The 11 Best After Sun Lotions to Soothe Stressed-Out Skin

Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Lotion revitalizes and soothes crispy, sunburnt skin.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best After Sun Lotions

Rituals

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m no stranger to sunburn. Like many of us, I've either spent one too many hours in the sun, forgot to apply SPF on the back of my knees (never again), or fallen asleep under the scorching rays only to wake up with lobster-red shoulders.

How you care for your skin after a bad sunburn is of utmost importance, and tending to it right away can save you from major peeling in the days to come. “UV exposure sucks moisture from the skin, and we want to hydrate the skin as soon as possible to repair cell damage,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist & Director of Dermatology at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in NYC. In order to do just that, you’ll need to have the right products on hand to rehydrate and soothe your sun-drenched skin.

While there are tons of hydrating lotions and moisturizers to choose from, not all of them have the right ingredients to soothe and take the sting out of a sunburn. That’s why we took the time to reach out to experts and conduct our own research to find the best after sun lotions: Because the sooner you begin to care for your skin post-sunburn, the quicker the recovery will be. That said, Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Lotion earned our top spot for its soothing formula that immediately calms, rebalances, and revitalizes skin at an affordable price.

Read on for the 11 best after sun products for reducing inflammation, calming redness, and rehydrating skin.

Best Overall: Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Lotion

Sun Bum Cool Down Hydrating After Sun Lotion

Amazon

What We Love: The rich, cooling lotion feels silky — no matter how much you use.

What We Don’t Love: The tropical scent can be a little strong.

Sun Bum is a cult-classic drugstore sunscreen brand, and as great as their SPF is, their after sun care deserves just as much attention. This lotion provides nearly instant relief, with a cooling sensation and mega hydration for the skin thanks to soothing ingredients like aloe, vitamin E, and cocoa butter. Though the lotion is rich, it’s easy to smooth into the skin, and no matter how much you use, your skin won’t feel greasy. (Trust me, the last time I got a sunburn, I almost used the entire bottle in one sitting and my skin still felt silky.) The tropical scent makes you feel like you’re on vacation even when you’re not, but it can be overpowering for those who are sensitive to fragrance. Regardless, any time you slather this on you’ll feel like you just slid yourself into a hydrating, sunburn-healing cocoon.

Key Ingredients: Vitamin E, Aloe vera, Cocoa butter | Size: 8 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $12

Best Value: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun Lotion

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration After Sun Lotion

Walmart

What We Love: The lightweight gel texture spreads easily and absorbs quickly.

What We Don’t Love: Some reviewers say they have to apply often to keep skin moisturized.

If you don’t like sticky or thick lotions, the Silk Hydration Weightless After Sun Lotion from Hawaiian Tropic is a great option. The formula is incredibly lightweight and has a gel-like texture that instantly soaks into skin. Ingredients like aloe, shea butter, and glycerin hydrate and replenish moisture levels to keep post-sun dryness at bay. Even if you’re not on an island vacation, using this will make it feel like you are because the scent is reminiscent of a tropical smoothie with notes of papaya, mango, and passion fruit. One thing to note: Because the texture seeps into the skin quickly, you may have to reapply often to really soothe a harsh burn.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, Glycerin, Aloe vera | Size: 6 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $7

Best Fragrance-Free: Korres Greek Yoghurt Calming + Cooling Gel

Korres Greek Yoghurt Calming + Cooling Gel

Amazon

What We Love: It not only calms redness, it actually takes the sting out of your sunburn, too.

What We Don’t Love: It’s a bit pricey compared to other products on this list.

Greek yogurt has been used as a sunburn remedy for centuries, but instead of slathering plain greek yogurt onto your skin, try this luxurious, hydrating gel instead. Upon application, it provides a cooling sensation that instantly soothes red and inflamed skin. Ingredients like pre- and probiotic-rich greek yogurt, glycerin, and panthenol work together to hydrate your skin and take the sting out of even the worst sunburns. Essentially, If your hot-to-the-touch skin needs some respite, this is the thing to grab.

Key Ingredients: Yogurt, Glycerin, Panthenol | Size: 5.07 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $28

Best Aloe Gel: Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel

4
Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel

Seven Minerals 

What We Love: The bottle is big, so the gel will last you a long time.

What We Don’t Love: The consistency can be a bit watery.

When it comes to after sun care, aloe vera is probably one of the first things that comes to mind, and according to Dr. Engelman, it’s for good reason. “Aloe is a well-known treatment for sunburns because of its anti-inflammatory and collagen-stimulating properties,” she says. Not everyone has the luxury of having an aloe plant on hand, though, and not all aloe gels are created equal: Some can leave your skin feeling sticky, but that’s not the case with this gel from Seven Minerals. It contains seaweed extract (instead of an ingredient called xanthan) to thicken the product, so it absorbs quickly and leaves your skin feeling silky smooth.

