Even if you use sunscreen, your skin can still get burned after sun exposure. While after-sun lotions can't reverse a sunburn, they can soothe and rehydrate burnt skin and minimize peeling. If you got tan from your time outdoors, an after-sun lotion can prolong its life.
Keeping your skin moisturized after sun exposure will help combat signs of premature aging, like wrinkles and dark spots. If you're not already sold on these products, keep reading this shopping guide for more details.
We've also included our top product recommendations, like this organic aloe vera gel that won't leave you sticky.
Considerations when choosing after-sun lotions
Types of after-sun lotions
There are a few different formulas of after-sun products, and not all come in a lotion form. It's important to select an after-sun formula that targets your specific issue.
Lotion: Lotions designed for after-sun care have the same consistency as a regular lotion and offer moderate hydration. Their lightweight, liquid-y consistency absorbs easily into the skin. They will soothe sun-kissed skin as well.
Cream: After-sun creams are thicker than lotions and are more moisturizing. Select a cream if you if you're looking to prolong the life of your tan or if you're skin is particularly chapped after sun exposure. "Butters" are also offered for even heavier hydration.
Gel: Gels for after-sun care most often contain aloe vera, which is very cooling and soothing to sunburnt skin. Gels absorb into the skin much faster than lotions or creams and provide near instant relief. They offer only light hydration. "Gel lotions" are also available, and are a little more moisturizing than gels.
Sprays: After-sun sprays are super easy to apply and mist product onto your skin for fast absorption and near-instant relief. They tend to have formulas that help skin from peeling or feeling tight. They offer light hydration and the spray application is quite cooling and refreshing.
Ingredients in after-sun lotions
Aloe vera is a ubiquitous ingredient in after-sun products because of its effectiveness for treating sunburns. A natural ingredient from the aloe vera plant, it contains glycoproteins that reduce inflammation and swelling associated with sunburns. It also creates a protective barrier that locks in moisture and prevents peeling.
Lidocaine is a numbing agent you'll sometimes see combined with aloe vera gels to relieve pain and discomfort from sunburns.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce UV damage. It can also replenish moisture from the sun's drying effects. It can reduce inflammation, as well.
Shea butter is a highly emollient ingredient derived from the fat of a shea nut. This natural ingredient is rich in antioxidants and vitamins that help the skin heal from sunburn. It's also great for very dry or tight-feeling skin.
Almond oil is a protein-rich ingredient that hydrates the skin, combats UV damage, and soothes itchy sunburnt skin.
Omega-3 fatty acids when applied topically reduce inflammation. They can slow sun-related skin damage, like wrinkles. Their fat content is also moisturizing and keeps skin from feeling dehydrated and tight.
Fragrance: Many after-sun products contain tropical fragrances. Some users love these scents whereas others find them unpalatable. If you're using an after-sun lotion for a sunburn specifically, we'd recommend staying away from products that contain synthetic fragrances because they can irritate the skin.
Organic: More and more consumers prefer products with plant-based ingredients and organic ones at that, meaning they have not been cultivated with pesticides or other potentially harmful agrochemicals.
Expect to pay between $3 and $30 for a container of after-sun lotion. Budget-friendly ones generally contain more synthetic than natural ingredients and range between $3 and $12. More natural formulas cost between $10 and $30.
Q. When do I apply after-sun lotions?
A. Apply an after-sun lotion after you come in from the sun. We recommend showering and patting your skin dry first. For best results, don't wait until your skin becomes itchy, red, or inflamed.
Q. Can I use after-sun lotions on my face?
A. We don't recommend using these products on your face unless they are labeled non-comedogenic, which means they won't clog your pores. Aloe vera, however, works well on the face for a sunburn.
After-sun lotions we recommend
Best of the best: Amara Organics Aloe Vera Gel from Organic Cold Pressed Aloe
Our take: A top-rated natural after-sun formula containing organic aloe vera.
What we like: Contains all organic, natural ingredients with no artificial additives. Aloe vera absorbs quickly into the skin and doesn't leave a sticky residue.
What we dislike: Consistency is a bit watery but soothes the skin nonetheless.
Best bang for your buck: Australian Gold Moisture Lock Tan Extender Lotion
Our take: Ample amount of a nourishing, after-sun lotion that locks in your tan.
What we like: Large, 16-ounce bottle costs under $10. Contains aloe vera, vitamin E, and panthenol. Easy-to-dispense pump. Summer scent.
What we dislike: Contains parabens and alcohol.
Our take: A moisturizing spray with natural ingredients for sun recovery.
What we like: An alternative to aloe-vera-based products. All natural ingredients, including soothing plant-based oils. Liquid formula absorbs fast into the skin.
What we dislike: Not very moisturizing.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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