The 17 best after-sun lotions, according to dermatologists | CNN Underscored (2024)

Content is created by CNN Underscored’s team of editors who work independently from the CNN newsroom. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more

Beauty / Skin Care

By Sophie Shaw, CNN Underscored

Published 3:49 PM EDT, Fri May 31, 2024

What’s in this guide

  • What is the difference between after-sun lotion and sunscreen?
  • How does after-sun lotion work?
  • After-sun skin care routine
  • Best after-sun lotions
  • Other after-sun treatments
The 17 best after-sun lotions, according to dermatologists | CNN Underscored (1)

Having fun under the sun means that redness, peeling and sunburns are likely, which is why you’ll want to have a soothing after-sun lotion on hand this summer.

Even when practicing sun safety — which means wearing (and reapplying) sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, staying in the shade when possible (especially during peak hours) and wearing sun-protective clothing, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. DiAnne Davis — UV rays on hot, sunny days can have the upper hand. And when they do, an after-sun lotion can be the refreshing drink your skin needs.

We asked four dermatologists for the best post-sun skin care protocol, along with their top recommendations for after-sun lotions, gels and more.

What is the difference between after-sun lotion and sunscreen?

Unlike sunscreen, which contains filters that guard against UV rays, after-sun lotions do not provide UV protection. Instead, they “are moisturizing lotions designed specifically to be used after the sun,” says Dr. Amy Freeman, a New Jersey-based board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group. “Its purpose is to calm the inflammation from the sun, enhance hydration and repair the skin barrier.

Milk Makeup Cooling Water Sephora Related article The 33 best cooling products to fend off summer heat

How does after-sun lotion work?

“After-sun products are typically based on soothing ingredients to lessen discomfort and hydrating ingredients to minimize skin peeling,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr Loretta skin care. They are commonly in the form of lotions, gels or sprays. These lighter-weight products “will feel better on the skin and allow for it to breathe, versus a product with a thicker consistency,” Davis says.

The dermatologists recommend looking for after-sun products containing calming aloe vera or soy, hydrating hyaluronic acid or glycerin, and soothing shea butter. Davis and Freeman also recommended vitamin C and E, which act as antioxidants that aid in reversing sun damage.

Getty Images/iStockphoto Related article 19 packable sun hats that won’t lose their shape on your summer vacation

After-sun skin care routine

To start off, literally cooling the skin down will help. Ciraldo recommends taking a cool shower or bath as soon as possible after sun exposure. “This not only soothes but it can lessen redness, inflammation and discomfort,” she says. Davis notes that a cold compress does the trick too.

Next, the dermatologists advise applying moisturizing after-sun products with soothing ingredients to rehydrate the skin. “Apply the after-sun product to damp skin and reapply every three to four hours until skin is feeling more comfortable and looks better-hydrated,” Ciraldo says. To ensure the best absorption, she recommends staying in your cool shower “until your fingertips swell, since this reflects a slight swelling of the skin surface” so you can maximize how much after-sun product gets soaked in.

As for skin care products to steer away from after intense sun exposure, Freeman says to avoid thick, ointment-based products, “which can trap heat on the body, preventing it from cooling.”

New York-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. David Kim says to skip retinol and chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) if you’ve gotten too much sun too. Instead of using potentially irritating active ingredients, Kim likes after-sun products with centella asiatica, colloidal oat, allantoin, panthenol, camellia sinensis (green tea extract) and bisabolol (chamomile).

Ahead, check out 17 after-sun lotions and products that will soothe and calm the skin after a day of catching rays.

Best after-sun lotions

In addition to aloe and coconut oil, this after-sun lotion that Ciraldo and Davis recommend has glycerin and olive oil. Davis says it absorbs quickly into the skin and is packed with hydrating ingredients.

Freeman and Kim say you can keep it simple with this straightforward moisturizer. According to Kim, the formula’s emollient ceramides will help repair the skin barrier.

This drugstore classic is an effective soother for sun-burned skin. Along with aloe vera, it’s loaded with hydrating glycerin. Freeman says to keep it in the fridge for an extra cooling effect.

“A combination of colloidal oat, allantoin and ceramide helps repair and calm the skin,” Kim says of this hydrating cream for the face and body.

