The 10 Best After-Sun Products of 2021

Dermatologists share their top picks and helpful skincare tips

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

Best Overall: COOLA Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion at Walmart

"This ultra-hydrating lotion uses aloe vera to soothe over-exposed skin."

Best Budget: Banana Boat Aloe Vera Sun Burn Relief Sun Care After Sun Lotion at Amazon

"Contains aloe vera, coconut oil, and cocoa butter to hydrate your skin and reduce heat."

Best for Women: Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm at Nordstrom

"It includes aloe to soothe sun-exposed skin and is suitable for the face and body alike."

Best for Kids: Thinksport Kids Aloe Vera After Sun Relief Gel at Amazon

"Free from sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and other chemicals that concern parents."

Best for Men: Bioderma Photoderm After-Sun at Dermstore

"Glycerine and shea help to rehydrate and prevent dryness caused by sun exposure."

Best for Face: Beekman Pure Goat Milk Stick of Butter Solid Moisturizer at Beekman 1802

"As a compact stick, this is an ideal option for traveling, too."

Best Aloe Vera: Mario Badescu Aloe Lotion at Amazon

"It leaves skin with a refreshed sensation and an overall clean feeling after use."

Best Drugstore: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration at Amazon

"It's non-greasy, non-sticky, and lightweight, as well as reef-friendly and cruelty-free."

Best Natural: Burt's Bees Aloe and Coconut Oil After Sun Soother at Amazon

"This lotion absorbs quickly and can be used on both face and body."

Best Spray: Herbivore After Sun Soothing Aloe Mist at Nordstrom

"Aloe vera nourishes skin and lavender and mint essential oils cool and calm it." 

Few simple pleasures are more enjoyable than spending a day basking in the sun. But if you accidentally overdo it, that pleasure can turn into a painful, itchy, and irritated sunburn.

After-sun lotions provide an over-the-counter way to soothe skin after too much sun exposure, providing instant relief as well as lasting therapy that can help reduce peeling and keep skin feeling moisturized and supple. To use these products, “apply generously to the entire body, especially the sun-exposed parts,” explains Dr. Sana Wazir, dermatologist and medical reviewer at Scandinavian Biolabs. “It will moisturize dry, rough, and parched skin and will prevent peeling and drying.”

 With suggestions and tips from dermatology pros, here are the best after-sun lotions to buy.

Best Overall: COOLA Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion

COOLA ER+ Radical Recovery After-Sun Lotion

Courtesy of Sephora

Coola’s after-sun lotion is a popular choice with many five-star reviews from customers. This ultra-hydrating lotion uses aloe vera to soothe over-exposed skin, and it’s loaded with antioxidants like sunflower oil. Overall, it contains more than 70 percent certified organic ingredients, and 99 percent of the product's ingredients are naturally derived. It uses lavender oil as a natural anti-inflammatory, which also gives the lotion its therapeutic lavender scent. It’s also vegan and reef-friendly.

Best Budget: Banana Boat Aloe Vera Sun Burn Relief Sun Care After Sun Lotion

“The Banana Boat After Sun Lotion provides great value for money and contains aloe vera, coconut oil, and cocoa butter to hydrate your skin and reduce heat,” says Jill Canes, nurse practitioner and the founder of Face Forward Medical Aesthetics. “This after-sun lotion also protects your skin against UV damage with vitamin E.” Further, it's reef-safe, non-greasy, and it’s been a time-tested favorite among users for decades.

Best for Women: Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm

Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm

 Courtesy of Nordstrom

Clinique’s super-moisturizing balm is a popular option. It includes aloe to soothe sun-exposed skin and is suitable for the face and body alike. This oil-free and fragrance-free formula also helps minimize peeling after sun exposure, and it can be used multiple times throughout the day.

Best for Kids: Thinksport Kids Aloe Vera After Sun Relief Gel

This aloe vera-packed after-sun product formulated specifically for kids is free from sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and other chemicals that might concern parents, and it’s gentle and ideal for sensitive skin. Thinksport’s after-sun relief gel is also cruelty-free.

Best for Men: Bioderma Photoderm After-Sun

Bioderma Photoderm After-Sun

Courtesy of Dermstore

Dermatologist Papri Sarkar recommends Bioderma Photoderm After-Sun for year-round use. “This contains glycerin, shea butter, and allantoin to keep skin moisturized and help soothe it,” she says. Allantoin and ginkgo biloba help settle that overheated feeling, and glycerine and shea help to rehydrate and prevent dryness caused by sun exposure.

