The Best After-Sun Skin-Care Products of 2023

Written by Amelia McBride
Art Direction by Natalie Carroll and Alyssa Gray
Creative Direction by Jenna Gibson

Sun, surf, and sand are what make summer so fun. But just like so many other things in life (ahem, spicy foods and bottomless mimosas), when it comes to sun exposure, too much of a good thing can be… a very bad thing. One moment you’re soaking up a health-boosting dose of vitamin D, oblivious to the fact that you’ve forgotten your SPF, and the next, you’re looking totally fried.

Unfortunately, by this point, the damage is already done. Research shows that exposure to UV radiation from the sun becomes harmful after just five to 10 minutes. So while you can’t un-burn your skin, you can help ensure your skin bounces back quicker than it would on its own, all thanks to soothing after-sun lotions and ointments.

Experts In This Article

Ahead, read on to see what makes a solid after-sun product in our book—and remember to apply (and re-apply!) your SPF to stay protected in the future.

What to look for in an after-sun product

1. Aloe vera
One of the most popular (and effective) cooling agents to look out for in after-sun products is aloe vera. This succulent-derived natural extract helps cool down burns while adding hydration back into the skin. “Aloe vera leaves, particularly in the innermost layer, are abundant with water, so it helps to hydrate the skin and seal in moisture,” Gretchen Frieling, MD, previously told Well+Good. Not only that, but it also contains “anti-inflammatory properties, promotes circulation, and prevents bacteria growth," she says.

2. Corticosteroids
Topical corticosteroids, like hydrocortisone cream, help fight the inflammation and irritation that typically follows a sunburn. Commonly used to treat skin ailments like eczema and psoriasis, corticosteroids can help alleviate the itchy, inflamed skin that tends to accompany a bad sunburn.

3. Hydrating ingredients
Prolonged sun exposure zaps our bodies of hydration. Similar to how you might crave an ice-cold glass of water on a hot summer day, your skin craves water after being out in the sun. Along with drinking plenty of fluids, after-sun products that contain gentle moisturizing agents like coconut oil, shea butter, or hyaluronic acid can help your skin get its bounce back.

3. No irritants
Some skin-care additives can further irritate sensitive, sunburned skin. When picking out an after-sun product, be sure to avoid irritants like dyes, fragrances, alcohol, and parabens; these ingredients can be drying and potentially worsen any pain you’re already experiencing.

Shop award-winning after-sun skin care

Coola, Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion — $34
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Best after-sun facial lotion
Quell lobster-red burns with Coola’s Radical Recovery After Sun Lotion. The combination of aloe vera and agave soothes redness and irritation. Consistency-wise, the formula is easy to blend into the skin. The relief this product provides makes it absolutely worth it.
What testers say
“After a long day in the sun, I want cooling relief. And this lotion feels divine on warm skin.” — Kara Jillian Brown, beauty writer
Active Ingredients
Lavender, Rosemary
Size — 5 ounces
Eucerin, After Sun Lotion—$10
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Best after-sun body lotion
A day in the sun can leave skin parched, red, and itchy, but fear not, Eucerin’s After Sun Lotion is here to save the day. It’s packed with hydrators like shea butter and vitamin E to soothe skin after sun exposure and prevent skin from stressing out. Also nice? The lotion is free of parabens, dyes, and pthalates Non-greasy and non-sticky, this lotion is what you’ll want after a day out in the sun.
What testers say
“I love glycerin, one of the main ingredients in this body lotion, because it makes products go on like butter. My skin slurps this stuff up after a day in the heat. It goes on silky smooth and dries so fast.” — Brown
Active Ingredients
Vitamin E, Glycerin, Shea butter
Size — 6.8 ounces
FarmRX, Super Greens Cooling Gel — $30
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Best cooling gel
This gel moisturizer from FarmRX is packed with super greens you’d find on the dinner table (think: broccoli and Brussel sprouts). These ingredients work in tandem to repair damaged skin, boost hydration levels, and minimize redness. It’s best used after sun exposure as an overnight mask, and will help calm your skin while you sleep.
What testers say
“I love, love the cooling sensation this leaves on my skin. The lightweight gel feels amazing (especially on post-sun skin), and is the tall drink of water my complexion needs after a long day outdoors” — Zoë Weiner, senior beauty editor
Active Ingredients
Green Tea
Size — 3.04 ounces
Pavise, Gentle Amino Power Wash — $64
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Best luxury cleanser for removing sunscreen
Few cleansers can remove impurities and gunk from the skin without stripping it dry, but Pavise has risen the ranks. The amino acid- and glycolic-infused cleanser gently cleanses and exfoliates leftover sunscreen without stripping your skin dry. It’s also fragrance- and sulfate-free, making it suitable for all skin types, especially folks with sensitive skin. To use it, apply a pump or two, lather, and massage into the face with lukewarm water. While the cleanser leans more on the pricier side, all you need is a pump or two to swipe off even the most stubborn SPF, so it’s bound to go a long way.
What testers say
“While I was testing what felt like a bajillion sunscreens for this project, I reached for this cleanser over and over to make sure I was getting every bit off my face. I have dry skin, and while this cleanser didn’t leave me feeling hydrated, it certainly didn’t leave it feeling parched. It’s a godsend for throughly removing SPF.” — Brown
Active Ingredients
Amino acids, Glycolic acid
Size — 5 ounces
Tower 28, SOS Intensive Rescue Serum — $tk
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Best after-sun serum
This lightweight formula is powered by hypochlorous acid, which boasts anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties to soothe red and sensitive skin. The result? Reduced redness and healthier-looking skin.
What testers say
“This serum uses hypochlorous acid to reduce redness, calm irritation, and support the skin’s renewal process. Basically, it does everything your skin is craving after a long beach day. It melts into my skin and dries down incredibly fast.” — Brown
Active Ingredients
Hypochlorous acid, Ionized water, Sodium magnesium, Sodium chloride
Size — 2 ounces
Sonage, Soothing Mist — $24
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Best after-sun mist
For days when your skin is feeling tight and parched, add a refreshing spritz of Sonage’s Hydrating Mist. When your skin is out of orbit, this mist brings it back into balance. The aloe vera and ginseng infusion revives lifeless skin while offering a dose of hydration. Spray after sun exposure and say hello to dewy, glowy skin.
What testers say
“The first time I sprayed this on my face, I actually said out loud, ‘Whoa, it smells like a spa.’ And it does! It’s also ultra-refreshing and perfect for days when my skin is feeling seriously sun-parched.” — Weiner
Active Ingredients
Snow mushroom
Size — 3.4 ounces
Pixi, After-Sun Sheet Masks — $10
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Best after-sun mask
Cucumber, chamomile, and aloe vera make up the formulation for this sheet mask, and this box of three will help you recover after multiple sun-drenched afternoons. The concoction works to restore hydrations levels and quell signs of inflammation. Even more, it acts as a pick-me-up for when your skin is feeling dull and red. Throw these baddies in the fridge for the ultimate cooling experience.
What testers say
“Sheet masks remain one of my favorite forms of skin care, and these masks live in my fridge, so they’re nice and cool whenever I need them. I love that they’re made with the ultimate soothing trifecta—aloe vera, cucumber, and chamomile—to leave my skin feeling renewed after just 10 minutes.” —Brown
Active Ingredients
Cucumber, Chamomile, Aloe vera
Size — 0.8 ounces