do not see a scenario where I would ever want to use it.

2017 Biore Watery Rich Aqua Gel Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Where to Purchase the 2017 Biore Watery Rich Aqua Gel

I purchased my tube of the 2017 Biore Watery Rich Aqua Gel from Amazon JP, but Amazon JP is no longer shipping it internationally due to the alcohol content. It is also available on Amazon USEbay, or Rakuten. You can also try searching “ビオレ UV アクアリッチ ウォータリージェル” on other Japanese sites.

Sunscreens I Like Better Than the 2017 Essence and Gel

Generally speaking, water and sweat resistance is a move in the right direction, but with these 2017 releases Biore seems to have compromised the skin-feel of these sunscreens without adding much function because they are still not robust enough to use for outdoors, water-heavy, or sweat-heavy activities. With the essence, I feel like the reformulation is inconvenient but not a definite deal breaker. If you enjoyed the 2015 version, there’s a good chance you can learn to enjoy the 2017 version after an initial adjustment period. The gel on the other hand no longer possess any of the qualities that made it a pleasant to use sunscreen in the first place.

If you are disappointed by the reformulations and are at a loss of what sunscreens to use next, I have more than a few suggestions, all very affordable, relatively easy to purchase, SPF50+ PA++++ of course!

2017 Biore Essence on the left. Alternative sunscreens, organized L-R in my personal order of preference, on the right.

Nivea Sun Protect Plus Milky Essence SPF50+ PA++++

  • Water, sweat, and sebum resistant
  • UV Filters: Octinoxate, Zinc Oxide, Tinosorb S, Uvinul A Plus, Uvinul T 150
  • Fragrance free
  • Available on Amazon US, Rakuten, Ebay

This has been my favorite and most regularly used sunscreen for awhile. This sunscreen is versatile enough to use year round – I have dry skin and don’t find it drying at all, even during winter. Meanwhile @thebeautyimprint (who gets credit for putting this sunscreen on my radar in the first place) has oily skin and has mentioned that she finds it mattifying, especially during summer. The one negative is doesn’t dry as lighting-fast as the 2015 Biore Aqua Rich sunscreens, but it does contain enough alcohol to dry in a respectable amount of time. The texture is more creamy, less silicone-y, yet it still looks fantastic under makeup and is less prone to pillage than any other sunscreen I’ve used. While it does leave a white sheen initially, it fades once the sunscreen absorbs (in the swatch above, I couldn’t even capture it). Did I mention it’s cheap and readily available? I see it on amazon for <$8 pretty regularly but would be happy to pay much more if I needed to. I don’t like using the term HG because I get bored of things too easily to proclaim that kind of devotion, but this has been my go-to and favorite sunscreen for a few months and the love is only growing stronger.

Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV SPF50+ PA++++

  • Not water, sweat, or sebum resistant
  • UV Filters: Octinoxate, Uvinul A Plus, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Tinosorb S
  • Fragrance free
  • Available on Beautius, Amazon US, Ebay, and Rakuten

I reviewed this in full here so I’ll keep this short. The light, weightless, gel texture of this is pretty similar to the 2015 Watery essence. It’s silicone based but the finish feels less silicone-y than the Biore essence. No white cast, despite the zinc oxide content. One downside (or upside, if you’re anti-alcohol) is that this is alcohol-free, which means you’ll have to give it a good 5-10 minutes to dry, but otherwise, this is a really lovely sunscreen.

Country & Stream UV Honey Gel SPF50+ PA++++

  • Not water, sweat, or sebum resistant
  • UV Filters: Octinoxate, Uvinul A Plus, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Tinosorb S
  • Medium-intensity honey scent
  • Available on Yesstyle

This is almost identical to the Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel but dries faster (positive) and with an added honey fragrance (negative, IMO). I’ve read this was a limited edition release last year, but I’ve also seen it coming back in stock on a few Japanese sites so maybe it’s becoming a permanent edition? Might be a good idea to stock up if you end up liking this.

