Disclaimer: While this is an article about the best after-sun products, it would be bad beauty behavior of us to not first preach the importance of daily sun protection. UV damage is no joke, and it’s essential to wear broad-spectrum coverage every single day, rain, hail, or shine.
But we get that things happen, so if you have accidentally gotten a little too much sun—or maybe it’s just hot out, and you want some sweet relief—we’re here with some of the very best after-sun products to have you feeling cool, calm and nourished.
“When caring for the skin after sun exposure, I recommend soothing, nutrient-rich ingredients like aloe vera, cucumber, or hyaluronic acid,” says aesthetician Melanie Grant. “My advice is to apply a cool compress, drink plenty of fluids, and apply a lightweight fluid or lotion rich in humectants, plant oils, and antioxidants.”
We conducted hours of research on the best after-sun products, evaluating each on scent and how well they soothe and hydrate. After consulting with a board-certified dermatologist and an aesthetician, and considering dozens of options, we landed on the following picks.
Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After-Sun Soother
Provides antioxidant protection
Scent may be overpowering for some
The hero ingredient in this iconic Burt’s Bees formula is aloe vera, a plant extract that’s proven to assist with skin healing post-burn. There’s also coconut oil to help with moisture retention, adding a tropical scent. Both clean and cruelty-free, this affordable lotion is an effective option for sunburnt skin that’s equally pleasant to use. A big win in our books!
Price at time of publish: $10
Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Aloe, coconut oil | Scent: Floral | Size: 6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Lotion
Takes a while to absorb
This ever-popular lotion from Sun Bum also champions aloe vera for accelerated skin healing, plus cucumber to calm and reduce swelling. Despite the fact it’s a lotion, it also serves up some pretty impressive hydration, likely thanks to the inclusion of cocoa butter and jojoba oil. While it is designed for use post-sun exposure to help soothe discomfort associated with sunburn, we’d happily use it as our summer body moisturizer, too!
Price at time of publish: $12
Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Aloe, vitamin E, cocoa butter | Scent: Coconut | Size: 3 fl. oz. or 8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Hawaiian Tropic Lime Colada After Sun Moisturizer
Scent may be overpowering for some
A drugstore classic, Hawaiian Tropic has long been associated with all things sun exposure (if you haven’t tried their sunscreens, you’re missing out). We especially love the Lime Colada After Sun Moisturizer as it’s refreshing and enriched with vitamins and aloe vera—plus, it smells like a cocktail!
Price at time of publish: $8
Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Shea butter, cocoa butter, aloe vera | Scent: Lime coolada | Size: 16 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Sisley Paris After-Sun Care Tan Extender
Helps prolong tan
Can stain hands
If you favor luxury beauty, you’ll be a big fan of Sisley’s After-Sun Care Tan Extender. The milky lotion is packed with aloe vera to care for skin that’s had a little too much sun, plus plant-based glycerin, shea butter, and vitamin E to improve hydration. As a bonus, there’s also a small amount of DHA (the active ingredient in self-tanners) to build a light, bronzed tint as well.
Price at time of publish: $200
Type: Cream | Active Ingredients: Andiroba oil, alpha-bisabolol, shea butter, stevia leaf extract, plant glycerin, alkekengi calyx, vitamin E acetate | Size: 6.76 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Face and Body
Coola Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion
Could be more hydrating
If you’re looking for a formula you can use on both your face and body, look no further than Coola’s Radical Recovery Organic Lotion. Not only does it have a feather-light texture that’s easily absorbed, but it’s also bolstered with fatty acids via the inclusion of sunflower oil to lock in moisture (without contributing to breakouts). The inclusion of essential oils also gives it a wonderful scent, too.
Price at time of publish: $32
Type: Lotion | Active Ingredients: Organic agave, aloe vera, rosemary extract, lavender oil, sunflower oil, sweet orange oil, mandarin peel, cedarwood | Scent: Lavender | Size: 5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Face
Osea Atmosphere Protection Cream
Great for the face
Replenishes skin barrier
Provides antioxidant protection
Could be more hydrating
“This lightweight moisturizer hydrates while providing barrier protection against the environment,” says Grant. “It’s rich in antioxidants and omega-rich oils, meaning it’s a great way to replenish delicate skin that’s seen too much sun.” Ideal for dry skin types, it can be used as either a dedicated treatment or as an everyday moisturizer underneath sunscreen and makeup.