Key Ingredients: Organic aloe vera, Seaweed extract | Size: 12 fl oz. | Scented: No

Price at time of publish: $20

Best for Sensitive Skin: Neutrogena Sun Rescue After Sun Rehydrating Spray

Neutrogena Sun Rescue After Sun Rehydrating Spray

Amazon

What We Love: The mist soaks into the skin without having to rub it in.

What We Don’t Love: Just like spray sunscreens, it’s easy to quickly go through a whole bottle.

Whether you have sensitive skin or hate the feeling of goopy gels, the Sun Rescue After Sun Rehydrating Spray from Neutrogena will give you the weightless relief your sunburned skin is craving. The vegan body mist contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin to help your skin retain moisture for up to 48 hours, and, in turn, helps prevent peeling. Though it’s scented, the fragrance is light and refreshing, so it won’t be irritating for those with sensitive skin.

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Glycerin | Size: 6.7 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $15

Best Body Mist: Topicals Like Butter Body Hydrating and Soothing Mist

Topicals Like Butter Hydrating and Soothing Mist

Sephora

What We Love: The light green tea and ginseng scent makes spritzing this all the more soothing.

What We Don’t Love: At 3.4 oz, it’s pretty small (and much more expensive) than other post-sun sprays.

Topicals knows a thing or two about creating beauty products for complex skin solutions and common irritants, and this body mist is no exception. It addresses an array of skin issues — including sunburn, heat rash, chafing, and dry skin — and is made to target inflammation and hydrate skin. Featuring a unique blend of ingredients (like allantoin to calm, rhubarb to moisturize, and tiger grass to restore), the spray format allows you to get to hard-to-reach areas like your back. Plus, the subtle green tea and ginseng scent makes using the mist a rejuvenating self-care experience.

Key Ingredients: Green tea, Allantoin, Rhubarb | Size: 3.4 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $30

Best Face Mist: Everyday Humans Take Five Reviving Aloe Mist

Everyday Humans Take Five Reviving Aloe Mist

Revolve

What We Love: It’s multi-use for the face and body.

What We Don’t Love: The hydration-factor doesn’t last long, so expect to use the mist throughout the day to replenish your skin.

Unlike the above mists, this aloe vera mist is suitable for both your face and body. Aloe vera, cucumber water, and hyaluronic acid work together to moisturize and cool, while Everyday Humans’ special desert extracts blend (a fusion of baobab seed oil, prickly pear, and licorice extract) revives dehydrated skin, and calms any redness from your sunburn. It’s best used throughout the day, and luckily, the compact bottle can conveniently be tucked into your beach bag so you can refresh your skin while soaking up some rays.

Key Ingredients: Aloe vera, Hyaluronic acid, Desert extracts blend | Size: 2.5 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $15

Best Drugstore: Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother

Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother

Amazon

What We Love: Though it’s thick, the moisturizer seamlessly absorbs into skin.

What We Don’t Love: Though the star ingredients are aloe and coconut oil, it’s not vegan-friendly.

While Burt’s Bees is known for their beeswax-infused products, the hero ingredients in this plush after sun soother are aloe vera and coconut oil. The thick formula is incredibly nourishing, and despite being a heavier after sun lotion, it doesn’t leave behind a greasy finish — in fact, it absorbs quickly and leaves your skin feeling soft and comfortable. You can feel good about using this product because all of the ingredients are responsibly sourced, and it’s not tested on animals; but if you prefer to use vegan products, this might not be the best pick as it does contain beeswax

Key Ingredients: Coconut oil, Aloe vera, Shea butter, Beeswax | Size: 6 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $7

Best for Body: The Body Shop Shea Body Butter

The Body Shop Shea Body Butter

The Body Shop

What We Love: This body butter provides 96 hours of moisture.

What We Don’t Love: Over time the formula can become a little clumpy as a result of being exposed to air.

Sunburns only exasperate extra dry skin, but this body butter was made for combatting and restoring even the most dehydrated skin. After showering, apply this moisturizer while your skin is slightly damp — it will take the sting right out of your sunburn and reduce redness almost immediately. The creamy, yet thick shea butter-infused formula helps your skin retain moisture, and keeps it hydrated for up to 96 hours (that’s four days!). With a sweet, slightly nutty scent, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how your burn begins to heal overnight when using this body butter.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, Babassu oil, Cocoa butter | Size: 6.4 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $22

Best for Face: Glossier After Baume Moisture Barrier Recovery Cream

4.8
Glossier After Baume Moisture Barrier Recovery Cream

Glossier

What We Love: Not only is this ideal for healing a sunburn, but it’s also great for restoring severely chapped winter skin.

What We Don’t Love: Some reviews say it isn’t actually ideal for sensitive skin and can cause irritation.

Everyone needs a rich facial cream they can trust at a moment's notice, and for me, it’s Glossier After Baume. Not only will the beautiful, green glass jar look chic AF on your vanity, the rich cream inside will come to your dry skin’s rescue whether you experience a sunburn on vacation or windburn in the dead of winter. Simply slather a thick layer onto your face (or body) whenever you feel a sunburn coming on. On top of being accepted by the National Eczema Association, it’s also non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, and essential oil-free.