Skin Aqua Super Moisture Gel SPF50+ PA++++

  • Sebum resistant
  • UV Filters: UV filters: Octinoxate, Uvinul A Plus, Tinosorb S, Uvinul T 150
  • No fragrance added
  • Available on Amazon US, Rakuten, and Ebay

Reviewed in full here. This has the texture of a semi-creamy but very fluid gel. Compared to the Biore Aqua Rich Watery Gel and Nivea Sun Protect Watery Gel, I would say this sunscreen is a tiny bit thicker but still thinner than an essence-type sunscreen would be. It’s completely white cast free and glides easily over skin but is a little sticky, although not any stickier than the reformulated Biores.

Hope this is helpful. Happy sunscreen adventures!

Disclaimer: All products featured in this post were purchased by me. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing an item through an affiliate link does not add any cost to the customer but does help support this site’s upkeep.

31 thoughts on “2017 vs 2015 Biore Watery Rich Aqua Gel and Essence: Comparison Review & What Sunscreens You Should Use Instead

  1. choronghi says:

    I will say that Nivea sunscreen you mention is very tenacious since it’s sweatproof/resistent(?) but it makes my face very shiney. Is that person serious about it being matifying?? Maybe he or she is confusing it with something else or not applying enough or I’m applying way too much?

    Liked by 1 person

    • V. Rex says:

      It actually makes my face shiny too (most Japanese sunscreens do), but the shine fades pretty quickly on my (dry) skin. I wonder if maybe it’s a climate/humidity issue in addition to a skin type thing?


  2. BeautyandtheCat | Angela & Renee says:

    Thanks for the detailed review. The McNugget analogy was the best. 💜 I totally get what you mean. I have never tried the 2015 Essence (only the Gel) but have the rose version of the 2015 Essence coming my way. It’s heartening to hear that the 2017 may look drier/powderier but doesn’t dry out skin more. That said, I think I have drier skin because the Gel dried me out with regular use 😕 Do you switch your sunscreen depending on the season? -Angela

    Liked by 1 person

    • V. Rex says:

      I do! The sunscreens that have been on heaviest rotation this winter are the Nivea sun Protect plus, mommy UV Mild Gel, and country & stream UV honey water. The latter two are lower SPF so I only use them during winter, and the Nivea suits me better for winter than either of the Biores since I find it to be more moisturizing. In summer I usually want something that dries as quickly as possible, which is why the 2015 gel was so nice.
      The texture is a step down, but I’m cautiously optimistic about the 2017 essence because I would love a less “dewy” sunscreen option!


  3. Michelle says:

    I honestly wish the Canmake sunscreen came in a bigger tube like over 80g because I love it, but the tube is too damn small lol. Like the length of the tube is a little smaller than my hand.


  4. azuquitar7 says:

    Having so much trouble finding an inexpensive sunscreen that is coral reef safe and free of white cast. I will definitely try the Nivea one though, waterproof and great price!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. cenedraa8 says:

    Thanks for your review! I just going to buy more when I noticed there was a new bottle look
    Is there a shelf life to it? (I had this old Aveeno one I was using and the oil separated from the cream). I’m only asking cause you said you have been using the old type for years!

    I was planning on stocking up on the 2015 version =)


  6. jessicowblog says:

    Thank you for your review and for including the amazon link! I ordered the nivea sunscreen- cant wait to get it. I am wondering though, what products do you recommend for protecting lips? Ive been looking for lip balms with Tinosorb in them, and havent been able to find one. I found some European products that wont ship to the US.

    Liked by 1 person

    • V. Rex says:

      I have these sunsticks for sensitive areas from European brands. La Roche posay has one, as does uriage and bioderma. They’re not as cosmetically elegant as a designated lip product but they’re perfect for keeping in my purse. I get mine from caretobeauty.com, which is based in Portugal but ships internationally! They also have tons of other euro sunscreen products too.


  7. Katerina says:

    Have you tried any of the sun milks from Missha? There are new versions available now with ++++.
    On the scale of shininess how would you put the sunscreens from your post? Or maybe include some others)))

    Liked by 1 person

    • V. Rex says:

      I haven’t tried any of the Missha sunscreens, unfortunately. All of these sunscreens here are on the shiny side. Nivea has a sun protect skin UV cream that’s probably the least shiny of the sunscreens I use.


  8. Sairah Bashir says:

    This was incredibly helpful and detailed, thank you! I’m going to try out the Nivea one you recommended. I thought the Biore had just gotten a new look not a reformulation; I agree it’s noticeably stickier.


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