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Top Sunburn Relief: The Ultimate After-Sun Lotions for Soothing That Painful Redness

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

They will counteract the dehydrating effects of the sun and environmental exposure, and make your sunburn feel heaps better.

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It’s common knowledge that excessive sun exposure is detrimental to your skin, particularly if you’re venturing outdoors without the safeguard of SPF. However, even if you do slather on the sunscreen and manage to avoid getting burnt on the beach, your skin may still experience irritation or harm from ultraviolet rays. (Also, always check the expiry date to ensure your sunblock is still viable to avoid getting fried.)

“After being outdoors with exposure to the sun, even without a sunburn, the skin barrier can be disrupted and inflamed by the heat, UV radiation, infrared and visible light,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology in New York City. Therefore, it’s crucial to select an after-sun lotion that aids in restoring and repairing the skin barrier, while also replenishing the lost moisture, adds Dr. Kanchanapoomi.

Coola Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion

Have a severe sunburn that could benefit from some tender loving care, or stocking up on healing moisturizers ahead of your next tropical vacation just in case? Keep scrolling for the best after-sun lotion products that receive the seal of approval from top derms.

Why We Like It: It’s recommended by dermatologists and contains incredibly hydrating ingredients.

It’s Worth Noting: It might sit on the skin instead of fully absorbing.

Not just is the COOLA Organic Radical Recovery After Sun Body Lotion adored by numerous customers, but it’s also a preferred choice among dermatologists. Both Jeannette Graf, MD, a board-certified skin doctor and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Geeta Yadav, MD, a board-certified skin doctor and founder of FACET Dermatology suggest this selection to their patients after exposure to the sun.

“Coola offers a wide range of mineral-based and clean formulas, and this aftersun product from them is just as transparent, with an ingredient list that showcases a blend of certified organic ingredients, essential oils, and other plant-based extracts,” says Dr. Yadav. “Beyond aloe, it contains agave — these ingredients are both succulents and are excellent at attracting moisture into the skin.”

Banana Boat Moisturizing Aloe After Sun Lotion

The sole disadvantage we’ve observed with this product is that it tends to linger on the skin a little bit, rather than thoroughly blending in. That being said, it functions effectively as a protective layer for your skin after sun exposure. 

Price at the time of publication: $32

Active Ingredients: Aloe, agave, lavender oil | Size: 5 fl. oz. | Scent: Yes | Benefits: Hydration and relief from sunburn

Why We Appreciate It: It’s cost-effective and readily available. 

It’s Worth Noting: It has a fairly thin, watery texture. 

Not merely does Banana Boat offer outstanding sunscreen options, but they also provide a really budget-friendly after-sun lotion.

This selection has an $8 price tag and can be located at the majority of pharmacies all over the country. Dr. Graf suggests this moisturizer to her clientele as an economical choice.

  • The Banana Boat Moisturizing Aloe After Sun Lotion offers a budget-friendly choice that includes aloe vera and vitamin E to provide essential nutrients and moisture for the skin,” she states. While this selection effectively soothes irritated skin, some individuals do not appreciate its watery consistency. If you desire a thicker texture for your post-sun lotion, we suggest considering an alternate option on this list.
  • Price at time of publish: $8
  • Active Ingredients: Aloe | Size: 16 fluid ounces | Scent: Yes | Benefits: Calming
  • Why We Like It: It contains soothing ingredients for sunburn relief.
  • It’s Worth Noting: It does not have a thick formula.
  • Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Lotion

  • Sunburns occasionally occur. And when they do, it is advisable to choose the Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Lotion. Dr. Yadav recommends this selection due to its cream consistency, rather than a gel.
  • “Sun Bum offers both gel and cream formulas for after-sun use, but I particularly favor this cream version. It applies like a regular moisturizer and does not leave a sticky residue, as some pure aloe options can,” explains Dr. Yadav. “In addition to aloe, it contains shea butter and jojoba oil, and it also has a delightful fragrance that is not overpowering.”
  • Unlike a denser moisturizer, this formula lives up to its name as a lightweight lotion with a slightly watery texture. If you prefer a thicker moisturizer, you may want to consider an alternative choice.
  • Price at time of publish: $13
  • Active Ingredients: Aloe vera, cocoa butter | Size: 8 fluid ounces
  • Fluid ounce | Aroma: Affirmative | Advantages: Alleviation from sunburn

Why We Appreciate It: The formulation provides a soothing and invigorating sensation on the skin.

