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8 best aftersun products to soothe and repair sun-damaged skin

Keep skin hydrated and protected with our pick of the best aftersun lotions on the market 

Always use a good quality after-sun whether or not you feel burnt or look red; the damage in your cells will be there even if you tan like a dream ( The Independent/iStock )

Long, hot, lazy days in the sunshine are wonderful for the soul, but not so good for our skin. Cellular damage due to sun exposure can be seen instantly with redness, heat and peeling skin, but also longer term with fine lines, wrinkles and age spots.

While we all need a vitamin D hit, you can’t undo the damage sun causes, but you can lessen its effects. Always use a good quality aftersun whether or not you feel burnt or look red; the damage in your cells will be there even if you tan like a dream. 

If you’re prone to pinkness or heat in the skin, then keep your aftersun in the fridge for a deliciously chilly hit after a day soaking up the rays and remember to rehydrate on the inside by drinking plenty of water. 

Our criteria was strict when testing products for this roundup: we don’t like stickiness, or dried-out skin: cooling gels with too much alcohol in them can leave the skin feeling cooled but also dry an hour or so later.

Our goal was soft, supple, hydrated, nourished, calm skin. A lovely scent is a bonus too, but not so perfumed as to irritate already sore skin. We rigorously tested buttery balms, cooling sprays, gels, lotions and milks to find our favourite skin-soothers for summer.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Dr Organic aloe vera gel with cucumber, 200ml:  £6.99, Holland and Barrett

Nothing soothes sunburnt skin better than an aloe vera gel. Aloe vera is packed with the amino acids essential for helping skin repair itself, aiding collagen and elastin production and neutralising free radicals from UVA rays. Aloe vera gels are surprisingly inexpensive, cooling, refreshing and redness-reducing; some can be sticky though, so make sure you chose one that sinks in easily and leaves no residue. This one by Dr Organichas pure bioactive organic aloe vera in this gel, to capture and maximise its soothing, moisturising capabilities for sun-stressed skin.

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Clarins soothing aftersun balm, 150ml: £22, Clarins

The thickest and most like butter of all the aftersuns we tested, this luxurious treat feels like the ultimate in deep nourishment – great for naturally dry skin, or skin dried out by sun, sand, salt and chlorine. During testing, we found that for the subsequent two days after application, we didn’t need to moisturise arms and legs at all. Packed with antioxidants, the balm includes skin-quenching watermelon, healing hydrating aloe vera, softening shea butter and heat-reducing and skin-protecting sunflower seed extract. The packaging says you can use it on the face too, and with their top-notch skincare credentials balancing science and nature, this is one of the few aftersuns I would be more than happy to use on my face.

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Tropic sun soothe cooling aftersun lotion, 200ml: £18, Tropic Skincare

Menthol, eucalyptus and grapefruit in this lotion deliver quite an olfactory hit when you first use it. Packed with nourishing plant extracts, it is fresh, cooling and stimulating, but also deeply comforting, despite being a fairly lightweight lotion. But the crowning glory is the triple concentrated aloe vera juice, the ultimate sun-stressed skin-reliever.

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Nuxe refreshing aftersun lotion, 200ml: £16.50, Escentual

The tropical fragrance in this lotion immediately transports you to exotic islands and sun-drenched beaches with its blend of sweet orange, Tahitian gardenia and vanilla. It’s fresh, light and sinks in easily, but still leaves skin feeling ultra-moisturised and smooth. And you can use it safely on your face without breaking out or irritating the eyes. This definitely feels more like a luxurious body lotion than just a run-of-the-mill aftersun.

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Soltan soothe & cool aftersun gel, 400ml: £6.50, Boots

Aloe vera-packed, but pleasingly non-sticky, this cooling gel dries almost instantly so you can get dressed straight away – super helpful when time is not on your side. It leaves a very pretty sheen on the skin and is great value for money too.

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Lancaster tan maximiser instant cooling mist repairing aftersun, 125ml: £20, Look Fantastic

You can enhance and even prolong your sun-kissed glow with this refreshing, soothing spray mist. Powered by their reinforced Tan Activator Complex, developed for extended release of natural melanin, the fast-absorbing formula helps the skin recover after sun exposure and reduces the risk of peeling. Instantly hydrating and calming with immediate heat relief, the cooling mist leaves skin soft and supple.

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SVR sun secure soothing hydrating & repairing care, 200ml: £6.68, Sanareva

This leading French pharmacy brand bridges the gap between medical treatments and cosmetic skincare and is ideal for sensitive skin; it also uses highly concentrated formulas for maximum efficacy. The scent of the nourishing repairing coconut oil base of this lotion is deeply reminiscent of warm sunshine-filled holidays. There are no parabens, allergens or alcohol making it ideal for sensitive skin. Plus, it has a 4 per cent niacinamide content – the hot beauty ingredient responsible for repairing cellular damage caused by sun exposure. Usually retailing for around the £17 mark, it’s currently on sale for less than £10, so stock up while you can.  

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Mary Kay suncare aftersun replenishing gel, 192ml: £12, Mary Kay

If you prefer a gel to a lotion, but nothing as chill-inducing as an aloe vera gel, then this is somewhere in between. It has a light, refreshing scent and there’s no stickiness – it just absorbs straight in. Botanical extracts full of antioxidants inject some serious nourishment into sun-stressed skin, while the camellia extract calms and soothes.

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The verdict: Aftersun products

Lancaster will enhance and prolong your tan, the scent of Nuxe is exquisite, Tropic is packed with nature’s most formidable skin soothers and Clarins delivers a glorious, luxurious, buttery treat. But for value for money and a guaranteed skin-soothing, calming and cooling hit of aloe vera, Dr Organic is the Indy Best winner.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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