Best for Face: Beekman Pure Goat Milk Stick of Butter Solid Moisturizer

Beekman Pure Goat Milk Stick of Butter Solid Moisturizer

Courtesy of Beekman

Goat milk is ideal for calming and healing sunburned skin: It has the same pH as human skin, and it’s packed with vitamins, proteins, fat, and amino acids that soothe. This solid stick moisturizer calms and hydrates any dry, red, or irritated skin all over the body, including the face. On the skin, the solid stick melts into an oil rich in antioxidants, like coconut, avocado, grape seed, and aloe, plus butters like shea, mango, and cocoa that absorb immediately. And because it starts out as a compact stick, this is an ideal option for traveling, too.

Best Aloe Vera: Mario Badescu Aloe Lotion

Mario Badescu Aloe Lotion

 Courtesy of Ulta

Dr. Wazir says her favorite after-sun lotion is this aloe lotion by Mario Badescu. The affordable product is a mild astringent containing aloe vera for soothing skin that's seen too much sun. Ideal for combination, sensitive, or dry skin alike, it leaves skin with a refreshed sensation and an overall clean feeling after use.

Best Drugstore: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration

Canes recommends this drugstore product for its affordability but also its soothing ingredients. “Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration contains aloe vera and shea butter to strengthen your skin barrier and keep your skin hydrated,” she says. “This after-sun lotion also contains antioxidants from mango and papaya.” Plus, this product is non-greasy, non-sticky, and lightweight, as well as reef-friendly and cruelty-free.

Best Natural: Burt's Bees Aloe and Coconut Oil After Sun Soother

Burt’s Bees’ lotion offers deep hydration thanks to aloe vera and other natural ingredients; it contains no parabens, phthalates, or petrolatum, and is 98.9 percent natural in origin overall. This lotion absorbs quickly and can be used on both face and body.

Best Spray: Herbivore After Sun Mist

how to treat sunburn: Herbivore Botanicals After Sun Soothing Aloe Mist

Herbivore’s After Sun Soothing Aloe Mist is super light and refreshing with aloe vera to nourish skin and lavender and mint essential oils to cool and calm it. If you cannot get the actual plant, this is the next best thing, says Dr. Naana Boakye, dermatologist and owner of the New Jersey-based Bergen Dermatology. “I like this brand because the ingredients are minimal in comparison to most.”

Final Verdict

Consumers love the COOLA Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion (view at Walmart), and it's easy to see why—it comprises mostly organic and natural ingredients, has a calming lavender fragrance, and is ultra hydrating. However, the Beekman 1802 Pure Goat Milk Stick of Butter (view at QVC) is great for sun exposure and offers versatility—it works for women, men, and kids, and the solid stick format makes it convenient for travel.

What to Look For in an After-Sun Lotion

Moisturizing Ingredients

The key to an effective after-sun product is one that hydrates and moisturizes the skin, so look for clues in the ingredient list, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin. “These ingredients will restore and repair the skin barrier so that you can replenish any moisture that has been lost," says Canes.

 Antioxidants

After-sun lotions with antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, can neutralize free radicals, which can cause skin aging, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles, says Wazir.

Potential Irritants

While you do want to identify products that hydrate and moisturize, you also want to avoid any ingredients that will irritate skin—especially sensitive skin—which can include fragrances, colors, and more. “You want a product that has cooling and calming ingredients,” says Dr. Boakye. “Remember your skin just got irritated from the sun.”

FAQs

 When should I see a doctor for sunburn?

While you can treat mild sunburns at home using over-the-counter products, you may want to see a doctor for more severe cases. “It all depends on the sunburn,” Dr. Boakye says. “If it is mild, definitely go with a cooling gel or spray and wear loose clothing to not irritate the skin. Sometimes, you may need the assistance of hydrocortisone cream, which is over the counter. If the burn is extensive, I would seek dermatological advice.”

 How should I apply after-sun lotion for best absorption?

"Use after-sun lotion right after your shower when your skin can absorb the lotion more easily," says Canes. "Apply [it] twice a day, and make sure you pat your skin dry before applying your after-sun lotion.” Dr. Sarkar adds: “If you don't want to apply it after a shower, wet a washcloth and run it over your skin and then immediately put lotion on.”

 How often should I use it?

In short, frequently and consistently. “Store it in the fridge and apply liberally at least [twice] per day," says Dr. Sarkar. “Since skin is often dry after a sunburn, I recommend that my patients who need this continue to use a moisturizer on damp skin at least once per day after their sunburn is healed."

Why Trust TripSavvy

Alesandra Dubin enjoys spending time outside at home in sunny Los Angeles and during her frequent travels—and occasionally overdoes her sun exposure. Through many years of experimentation, plus research and interviews with expert dermatologists, she has extensive knowledge of after-sun skincare.

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