It’s Worth Mentioning: It has the texture of a lotion rather than a gel.

Not only do we adore the packaging that is reminiscent of the 80s, but we are also captivated by the qualities of this product. The DUNE SUNCARE Lifeguard Miracle Rescue Aloe Vera Gel effectively cools the skin after a long day spent at the beach or pool.

Dr. Graf approves of this choice due to its exceptional formulation and ingredients. “This is a gel formulation alternative that utilizes aloe vera as its foundation,” explains Dr. Graf. “It also incorporates other nourishing components for the skin such as sea buckthorn, avocado, and coconut oils.”

Upon application, this formulation imparts a pleasing and refreshing sensation on the skin, and we also appreciate the subtle fragrance it possesses. Although the product description asserts that this is a gel, it feels akin to a moisturizer or body lotion.

Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After-Sun Soother

Price at the time of publication: $23

Active Components: Aloe, antioxidants | Size: 8.4 fluid ounces | Aroma: Yes | Advantages: Cooling and moisturizing.

Why We Appreciate It: It’s simple to locate and devoid of potential skin irritants.

It’s Worth Mentioning: Possesses a potent, potentially off-putting-for-some aroma.

For individuals who are easily susceptible to sunburns and possess the most delicate skin, this selection is tailored for you. According to Dr. Graf, she recommends the Burt’s Bees After Sun Lotion to her patients who have sensitive skin because it does not contain potential skin irritants. Dr. Graf states, “This non-greasy lotion utilizes aloe vera and coconut oil to moisturize and nourish the skin as well.”

We admire the price point of this selection and the fact that it can be found in most drugstores nationwide. It delivers a texture similar to that of a lotion rather than a gel and will not exacerbate sensitive skin. One drawback of this choice is that the strong scent may be a bit discouraging.

Vacation After Sun Gel

Price at the time of publication: $13

Active Ingredients: Aloe vera, coconut oil | Size: 6 fluid ounces | Aroma: Yes | Advantages: Hydrating

Why We Appreciate It: It exhibits a traditional aloe vera gel texture.

It’s Worth Mentioning: Contains fragrance, which might be irritating to some.

When contemplating after-sun care for your body, it’s likely that the iconic green aloe vera gel comes to mind. The Vacation After Sun Gel is an elevated option that remains reasonably priced and also adds a touch of elegance to your beach bag.

Both Dr. Graf and Dr. Yadav endorse this gel for its skin-soothing components. Dr. Graf mentions that “This formulation from Vacation features an impressive combination of skin soothers such as aloe, bisabolol, and niacinamide, in addition to deeply moisturizing and hydrating ingredients like tremella mushroom and vitamin E.

Yadav. “I additionally adore the nostalgic packaging!

After-Sun Care Tan Extender

The formulation is impressive, but if you are sensitive to scent, you might want to consider choosing another option. The scent is listed last on the roster of components in this formulation, so it’s quite minimal within the formulation.

Price at time of publish: $12

Effective Components: Aloe vera, niacinamide, vitamin E | Capacity: 6 fl. Oz. | Fragrance: Yes | Advantages: Calming, refreshing, moisturizing

Why We Like It: It’s indulgent and contains self-tanner in the formulation, as well.

It’s Worth Mentioning: It’s pricey.

If you’ve got some extra cash to spare, ponder treating yourself to the Sisley Paris After Sun Care. This stunning formulation will soothe skin after exposure to the sun and hydrate your body quite effectively, too.

