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The best defense in sun protection is a good offense—that means sunscreen, every day, all the time. But we all have days when we miss a spot, and that’s where after sun lotion comes in. So if you spent more time in the water than expected and ended up with a burn that’s more than enough reminder to be careful next time, an after sun lotion is your new best friend.
While aloe vera gel is still the traditional remedy for any type of mild burn plenty of formulas mix aloe with other powerful moisturizing ingredients to calm your burn and get your skin back on track as fast as possible. They’re available in sprays, mists, serums, lotions, creams, and gels—but the right formula can actually vary quite a bit depending on where your burn is and what your skin’s needs are. So check out our recommendations below and pick up a few for your beach bag along with some sunscreen—the sooner you get started healing a sunburn, the better your skin will look and feel.
Best Overall: Burt’s Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother
This accessible favorite is available in both drugstores and specialty retailers, and it’s all-natural formula packs a serious punch. Unlike with some beauty products, the natural power of aloe vera actually is the most effective over-the-counter treatment for healing burns, so a natural product is actually the best option. Coconut oil also helps the skin to retain moisture and heal quickly after sun exposure without being greasy or sticky, and the soft tube is the perfect size to toss into your bag to reapply regularly and keep the healing going.
Best Budget: Vaseline Intensive Care Body Lotion Aloe Soothe
Dermatologists generally recommend a lotion formula after a burn, because it goes on easily and smoothly—the last thing you want to do to already-damaged skin is tug on it as you apply a heavy cream. This fast-absorbing lotion starts soothing skin from the first application, and it’s sulfate-free to make sure it’s completely non-drying. Reviewers are super loyal to the lightweight formula, praising the light scent and refreshing feeling as it goes on the skin.
Best for Sunburn: Sun Bum Cool Down Hydrating After Sun Lotion
If you tend to burn and then peel after sun exposure, an after sun lotion is a must, and this one from sun care specialists Sun Bum is a beach & pool essential. Key ingredients include Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and aloe vera to soothe burned skin and work with the sun’s rays to help repair it. Cooling cucumber extract locks water into the skin and prevents moisture loss, which is the key to preventing peeling to extend your tan and protect the delicate exposed skin injured by any burns. Cocoa butter, known for its deep moisturizing power, helps to further soften and protect skin irritated by the sun’s rays. And yes, if you’re wondering, it smells like summer in a bottle.
Best for Face: Coola ER+ Radical Recovery After Sun Lotion
Ingredients that make for great body products, like coconut oil, can be really tough on your face, so finding something specifically formulated for your more delicate skin is key. Layered under your regular moisturizer (and of course, a sunscreen!) a few applications in the days after a burn are key to saving face, and it’s particularly effective when used overnight.
Coola uses agave's natural moisture binding mechanisms for hydration and collagen synthesis, while aloe and sunflower oil help the formula to rub in well without being greasy. The formula is non-comedogenic, which means that it doesn’t cause zits, and while the tube may be pricey, a little goes a long way—it works so fast, one bottle should last the whole summer, if not longer.
Best Aloe Vera: Banana Boat Soothing Aloe After Sun Gel
Sometimes, it’s just easiest to admit that mom knew best and slather on a good coating of aloe vera when you’ve gotten yourself burned. You probably had this exact same bottle in your childhood beach bag, and for good reason—aloe is the gold-standard ingredient for treating mild burns, and this package isn’t complicated by too many additions.
Aloe pulp (the naturally clear gel-like substance found inside the leaves of the aloe plant) is water-rich, soothing, and hydrating to the skin, and advocates say it cures all kinds of burns, rashes, itching, and irritation. So if you want the simplest possible solution, this is a great place to start. Buying aloe in cosmetic products can actually be a bit safer and better for your skin than going directly from the plant, as some varieties of aloe are less friendly to the skin.
Best Natural: Alba Organics Hawaiian After-Sun Lotion
Alba Organics uses 72% Certified Organic ingredients in this after-sun lotion, designed to help neutralize free-radical damage due to sun over-exposure. The brand says that the natural acids in coffee soften skin and revitalize circulation, while vitamin E and tropical emollients from macadamia and kukui oils hydrate and nourish for healthy, radiant skin.
Reviewers say that the gentle coffee scent smells natural and refreshing, and isn’t too intense or long-lasting—and the caffeine in the coffee and green tea ingredients help promote good circulation, leading to faster healing.
Best for Body: La Mer After Sun Enhancer
This luxurious cooling gel uses two different proprietary La Mer ingredients—their signature Miracle Broth and their Golden Algae Ferment—to cool your skin after sun exposure and moisturize deep down to preserve and protect your skin. Blending those with classic moisturizing elements like shea butter and sweet almond oil gives it a silky smooth texture that leaves skin with a rich, golden tone.
Thanks to a tiny bit of sparkle in the formula, if you happen to have gotten a little sun, reviewers swear that it not only immediately deepens your tan by neutralizing and calming initial redness, it prevents peeling and with continued use actually helps your tan to last longer. While the price point is significant, the bottle is a generous 6.7 ounces and lasts a full season, if not longer, depending on how frequently you’re out in the sun. Enjoy the heavenly scent on your next beach trip—it’ll help you make the most of your sun-worshipping moments.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular after sun lotions on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 50 different lotions overall, screened options from 35 different brands and manufacturers, read over 40 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 4 of the lotions themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.