Price at time of publish: $54
Type: Cream | Active Ingredients: Shea butter, macadamia oil, avocado seed oil, algae | Scent: Minimal | Size: 2 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Korres Greek Yoghurt Calming + Cooling Gel
Scent may be unappealing to some
Greek skincare brand Korres is a firm favorite of ours, and the Yoghurt Calming + Cooling Gel is no exception. The yogurt component means it’s rich in probiotics (which have been shown to bolster the skin microbiome, especially post-sun exposure), while the calendula helps soothe and replenish. Because it’s a gel, it’s quickly absorbed as well—a must if your skin is tender to touch.
Price at time of publish: $28
Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Greek yogurt, calendula, sweet almond oil | Size: 5.07 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin
Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream
Safe for very sensitive skin
Can use on face and body
Leaves a white cast
“This multi-purpose salve is rich in copper and zinc sulfate to prevent the risk of infection, and Avène’s signature thermal spring water to soothe and soften,” Grant tells us. “It’s such a versatile product to have on hand, especially if you’ve accidentally had too much sun and are experiencing blistering or peeling as a result,” she adds.
Thick and occlusive, this French pharmacy favorite is a great spot treatment for especially vulnerable skin that’s red, inflamed, or broken. Bonus: it’s also great on cuticles, angry pimples, minor cuts, and dry patches.
Price at time of publish: $28
Type: Cream | Active Ingredients: Zinc, copper sulfate, thermal spring water | Scent: None | Size: 1.3 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Augustinus Bader The Body Oil
While not specifically for skin that’s seen the sun, Grant can’t deny the restorative powers of this powerhouse body oil from Hollywood favorite-brand Augustinus Bader. “Deeply nutritive, this oil is full of plant-based actives like argan, olive oil, squalane, and TFC8 to minimize the look of cellulite, stretch marks, and pigmentation—useful if you’ve had too much UV exposure.”
With its silky texture and luminous finish, it’s also an absolute treat to use. If you can handle the eye-watering price tag, you will not regret it.
Price at time of publish: $31 for 1 oz
Type: Oil | Active Ingredients: TFC8, squalane, vitamin E, argan oil | Scent: Woody | Size: 3.38 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Daily Use
Topicals Like Butter Body Hydrating and Soothing Mist
Easy mist format
Could be longer-lasting
Body care brand Topicals is seriously buzzy right now, and we can see why. Like Butter specifically is a spray-on moisturizer rich in hyaluronic acid, centella asiatica, and niacinamide to give it serious skincare benefits. It’s dermatologist-tested and will assist with calming down the redness associated with sunburn. It’s also super hydrating but not sticky, making it a great everyday product for your body.
Price at time of publish: $30
Type: Oil | Active Ingredients: Centella asiatica, rhubarb, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid | Scent: None | Size: 3.4 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Banana Boat Soothing Aloe After Sun Gel
Bottle can leak
An OG summer skin savior, Banana Boat’s Soothing Aloe Vera Gel is simple, refreshing, and, best of all, affordable. It contains aloe vera extract to help with skin healing, while the bouncy gel texture feels extremely soothing, especially if it’s been refrigerated beforehand. It does, however, contain some alcohol, so keep it as a “sometimes” skin treatment as opposed to your daily moisturizer.
Price at time of publish: $9
Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Aloe vera | Scent: Sweet, fruity | Size: 8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel
No extra frills
When you have a sunburn, sometimes the most basic option is the best. This 99% aloe vera gel is an old standby for good reason: it cools skin, helps calm redness and inflammation, and just generally feels soothing. It basically has everything you want when your skin is scorched from a hot day in the sun. And with an organic formula and no filler ingredients, it's as pure as aloe vera comes. It also feels very light on the skin and never greasy.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Aloe vera | Scent: None | Size: 12 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best with Hydrocortisone
CeraVe Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream
If you have a really bad sunburn, you might need something other than a lotion to bring down the swelling and discomfort. Use this 1% hydrocortisone cream with ceramides on areas that need some extra relief. But be sure not to overuse it; the label states not to exceed three to four times daily. This particular formulation includes ceramides, niacinamide, and aloe vera, so it's particularly soothing and moisturizing for your skin. And in a pinch, it's a good thing it's readily available at drugstores.
