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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 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.
We like to invest in after-sun lotion to soothe, calm, and treat any sun-ravaged spots. After all, the sun can take a toll on your skin, whether you're consistent with sunscreen or not, and it could always benefit from a little extra TLC in the form of reparative after-sun skincare. If you do suffer a sunburn, though, that extra TLC is necessary to get your skin back on track as fast as possible. They’re available in sprays, mists, serums, lotions, creams, and gels, and we rounded up our absolute favorites.
So without further ado, check out the best after-sun products to add to your product lineup (and beach bag).
This accessible favorite is available in both drugstores and specialty retailers, and its 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.
If you tend to burn and then peel after sun exposure, an after-sun lotion is a must, and this formula from sun care specialists Sun Bum is one to covet. 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. 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.
Hawaiian Tropic is a classic. We've seen it in drugstore aisles for as long as we can remember, but this after-sun moisturizer is a little different than traditional formulas. For one, it smells like a refreshing lime-based cocktail (who doesn't want to smell like that?). Second, it's vitamin-enriched to replenish and hydrate skin that's been exposed to drying wind, water, and sun.
This mask just looks like a drink of water for your skin—and in this case, it's totally OK to judge a book by its cover. After cleansing, apply a thick layer and allow ingredients like cucumber, papaya, and chamomile extracts to calm, hydrate, and soften the skin. After 10 minutes, just rinse it off for instant relief. For an extra-refreshing treatment, refrigerate the product before applying it.
Ingredients that make for great body products can be tough on your face, so finding an after-sun lotion specifically formulated for your more delicate facial 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.
Korres calls this post-sun treatment a cooling "gel," but it's technically a gel-cream hybrid. It's made with real Greek yogurt, and as such, has a lightweight and ultra-cooling finish that feels absolutely and positively amazing on hot, mildly sunburned skin.
Aloe vera is a naturally derived ingredient known for its soothing and moisturizing properties. The aloe plant's inner gel mucilage (the part that's used in skincare products) is made up of 99.5% water.
Aloe vera is known for its ability to soothe mild burns, rashes, itches, and irritation, but this gel from K-beauty brand Benton goes above and beyond. While aloe calms and hydrates the skin, propolis—a resin-like substance that's commonly found in Korean skincare products—delivers anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits. It's also fragrance-free and appropriate for all skin types.
Allantoin, also known as aluminum dihydroxy allantoinate, is an extract from the comfrey plant (which is native to temperate climates of Asia and Europe). It has potent healing and soothing properties, and may also help exfoliate the skin.
French brand Bioderma's micellar water is beloved by editors and models alike, but its after-sun lotion is a winner, too. Thanks to ingredients like allantoin and gingko biloba, it's super soothing, while glycerin and shea butter hydrate and nourish distressed skin. Just lather it on once a day during (or after) long periods of sun exposure for an instantly refreshed complexion.
Okay, so this Herbivore Botanicals product isn't technically an after-sun lotion, but it's just as effective. It has aloe, mint, and peppermint to cool and alleviate inflamed skin. It's one of those skincare products that we basically hoard throughout the summer season to use on both our faces and bodies.
After a long day in the sun, this creamy gel is designed to restore your skin barrier and lock in hydration thanks to ingredients like ceramides, plant sterols, and fatty acids. From there, the brand's proprietary thermal spring water soothes and softens skin. This formula also absorbs quickly without leaving a white residue, which is always a plus, and it's gentle enough for sensitive skin.