The Best After-Sun Care Products, According To Dermatologists

Summer is pretty much synonymous with tons of sunlight, and even though we get a lot of our vitamin D intake from this bright ball of hot plasma, too much exposure can be dangerous — and painful.

If you’ve ever suffered from sunburn, you know how annoying, unsightly and uncomfortable the symptoms can be, including dehydrated and reddened skin, itchiness, pain, blisters and peeling. Dr. Lindsey Zubritksy, a Mississippi-based board-certified dermatologist, said sunburn happens when UV rays damage the outermost layer of our skin, also known as the epidermis.

And although wearing sunscreen is one of the best ways to prevent sunburn, if you don’t have any on hand or you forgot to pack yours for your last beach trip, all hope is not lost. One way to get some much needed relief for your inflamed, irritated skin is to use after-sun care products.

“After-sun care products have multiple purposes. Some are meant to help heal and speed up recovery of the damaged skin, while others focus on pain relief and heat reduction,” Zubritsky said. “I recommend using these products even before your sunburn starts to form. While the damage has already been done, the quicker you start using the products, the sooner you will have relief.”

There are tons of after-sun care products on the market, but Zubritsky said there are certain ingredients that work better than others in terms of providing relief. She suggested looking for products with ingredients that help to heal your skin, improve inflammation, reduce redness and have a cooling sensation. This includes aloe vera, soy, shea butter and calamine.

“I recommend avoiding any after-care products that have ingredients with ‘-caine’ — like lidocaine or benzocaine — since these may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction. I also recommend avoiding products like Vaseline or Aquaphor in the early stages, especially if there is blister formation, as this can trap heat.”

Dr. Lian Mack, a board-certified dermatologist at GlamDerm in New York City, said people of all skin types can definitely benefit from using these products.

“Fairer skin types have less melanin or pigment in the skin and are more likely to experience burns and inflammatory reactions after sun exposure. However, all skin types may experience dehydration, and while those with darker skin are less likely to feel pain or experience redness, all skin types may benefit from the hydrating effects of an after-sun skin care product,” Mack said.

We asked Mack and Zubritsky to provide their top product recommendations for after-sun care. Check them out below.

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Sun Bum Cool Down aloe vera gel

“This gel contains aloe to soothe and relieve the skin as well as vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that can help repair damaged skin cells,” Zubritsky said.

Packed with tea tree oil, too, this lightweight and non-greasy aloe gel is just what you need to get relief for your sunburn. For maximum results, apply it generously all over your skin right after sun exposure.

Eau Thermale Avene thermal spring water

“This is super soothing and hydrating and easy to bring with you and reapply on the go. It also contains antioxidants and can help to reduce inflammation and redness,” Zubritsky said.

Sunburned skin needs hydration and moisture, and in addition to being used to help treat atopic dermatitis, this thermal spring water can help relieve inflammation, itching, redness and irritation while softening skin.

Burt’s Bees after-sun soother

Mack recommended this after-sun lotion because it contains coconut oil and aloe, which hydrate and soothe skin. It’s also non-greasy and fast absorbing.

Coola Radical recovery after-sun body lotion

Key ingredients aloe vera, agave and lavender oil make the perfect combination for sunburn relief, which is why Mack recommends this after-sun lotion for a super sunny days. It’s also enriched with antioxidants to refresh and repair your irritated skin.

Editor’s Pick

Clinique after-sun rescue balm

Since I have acne-prone and sensitive skin, I really have to watch what lotions, gels and creams I put on, especially during the summertime, when I’m probably sweating enough to fill up a small cooler. This after-sun balm however, agrees with my skin 100% and it’s free of fragrance. I recently went to an outdoor event on one of the hottest days of the year and forgot to apply sunscreen on my back, which was exposed to the sun, and applied this as soon as I got home. Thanks to the aloe included in the formula, my skin felt calm, cool and collected.

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