“This is another great product to provide protection while containing soothing aloe vera for visible redness or dryness,” Davis says. “It also helps to improve the skin’s moisture barrier over time.”

Dry, dehydrated skin needs emollients to restore moisture, but those ingredients can feel heavy during the summer months. That’s why this serum-like moisturizer is a perfect swap for your after-sun routine. It’s loaded with niacinamide, vitamin B5 andoat extract, so your skin can soak in all the good stuff without feeing greasy or sticky.

The full size is currently sold out, so pick up a travel size for your summer adventures.

This top-rated after-sun lotion helps calm sunburns with aloe vera, lavender oil, rosemary extract and other organic ingredients. It has a nice, nourishing consistency without feeling heavy.

Calming ingredients like calendula, chamomile and cucumber make this fast-absorbing lotion feel like instant relief for sun-parched skin.

This after-sun lotion has a gel-cream texture that is great for applying right after a cool shower, as Ciraldo recommends. It has a natural, minty scent that assists with the cooling effect, while aloe, bisabolol, sea buckthorn and a blend of natural oils add moisture back to the skin.

Molly Flores/CNN Underscored Related article The best sunscreens in 2024, tested by editors

Other after-sun treatments

Great for those with red skin conditions like rosacea, this soothing face cream can also help ease sun burns. “This product has camellia sinensis (green tea extract), bisabolol and glycerin to calm and hydrate the skin,” Kim says.

Vacation has become a go-to brand for sun protection, thanks to its nostalgic branding and summery-scented products. The After-Sun Gel fits right in, with a formula made to quench thirsty, sun-baked skin. You’ll spot all the great hydrating and conditioning ingredients like aloe, cucumber, green tea, niacinamide, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, allantoin and more.

This ultra-light body serum sinks right in, adding weightless hydration with five molecular weights of hyaluronic acid for optimal penetration. It also includes niacinamide, aloe and algae for plump, soft skin.

You’ll want to keep this refreshing spritz in your beach bag. The mist contains aloe, eucalyptus, prickly pear and cucumber for an instant cooldown for sun-exposed skin.

Easing the effects of basking under UV rays all day, this gel calms redness and irritation. It consists of 95% Jeju palm cactus extract, which is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, along with panthenol and glycerin to repair the skin barrier.

This gel-based body mask is packed with fruit extracts, niacinamide, a patented glucose complex to prevent water loss and a touch of cooling menthol for a refreshing and relieving post-sun treatment.

Don't forget about your scalp! Unless you kept it covered with a cute sun hat, a day spent in the sun means that the top of your head probably needs some TLC too. This aloe- and oat-infused spray soothes from head to toe, while feeling essentially weightless on your hair.

More recommendations

parsely 15 best under-eye patches to depuff and hydrate, according to experts
parsely 10 best all-body deodorant balms, according to dermatologists
parsely How to treat melasma and hyperpigmentation, according to dermatologists
parsely 11 best sunscreens for acne-prone skin, according to dermatologists
parsely The 25 best tinted moisturizers, according to makeup artists
parsely 35 best face sunscreens, according to dermatologists
parsely The 15 best water-resistant sunscreens, according to experts
parsely The 17 best moisturizers for sensitive skin, according to dermatologists
parsely The essentials list: Optometrist Dr. Jennifer Tsai shares her favorite eye-safe beauty products

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed price at the time of publication.

Deal of the Day

$180 $140 at Amazon

22% off

Thanks for signing up! Your welcome email is on its way.

Get the CNN Underscored newsletter

Receive product recommendations, reviews and deals three times a week.

By entering your email address, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the Privacy Policy. CNN and its affiliates may use your email address to provide updates, ads, and offers.

By clicking 'Sign up', you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the Privacy Policy. CNN and its affiliates may use your email address to provide updates, ads, and offers.

Opt out via the Privacy Policy.

The 17 best after-sun lotions, according to dermatologists | CNN Underscored (2024)


What is the number one dermatologist recommended lotion? ›

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Dr. Shoshana Marmon, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at New York Medical College, recommends this NBC Select Wellness Award winner, which is formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to heal dry skin.

