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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).
Best Overall: Burt’s Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother
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.
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 is tug on already-damaged skin as you apply a heavy cream.
This fast-absorbing lotion starts soothing skin from the first application, and it’s sulfate-free and completely non-drying. Reviewers are super loyal to the lightweight formula, praising the light scent and refreshing feel as it melts into the skin.
Best Drugstore: 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 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.
Best Splurge: La Mer The 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 size and lasts a full season, if not longer, depending on how frequently you’re out in the sun.
Best Classic: Hawaiian Tropic Lime Colada After Sun Moisturizer
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.
Best Scent: Moroccanoil After-Sun Milk Soothing Body Lotion
Moroccanoil's after-sun lotion is loaded with aloe, argan oil, and vitamin E. It even has coconut and passionfruit oils, along with a lightly fragrant tropical fragrance. It promises to target dryness and dullness and extend the life of your tan. We've been fans of it for a while.
Best for Face: Coola ER+ Radical Recovery After Sun Lotion
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.
Peep our picks of the best facial moisturizers on the market.
Best Aloe Vera: Banana Boat Soothing Aloe After Sun Gel
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 Spray: Herbivore Botanicals After Sun Skin Soothing Aloe Mist
Okay, so this Herbivore Botanicals product isn't technically an after-sun lotion, but it still deserves an honorable mention. 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 face and bodies.
Read more reviews of the best face mists guaranteed to make your skin prettier.
Best Serum: Bare Republic Daily Recovery After Sun Serum
Bare Republic's after-sun body serum is free of synthetic colorants, fragrance, and parabens. It's also cruelty-free. It uses active-grade manuka honey and oat milk to soothe skin and is packed to the brim with antioxidants thanks to ingredients like turmeric, carrot oil, meadowfoam, calendula, hemp seed oil, and melon extract.
Check out our guide to the best face serums you can buy today.
Best Gel: Korres After Sun Greek Yoghurt Cooling Gel
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.
See more reviews of gel moisturizers available for purchase.