The best after sun for soothing your skin after sunburn, with tips from expert dermatologists
Protect your skin post-sun exposure with after sun lotions and creams to rehydrate and moisture. We’ve rounded up our top choices and spoken to two skin experts for their advice.
Keeping safe from the sun is an essential part of skincare, and while sun cream is the first point of call, the NHS recommends avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm, covering up with suitable clothing and sunglasses, and using at least factor 30 sun cream. However, once you have been in the sun, using an after sun lotion is the next step to protect your skin.
Whether sunburnt or just slightly red and hot-skinned after exposure, applying after sun can help treat your skin with the hydration and moisture it needs. Moisturisers and body lotions will also benefit the skin, though after sun has the edge, aiming to soothe and cool your skin, replenishing it to provide relief. It can also help prolong your tan.
Whether off on holiday or stocking up for summer, The Recommended has put together a round-up of the best after suns on the market for you to look into. We also spoke to two skin experts to get their advice and to answer some of our frequently asked questions, including what to look for, what to avoid and how to apply after sun. See their recommendations at the bottom of this page.
The best after sun at-a-glance:
- Best combination after sun: Nivea Sun After Sun Moisturising Soothing Lotion
- Best fragrant after sun: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Air Soft After Sun Lotion
- Best for sensitive skin: Eucerin Sensitive Relief After Sun Cream Gel
- Best after sun for tanning: Piz Buin After Sun Tan Intensifying Moisturising Lotion
- Best universal after sun: Garnier After Sun Lotion With Aloe Vera
- Best organic after sun: Badger After Sun Balm
- Best premium after sun:Lancaster Golden Tan Maximizer After Sun Lotion
- Best multipurpose after sun: PraNaturals Pure Aloe Vera Gel
- Best sustainable after sun: b.Tan After Sun Lotion
- Best versatile after sun: Banana Boat Aloe After Sun Gel
- Best paraben-free after sun: La Roche-Posay Posthelios After Sun Gel
The best after sun
Best combination after sun: Nivea Sun After Sun Moisturising Soothing Lotion
A cooling and moisturising remedy
Soothe your sun-exposed skin with this combination of sun lotion and hydrating moisturiser from Nivea, one of the world’s leading skincare brands. Quick-absorbing, it will provide instant relief.
Gently massage this after sun into your skin, applying to all areas of your body exposed to the sun, and ideally, post-shower to lock in moisture the most effectively. Its cooling formula is enriched with aloe vera and avocado oil for a soft and silky finish, and the intense moisturiser will last for 48 hours.
Best fragrant after sun: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Air Soft After Sun Lotion
Lather it on
This after sun’s dual ribbon formula combines aloe vera gel with moisturising lotion and is blended with coconut and papaya. It will leave skin feeling super soft with a sweet tropical fragrance.
The ultra-lightweight texture is non-greasy, making it easy to apply and comfortable to coat on. It will provide up to 24 hours of moisture, relieving sunburnt patches while also helping to preserve your tan. Apply generously and evenly across your body to instantly soothe.
Best for sensitive skin: Eucerin Sensitive Relief After Sun Cream Gel
For face and body
Our expert Dr Adil Sheraz recommends Eucerin’s after sun as a ‘good option’. It is suitable for those with highly sensitive skin and those prone to sun allergies.
This after sun will bring long-lasting moisture to your skin while cooling down that burning feeling and relieving any tightness and redness. Its non-greasy and non-sticky texture is easy to apply and quickly absorbs into your skin, bringing immediate and soothing relief. It contains Glycyrrhetinic Acid to support your skin’s DNA repair process, reducing any skin damage caused by UV rays.
Best after sun for tanning: Piz Buin After Sun Tan Intensifying Moisturising Lotion
Maintain a healthy golden glow
Restore your skin after sun exposure with this fast-absorbing after sun, ideal for preventing peeling, rehydrating your skin and enhancing your tan. It will provide 24-hour moisturisation once applied.
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This after sun contains the natural plant extract Tanimel which will intensify your natural tan and encourage it to last longer. It is also enriched with Vitamin E to help to protect against premature skin ageing linked to sun exposure, and shea butter for a nourishing feel on your body. The glycerine present will also help hydrate the skin.
Best universal after sun: Garnier After Sun Lotion With Aloe Vera
For instant hydration
Cool your hot and irritated skin with this hydrating after sun, enriched with aloe vera and suitable for the whole body. Its mild formula makes it a great option for all skin types.
This after sun will soothe and refresh sun-damaged skin, reducing tension and redness and providing an intensive moisturiser. The lotion is quick-absorbing once applied and grease and sticky-free for a comfortable feel. The rich moisture will last for up to 24 hours and has properties to help preserve your tan.
Best organic after sun: Badger After Sun Balm
Leave your skin feeling super smooth by applying this nourishing after sun balm, best-used post-bath or shower. Lather onto sun-damaged skin and soften dried-out, irritated spots.
Boasting natural ingredients, this after sun is made from organic cocoa and shea butter, ideal for conditioning and soothing the skin. It will rehydrate all parts of the body and is lightly scented with blue tansy and lavender for a delicate tropical scent.
Best premium after sun: Lancaster Golden Tan Maximizer After Sun Lotion
Enhance your tan
With natural-origin Buriti oil in its formula, this after sun lotion will stimulate and intensify your skin’s melatonin production for a long-lasting tan. It can prolong it for up to one month.
This after sun will also help repair your skin after sun exposure, calming it down with its refreshing feel to instantly comfort and cool itches and burning sensations. Made from 86.6% natural ingredients and no silicone, parabens or mineral oils, this after sun is suitable to apply all over your face and body.
Best multipurpose after sun: PraNaturals Pure Aloe Vera Gel
Our expert Ksenia Sobchak recommends aloe vera gel for its ‘cooling and soothing qualities that combat redness and inflammation.’ Made from the aloe vera plant, it is packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
With its rich, natural properties, this gel is designed to calm and cool down inflamed, itchy, or irritated skin. It is also super versatile - use as part of your daily skincare routine for hydration, behind a face mask, after waxing, apply to insect bites or soothe your sunburn. Its odourless gel texture is suitable for all skin types and can be applied all over your body.
Best sustainable after sun: b.Tan After Sun Lotion
Keep your skin and the environment happy
Enriched with aloe vera, Vitamin E and hyaluronic acid, this after sun lotion will leave your skin feeling replenished and silky soft. It is 100% vegan-friendly, paraben-free and sustainably sourced.
This after sun can be applied all over your face and body to rehydrate the skin after sun exposure. It is suitable for all skin types and will work to moisturise and repair damaged spots and provide a lasting radiant glow afterwards. Use regularly to prolong your tan.
Best versatile after sun: Banana Boat Aloe After Sun Gel
Soothes and softens
Rejuvenate sun-exposed skin with this after sun gel, spreading evenly across your body to restore moisture and rehydrate thirsty skin. Ideal for dry, rough and red patches.
Aloe vera has cooling effects, which will instantly soothe your skin and aims to prevent peeling and future damage. Super versatile, it can also be used for calming down other skin conditions, such as windburn and itchy insect bites or can be included as part of your daily skincare routine.
Best paraben-free after sun: La Roche-Posay Posthelios After Sun Gel
Replenish dry skin
Specially formulated for sensitive skin, this after sun will nourish and rehydrate the skin, preventing it from drying out. It is suitable for the face and skin.
Our skin expert Ksenia Soback recommends this gel as one of the best after suns, thanks to its shea butter, glycerin and sodium hyaluronate ingredients, ready to ‘ soothe and hydrate your skin after sun exposure.’ It is easy to apply and will be absorbed by the skin quickly.
After sun buyers’ guide: meet our skincare experts
Dr Adil Sheraz is a consultant dermatologist. He has more than 10 years of experience, specialising in general adult dermatology and skin cancer, and currently works at the prestigious Royal Free NHS Trust.
He lectures undergraduate and postgraduate medical students and trainee dermatologists, has been published in various medical journals and has presented at several international conferences, including the British Association of Dermatology Annual Conference and the American Academy of Dermatology. He can also be seen on TV shows 'Dr Christian Will See You Now' and 'Skin A&E'.
Ksenia Sobchak is a cosmetologist and clinical dermatologist. She is also a qualified nutritionist consultant, owns her own dermatology clinic in London and is a skincare expert for Loxa Beauty. Ksenia regularly contributes to media outlets, providing expert advice on all things skincare. She has featured in Stylist, commenting on congested skin conditions, commented on permanent makeup for The Girlfriend, and written several pieces for Yahoo and Allure.
What is after sun?
After sun is essential to use to rehydrate and moisturise your skin after it has been exposed to the sun’s UV rays. Whether badly sunburnt or slightly red and irritated, after sun will help to reduce any pain with its cooling and soothing properties. It usually comes in lotion, cream or balm form.
What are the benefits of after sun?
- Rehydrates skin: After sun works to replenish dehydrated skin. Sun and UV-ray exposure can dry out the skin, causing it to become tough and cracked.
- Soothes and cools skin: When applying after sun, your skin will feel instant relief thanks to its cooling properties, often enriched with aloe vera. It works to soothe any burning sensation and reduce irritation and redness.
- Moisturises skin: Massaging after sun all over your body will soften the skin, making it feel smooth and locking in moisture.
- Prolongs tan: Many after suns will have tan-enhancing ingredients, prolonging your glow. They can often have lasting effects of up to one month.
- Anti-ageing: Thanks to its moisturising and rehydrating properties, after sun can help protect your skin from wrinkling or shrivelling after sun exposure, keeping skin healthy and young.
What is the best after sun?
Dr Adil Sheraz explains that ‘the best after sun lotion is the one that you don't need to use. Ideally, one should be applying adequate sun protection to be able to avoid sun damage which eventually results in DNA damage at a cellular level. Unfortunately, no cream can reverse this DNA damage. Therefore it is vital to protect your skin when in the sun.’
However, after sun is a step to help, and Dr Adil Sheraz adds, ‘if you have developed any degree of redness on your skin, then an after sun lotion may help to soothe your skin and relieve irritation or itch.’
What to look for in after sun?
Dr Adil Sheraz suggests that when looking for after sun, ‘ideally you want something that will be easy to apply and spread easily, particularly if your skin already feels sore or inflamed.’ He recommends ‘soothing ingredients such as aloe vera or liquorice extracts’ to help. If there is a lot of itching, then a short course of a topical steroid such as Hydrocortisone within the after sun lotion may also be useful. However, most basic moisturisers for sensitive skin will have similar beneficial effects.’
What to avoid when looking for after sun?
Dr Adil Sheraz recommends avoiding ‘products that may contain too much fragrance as these can be irritating, or products too high in alcohol content as this can be dehydrating.’ He also advises steering clear from thick products, such as petroleum-based ones, as they ‘may feel sticky and will be more difficult to spread to large areas of the body.’ Our expert Ksenia Sobchak also advises staying away from products with ‘fragrances, alcohol, harsh chemicals (parabens, sulfates, or phthalates), and heavy oils like mineral oil.’ She warns that these ingredients can lead to conditions including ‘irritation, dryness, and breakouts.’
How to apply after sun?
After sun can be applied to all areas of the face and body. It is often best to start with a bath or shower to help reduce the heat and redness of your sun-exposed skin. Our expert Ksenia Sobchak advises this also to ‘remove any dirt, sweat or sunscreen residue on your skin.’
‘Having no impurities on your skin increases the absorption of your after-sun lotion or cream.’ After washing, the after sun can be moisturised in. Make sure to generously apply to the areas affected, and our expert Ksenia Sobchak recommends giving it ‘10-15 minutes to fully absorb before applying other skin care products like sun cream.’ Reapply daily until the irritation has subsided and the skin looks more normal.
Where to store after sun?
After sun should be stored in a cool place for the best results. Even better, pop it in the fridge to enhance its cooling effect on the skin.
How long does after sun last?
Once opened, after sun will usually last approximately 12 months. It is best to check each individual bottle for their recommendations, though, as this may vary slightly from product to product.
Want to read more expert-recommended skincare product round-ups? Check out our Cosmetics page for a full list of recommendations, including our list of the best SPF sun creams, the best moisturisers, and the best body lotions.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.