What is the best after sun lotion for 2024? ›

Neutrogena Sun Rescue After Sun Replenishing Lotion

Sun Rescue from Neutrogena is a non-comedogenic lotion made from aloe vera and mint extract, so it won't clog your pores and cause breakouts. It promises a boost of moisture for 24 hours when you lather it on, and your skin will feel cool in an instant.

What is the No 1 brand recommended by dermatologists? ›

La Roche-Posay has the honor of being the number one recommended dermatologist brand of skin care.

What is better, Eucerin or CeraVe? ›

If I was to pick only one of the two products, Cerave would be it. Even if it needs more oil for the perfect feel in super dry weather, it provides a much more moisturizing cushion to the skin. When I use it without oil in the summer it almost feels a little dry/powder-like, while still moisturizing.

Does after sun lotion really help? ›

In short, yes, after sun is great for your skin. When you've been exposed to the sun forlong periods of time, your skin will be crying out for the moisture a good-quality after sun lotion will provide. You can maximise the efficacy of your after sun by jumping into a lukewarm or cool shower or bath before you apply it.

Is after sun better than moisturiser? ›

Yes! After sun can absolutely be used as a daily moisturiser. These products are actually very similar to standard moisturisers, except they contain some added benefits. For example, after sun is lightweight to ensure heat is able to escape your skin, which makes it perfect for daily use.

How often should you apply after sun lotion? ›

If like many others you find yourself buying aftersun only after you've burnt, you should shower and apply liberally at least every morning and evening - or as often as you like - until your symptoms disappear.

How do you fix years of sun damaged skin? ›

  1. Moisturizer.
  2. Prescription retinoid you apply to your skin.
  3. Injectible fillers and botox.
  4. Chemical peel.
  5. Microdermabrasion.
  6. Laser resurfacing.

What is the best lotion recommended by dermatologists? ›

Healthline's picks for the best lotion
  • Vanicream Moisturizing Cream. ...
  • La Roche-Posay Lipikar Lotion. ...
  • Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream. ...
  • Aveeno Stress Relief Moisturizing Lotion. ...
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream. ...
  • Vaseline 100% Pure Petroleum Jelly. ...
  • TiZO Ultra Zinc Body & Face Non-tinted SPF 40.
Jun 27, 2022

What is the number one moisturizer for aging skin? ›

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Regenerating Face Cream

Neutrogena has a killer lineup of moisturizers for aging skin, according to Dr. Nazarian—especially if you're in the market for retinoids. This moisturizer pairs retinol (duh) with hyaluronic acid, which helps offset any dryness or irritation.

What is the best moisturizer according to dermatologists? ›

The best face moisturizers, at a glance:
  • Best Overall: SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, $166.
  • Best Drugstore: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer, $24.
  • Best for Dry Skin: OSEA Advanced Protection Cream, $108.
  • Best Oil-Free Moisturizer: Eighth Day Intensive Moisturizer, $290.
May 10, 2024

What is the number one rated moisturizer? ›

The best face moisturizer brands include some that we've tested like First Aid Beauty, Vanicream, La Roche-Posay, The Ordinary, Clinque, and CeraVe. Other popular face moisturizer brands include Drunk Elephant (available at Amazon), Paula's Choice (available at Amazon), and SkinCeuticals (available at Dermstore).

What do dermatologists recommend for skin? ›

To maintain healthy skin, dermatologists recommend the following tips:
  • Wear sunscreen daily. ...
  • Stay out of tanning beds. ...
  • Simplify your skin care routine. ...
  • Choose skin care products formulated for your skin type. ...
  • Treat your lips. ...
  • Keep your hands off your face. ...
  • Check your skin regularly.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Leonie Wyman

Last Updated:

Views: 6314

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Leonie Wyman

Birthday: 1993-07-01

Address: Suite 763 6272 Lang Bypass, New Xochitlport, VT 72704-3308

Phone: +22014484519944

Job: Banking Officer

Hobby: Sailing, Gaming, Basketball, Calligraphy, Mycology, Astronomy, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Rev. Leonie Wyman, I am a colorful, tasty, splendid, fair, witty, gorgeous, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.