“Individuals who desire a seriously luxurious and lavish after-sun lotion should try this one from Sisley Paris,” recommends Dr. Yadav. “It contains shea butter and glycerin to condition and moisturize, but it’s also unique in that it contains low concentrations of self-tanner to help enhance any radiance that you acquired from the sun. You can also use this in place of sun tanning and to bolster a stronger self-tanner which, as a dermatologist, I’d recommend over subjecting yourself to sun damage.”

Yon-Ka Paris Lait Apres-Soleil

We adore that this adds a touch of color to your skin after each application. Undoubtedly, the main drawback is that it’s costly at $200 per bottle. However, if you’re seeking an exceptionally luxurious after-sun lotion, this one is it.

Price at time of publish: $200

Effective Components: Shea butter, glycerin, sunflower oil | Capacity: 6.7 fl. oz. | Fragrance: Yes | Advantages: Moisturizing and tanning.

What to Understand About After-Sun Lotions


Be vigilant for skincare selections with moisturizing and hydrating components like ceramides, lipids, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin that will aid in restoring the skin barrier, recommends Dr.

Kanchanapoomi. You may also want to contemplate products featuring antioxidants, including vitamin C and vitamin E since these can assist in neutralizing free radicals, which can lead to skin aging, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles. And don’t overlook the established after-sun ingredient aloe, which is “extremely calming, cost-effective, and soothes and cools the skin,” emphasizes Dr. Kanchanapoomi.


Furthermore, as per Dr. Graf, oils such as coconut and avocado, cucumber, green tea, chamomile, and sea buckthorn are ingredients that have hydrating properties for the skin while also replenishing it with vital nutrients to heal and safeguard it. “They also have a soothing effect on the skin and can offer relief to sensitive and inflamed skin, which can be unpleasant,” she explains.

Suggested Usage

Dr. Graf suggests applying aftersun lotions as soon as possible whenever you spend a long time under the sun, regardless of whether or not you have a sunburn. “They are highly nourishing and moisturizing, which is crucial when you spend time in the dry sun or water,” she explains. “Since they don’t contain active ingredients, you can reapply them as often as you like, but applying them once or twice a day after showering should be sufficient in providing relief and speeding up recovery time, or preventing dry skin.”


The skin becomes significantly dehydrated and irritated after extended sun exposure. Subjecting your skin to the harmful effects of free radicals and UVA/UVB light damages the moisture barrier. “By restoring hydration and moisture levels to the skin with an aftersun lotion, you will help support your skin’s natural reparative processes,” says Dr. Yadav. “It will also prevent your skin from peeling and your tan from fading too quickly, but I do not recommend tanning.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you utilize aftersun lotion as regular lotion?

    Certainly, you can use aftersun lotion as regular lotion. “Aftersun lotions are typically a very lightweight version of body lotion or a body lotion with added aloe and humectants for extra hydration,” explains Dr. Yadav.

  • Does aftersun lotion expire?

    All skincare products, including aftersun lotions, have an expiration date. “You should check the packaging to see how long you have from the time you open the bottle until the product expires,” says Dr. Yadav. “You can also put a piece of masking tape on the bottle and mark it with the date you first opened it to ensure you are not using an old product—I would recommend doing this for body sunscreens as well.” These formulations tend to be more “seasonal” in nature, making it easy to unintentionally use expired products.

  • When should you apply after-sun lotion?

    Dr. Kanchanapoomi recommends using them immediately after you shower when the skin is still slightly wet. When your skin is moist and permeable, it enables the components in your skincare products to enter more easily. Take a refreshing shower and then ensure to gently pat the skin dry, instead of rubbing, which can be bothersome, advises Lily Talakoub, M.D., a certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist at McLean Dermatology & Skincare in Virginia. Also, make sure to use your after-sun lotions and moisturizers twice a day, particularly if you’re dealing with sunburn.

Why Depend on Shape

Daley Quinn is an independent beauty, way of life, and health writer located in New York City. She’s a former print magazine editor at Family Circle magazine, and has been featured in both print magazines and digital platforms including InStyle, Real Simple, Byrdie, Southern Living, Shape, and more. Daley utilized her own experience with testing some of these after-sun lotions.

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