Key Ingredients: Cupuaçu butter, Babassu oil, Linoleic acid | Size: 1.6 fl oz. | Scented: No

Price at time of publish: $28

Best Shower Gel: Rituals The Ritual of Karma After Sun Shower Gel

Rituals The Ritual of Karma After Sun Shower Gel

Rituals

What We Love: You can use this in the shower to literally wash away the sting of a sunburn.

What We Don’t Love: You can’t use it on your face.

Everyone knows there’s no better feeling than taking a shower after a long beach day. Rituals Karma Cooling After Sun Shower Gel somehow makes that post-beach shower even more enjoyable. Jumpstarting your post-sun skincare routine, it utilizes aloe vera, and antioxidant-rich white tea to soothe and cool sun-stressed skin. The longer you let it soak on the skin, the more intense the cooling sensation becomes, too. Once you rinse, you’ll be left with soft, hydrated, and happy skin — but don’t forget to apply a moisturizer afterward to keep dryness at bay.

Key Ingredients: Aloe vera, White tea, Mint | Size: 6.7 fl oz. | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $13

What to Keep in Mind

Ingredients

The most common ingredients you’ll find in sun-soothing products are aloe vera, vitamin E, oatmeal, coconut oil, and shea butter. It’s unlikely that products will contain all of these, but it’s important to keep an eye out for these ingredients when debating on a formula that’s right for you and your sundrenched skin.

Aloe vera may be the most popular after sun ingredient. “This is a well-known treatment for sunburns because of its anti-inflammatory and collagen-stimulating properties,” says Dr. Engelman. “It works to prevent transepidermal water loss by sealing moisture in the skin, and also contains salicylic acid to reduce inflammation and calm redness.” You can find aloe vera in an array of products that made our list, including Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel and Everyday Humans Take Five Reviving Aloe Mist.

Behind aloe, Dr. Engelman also suggests looking for formulas with vitamin E, like our overall pick Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Lotion, which contains both ingredients. Given that vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant naturally found in our sebum, it works to neutralize free radicals and heal dry skin that's become dehydrated from the sun.

Formula

From sprays to lotions and gels, there are a lot of different types of after sun products to choose from. The bottom line when choosing a formula comes down to preference, and what your skin needs most following your time in the sun.

For example, sprays (like Neutrogena Sun Rescue After Sun Rehydrating Spray) may feel refreshing, but they tend to run out quickly and aren’t as deeply hydrating as thick creams. When in doubt, add a lotion (like Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless After Sun Lotion) into your skincare routine while your skin is healing.

Scent

Scent, like formula, is completely based on preference. However, know that some fragrances can be irritating for those with sensitive skin or eczema. It’s best to patch test and see how your skin reacts to a new product before fully introducing it into your routine. When in doubt, grab an after sun product that’s fragrance-free, like Glossier After Baume.

Your Questions, Answered

Do after sun lotions help sunburn?

Most after sun lotions contain healing properties, and ingredients to soothe and moisturize your skin. Their main objective is to rehydrate your skin and protect from further damage like bubbling or peeling.

“Look for hydrating ingredients that attract and trap moisture in the skin, as keeping sunburned skin moisturized is key for helping it recover, and protecting it from further damage while it heals,” says Dr. Engelman. “Antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, should also be part of a good after sun lotion’s formulation, as they help combat free radical damage sustained from UV rays.”

“Cool compresses or Burow's solution soaks can also be helpful,” adds Caren Campbell, M.D., California-based board certified dermatologist. “If your sunburn is more severe, I would see a dermatologist as they can prescribe topical steroids or oral steroids to calm the inflammation.”

When should you use after sun lotions?

After showering is the best time to apply your after sun treatment. As for the amount of time you should continue to use it, this depends on the severity of the burn and how your skin is reacting. “I suggest continuing treatment for one to two weeks or until your skin is no longer showing signs of inflammation, redness, irritation, and dryness,” says Dr. Engelman.

Do after sun lotions expire?

Just like all beauty products, after sun lotions have a shelf life. As each product and formula is specific, be sure to check the packaging for the period-after-opening symbol to see how long the product can be used for once it is opened.

“If using pure aloe [directly from a plant] consider keeping it cool in the fridge as that will feel good when applied to burned skin,” says Dr. Campbell. To protect the shelf life of pure aloe, you can store it in your fridge. It will keep until the plant shows signs of wilting, which normally takes over a month.

Why Trust InStyle

Olivia Cefalu is a Brooklyn-based freelance beauty editor and writer. She covers everything beauty and wellness related, and has a real passion for SPF, a good facial, and nail art. With bylines in Shape, Well & Good, Fatherly, Ipsy, and Very Good Light, her research is thorough and inspired by a passion for teaching others about beauty practices and products. Learn more about board-certified dermatologists Dr. Dendy Engleman and Dr. Caren Campbell’s expertise by taking a trip to their websites.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles