The dreaded sunburn. It’s hot, painful, and can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer or other long-term effects like premature wrinkling and sun spots (no thank you!). You can help prevent sunburns by limiting sun exposure, slathering on sunscreen, and wearing sun-protective clothing, but occasionally, strong UV rays can still wreak havoc on your skin. This can leave skin feeling irritated, fiery, and downright uncomfortable.
As a self-designated outdoor girly, I sometimes find my skin feeling red hot after a day of hiking or stand-up paddleboarding, even after I’ve lathered up with an ungodly amount of sunscreen. That’s how I discovered my new best friend in skincare: after sun lotion.
The first time I tried after sun lotion I was hooked. I had spent the entire day navigating the clear waters of Oregon’s Deschutes River on an inflatable inner tube. While I did apply sunscreen in the morning, spending the day in the water eventually washed it off. By the end I was burnt on my shoulders and stomach. My skin ached, and a friend handed me a tube of after sun lotion to help soothe it. As soon as I rubbed the lotion into my skin, a wave of relief washed over me as the lotion cooled my skin instantly. At that moment, I knew after sun lotion would be my new favorite skincare product.
What is after sun lotion?
After sun lotion is formulated to rehydrate the skin, reduce redness, and alleviate inflammation from UV ray exposure. Most after sun lotions contain a combination of moisturizing ingredients along with aloe, which has cooling properties that help ease skin pain.
Does after sun lotion cure sunburns?
After sun lotion does not cure sunburns, but it can help alleviate the effects of inflammation, and moisturize the skin to better equip your body to fight the burning feeling and prevent skin peeling.
If you find yourself newly lobstered skinned, hydration is key. Los Angeles-based esthetician Trina Renea shares that the first step to alleviating sunburn pain is splashing cold water on the affected area. For smaller sections of skin, Renea suggests “a cold wet washcloth that’s been in the freezer for 15 minutes over your skin,” noting that the chilly temperature helps tame inflammation.
Additionally, you should drink plenty of water, take a cold shower, and of course, apply after sun lotion.
Can you use after sun lotion on non-sunburned skin?
Absolutely! After sun lotion can also keep a nice, sun-kissed glow a little longer by preventing peeling and keeping your skin silky soft. ScrubzBody Skincare owner Roberta Perry notes that even after using sunscreen to protect your skin, UV rays can be very drying. “Locking moisture onto and into the skin's surface is vital to keep it looking dewy and sun-kissed, not dry and sun-parched,” she says, and this is where after sun lotion can come in handy.
Which after sun lotion is the best?
While there are many after sun lotion products out there, not all are created equally. To find the best I conducted two testing scenarios: using the after sun lotion on a sunburn and using the same lotion on non-sunburned skin. While I try to avoid sunburns at all costs, I got one on both of my arms while I was camping. It was the perfect situation to test out all of my lotions.
A few days after the sunburn faded, I tested each lotion again after spending some time outdoors. After testing eight different after sun lotions, I’ve nailed down the top five after sun lotions to stock up on, all available on DoorDash.
Banana Boat Moisturizing After Sun Lotion
Packed with aloe and vitamin E to nourish and soothe the skin, Banana Boat Moisturizing After Sun Lotion is a top contender when it comes to after sun care. This unscented lotion comes packaged in a pump bottle, making it super easy to apply. This lotion provides instant relief to sunburned skin without that familiar sticky feeling, making it a winner in my book.
Like all after sun lotions, apply this one right after a cool shower to help it soak deep into the skin to aid hydration.
Walgreens Dye-Free After Sun Gel
Formulated for sensitive skin, this non-oily and thick gel cools, soothes, and helps restore moisture to the skin after sun exposure.
It is easy to rub into your skin, and its slight floral scent is refreshing. While this gel might feel sticky upon application, wait a few minutes for it to dry and absorb into your skin.
Sun Burnt After-Sun Gel
Sun Burnt After-Sun Gel is developed with homeopathic ingredients including aloe vera, calendula, cucumber, and echinacea — your skin will love it.
Hypo-allergenic and paraben-free, Sun Burnt After-Sun Gel is best for those with sensitive skin or anyone looking for an alternative medicine substitute. The non-sticky formula instantly cools and provides relief.
Hawaiian Tropic After Sun Lotion
Looking for the best smelling after sun lotion? Hawaiian Tropic After Sun Lotion will have you smelling like a coconut and papaya tropical dream.
Non-greasy and easy to rub in, this after sun lotion features papaya, mango, passion fruit, plumeria, and guava extract to aid in skin hydration and provide a summery scent you’ll want to use as a daily perfume. This product has become my go-to everyday moisturizer during the summer months thanks to the scent!
Walgreens Sunburn Pain Relief Continuous Spray with Lidocaine
If you are feeling like an absolute tomato (and your skin looks like one!), try out Walgreen’s Sunburn Pain Relief Continuous Spray with Lidocaine. Formulated for fast relief from sunburns, insect bites, and minor burns, this spray uses a local anesthetic to prevent and treat pain within minutes.
Take this spray with you on camping trips to relieve mosquito bites and sunburned skin simultaneously. As someone who always ends up getting bit, this spray is a must-have in my hiking backpack.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Walgreens