Price at time of publish: $9
Type: Cream | Active Ingredients: 1% hydrocortisone | Scent: None | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
When it comes to products that provide sweet, sweet relief after getting too much sun, the Burt’s Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother checks all the boxes. It’s packed with skin-loving ingredients like aloe and coconut oil to soothe and rehydrate the skin, it boasts an all-natural formula, and it’s incredibly affordable. Another budget-friendly option that contains aloe and vitamin E and works well to rehydrate and soothe is Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Lotion. Our faces deserve the same attention as our bods, and the Coola Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion is another must. Its fatty acid-rich formula works hard to lock moisture back into the skin, plus it’s non-greasy and non-comedogenic, so you can trust that it won’t cause a breakout. And finally, because sprays are just as effective (and less messy) than lotions, we’re big fans of Everyday Humans No Problemo Pre & Post-Sun Water. It’s soothing, hydrating, and cooling, helping to quench and calm our sun-stressed skin.
Meet the Expert
• Melanie Grant is a skin expert and advanced esthetician with clinics in Los Angeles, Sydney, and Melbourne.
• Dr. Hadley King is a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology. She’s also a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
What to Look for in an After-Sun Product
Benefits Specific to Your Needs
Not all after-sun products are created equal, so you’ll want to shop for a formula that’ll address your specific needs. “Some are designed to soothe and moisturize skin that is dry and inflamed after UV exposure, whereas others contain self-tanners designed to provide you with lasting color,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. Classic soothing after-sun lotions are great options for relieving dryness and cooling the skin down after a day in the sun, but for a more intense sunburn, opt for products that contain burn-soothing ingredients like aloe. Hawaiian Tropic Lime Colada After Sun Moisturizer is one product that contains aloe and other hydrating ingredients.
An Antioxidant-Rich Formula
We touched on some of the key sunburn-soothing ingredients above, but Dr. King suggests looking for a product that’s also rich in antioxidants, as these will help neutralize free radicals from UV rays. Think: vitamins C and E. Augustinus Bader The Body Oil helps protect skin with squalane and vitamin E.
She also recommends products with DNA repair enzymes, which help to repair damage caused by UV rays. These may not be found in many after-sun products, but they’re ingredients to keep in mind for when your skin has calmed down.
If you’ve ever slathered yourself in pure aloe vera gel after getting too much sun, you’re well aware of just how uncomfortably sticky it can be (despite being, you know, incredibly soothing). There are plenty of products on the market that contain a high percentage of aloe vera in addition to ingredients that give the formula a much more comfortable texture. Lotions and creams, as well as sprays, tend to have a smoother feel and won’t leave behind as much residue as pure aloe. Topicals Like Butter Body Hydrating and Soothing Mist is a particularly lightweight option.
How long does after-sun lotion last?
If it’s in the form of a classic body lotion, after-sun lotion can generally last for two to three years as long as it’s stored out of direct sunlight and in a cool or room temperature area. Store-bought pure aloe vera gels typically last for about two years if stored in the same way but can last up to five if they’re kept refrigerated or frozen.
How often should after-sun lotion be applied?
While you can apply most after-sun products as often as needed for relief, King says if the product contains hydrocortisone, it shouldn’t be applied more than three times per day and shouldn’t be used for more than a week at a time. If your after-sun product contains a gradual self-tanner, she recommends applying it once daily until you reach your desired shade and then using it every few days to maintain your color.
Is after-sun lotion good for sunburn?
It depends on the formulation, says Dr. King, who recommends choosing products that contain aloe vera and soy for their abilities to soothe burns and combat inflammation. “For areas that feel particularly uncomfortable, a 1% hydrocortisone cream can also be helpful,” she says. And while an after-sun lotion won't cure a sunburn, it can help keep skin moisturized and soothed for a more pleasant healing process.
How do you apply after-sun lotion?
Dr. King recommends applying after-sun lotions and gels with your fingers, as you would with a traditional body lotion. “But be sure to wash your hands afterward if the lotion contains hydrocortisone, as well as if it contains self-tanner so your fingers won’t stain,” she says.
Why Trust Byrdie
For this round-up, we worked with a qualified skin expert for their best picks, plus consulted a bunch of peer-reviewed studies to break down the very best ingredients found in topical products. Byrdie contributor Emily Algar also lives in Sydney, Australia, so she has had her fair share of sun exposure (cringe) over the years.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough after-sun products from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com, and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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