10 best after-sun products
Been out in the sun a bit too long? Soothe and repair sunburnt skin with one of these
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From sprays, creams and gels, to lotions and milks, after-suns come in various forms. Some benefit from added insect repellent while others have tan-intensifying properties and pure aloe vera.
We've rigorously tested after-suns, so you can pick the one to suit you. As a bare minimum you need a product that will provide nourishment, hydration, redness-reducing and peeling-prevention for sun-parched skin, so it feels soft and supple. Anything on top of that is bonus.
Whether it’s for kids or adults, after-sun is best applied after a bath or shower (once you’ve rinsed off the sun cream), and remember to drink plenty of water if you have been burnt. And of course, it’s always best to protect yourself in the first place. Check out our comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about sunscreens, and read our reviews on sunscreens for your face, for your body and for children.
1. Dr Organic Aloe Vera Gel: £5.59 for 200ml, Holland and Barrett
Nothing soothes sunburnt skin better than an aloe vera gel. They're surprisingly inexpensive, cooling, refreshing (especially if you keep them in the fridge), and sink into the skin almost immediately. Some can be sticky, but this one soaks in easily, leaving no residue. With double-strength aloe vera, it's one of the best on the market and will cool down and completely take the redness out of sun-exposed skin within hours. The aloe vera in this gel is organic, and the brand avoids lots of chemical nasties in its products.
2. Soltan Moisture & Repel Hydrating Aftersun with Insect Repellent: £4.50 for 200ml, Boots
If those pesky midges are the bane of your holiday life, then this is essential packing. An insect-repellent formula within the after-sun means you don't need to apply two separate products. And the best bit? Not a whiff of chemical insect repellent, just a fresh, after-sun scent. It absorbs easily and takes any tautness out of the skin. If the whole family suffers from summer bites, then the larger bottle is even better value at £5.50 for 400ml.
3. Neal's Yard Remedies Camomile & Aloe Vera After Sun Lotion: £18 for 200ml, Neal’s Yard Remedies
If you like your after-sun to be a luxurious beauty treat, rather than just a straightforward moisture- and redness-reducing exercise, then this is the lotion to go for. The scent on your skin of organic orange flower, lavender, lemongrass, geranium and spearmint essential oils, is amazing. You won't need a fragrance if you're wearing this after a day on the beach. If you take it on holiday, you will need to use it up though as you can't close it once opened. Organic grapeseed, sweet almond and wheat germ oils boost moisture levels in dehydrated skin while the rose, aloe vera, chamomile and comfrey add their soothing, cooling properties to the mix. This is after-sun at its most delightful.
4. Decleor Aroma Sun Expert High Repair After-Sun Balm: £33.50 for 15ml, Decleor
If you're a little more than sun-kissed and need some on-the-spot after-sun repair, then this handy, pocket-sized balm should do the trick. We've tested it on noses, ear lobes, back of the neck, ankles, tops of the feet and shoulders and it really takes the zing out of red skin. It is expensive, but worth every penny for those missed bits where your straps slipped, or you just caught too much sun on a patch of pale skin. It’s packed with active ingredients to strengthen and regenerate sun-parched skin, reduce redness and help prevent peeling. It's deliciously aromatic too, blending vanilla extract, shea butter, jojoba, avocado, geranium and frankincense essential oils. There are no mineral oils, preservatives or parabens, either, which is welcome news for anyone who suffers from eczema, psoriasis or highly irritated skin.
5. Piz Buin Tan Intensifying Moisturising Lotion: £5 for 200ml, Boots
Tanimel is a plant extract used by Piz Buin, to double the production of the skin's natural tanning pigments. Which means your normal tanning colour is intensified and deeper in colour when using this lotion as your after-sun. Some tan extenders or accelerators have the scent of a fake tan, but this one doesn't. And you won't look orange either. It applies like a normal after-sun – moisturising and cooling – and you’ll notice a subtle difference after a few days’ use. For fair skin that needs a helping hand to get some colour, or if you're after a deep Mediterranean tan, pack this one for your holiday.
6. Nuxe Refreshing After-Sun Lotion: £15.50 for 200ml, Nuxe
The Nuxe fragrance in this face and body after-sun 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 despite this it still leaves the skin feeling ultra-moisturised and smooth. This feels more like a luxurious body lotion than just a run-of-the-mill aftersun.
7. Garnier Ambre Solaire After Sun Soothing Hydrating Lotion: £6.50 for 200ml, Superdrug
Fast-absorbing, non-sticky and non-greasy, the main ingredient here is aloe vera – a desert plant capable of surviving for months without water, which means its water retentive abilities are second to none and helps to provide 24-hour hydration – we certainly still felt fresh the day after applying. Plus, aloe vera is packed with healing and cooling properties, amino acids and vitamins, which are all great skin savers for sun-stressed holiday skin.
8. Bioderma Photoderm Apres Soleil Refreshing After Sun Milk: £11.50 for 200ml, Escentual
As lotions go, this is an ultra-lightweight one, which makes it more refreshing than some of the thicker, heavier creams. It's slightly scented with a delicate, summery smell and is a multi-tasking face and body milk – it didn't clog the skin, so there are no breakouts on the face with this one. The formula also prepares the skin for further exposure and works on optimising the body's natural UV-protection. It’s worth considering if you are prone to burning or susceptible to prickly heat, as it equips the skin with a little more resilience in the sun. It’s also designed for more sensitive skin tones, too.
9. Ladival DNA Repair After Sun: £14 for 200ml, Asda
The absence of perfumes, oils and emulsifiers in this product makes it particularly suitable for sensitive skin. It's a lightweight gel, which makes it much nicer to use on hot, sticky nights than a rich cream or lotion. It's particularly effective at reducing redness and if skin feels tight, it gives it superb elasticity. It also contains an enzyme that apparently helps to restore the DNA in skin cells damaged by UV rays – harder for us to measure, but if you're concerned about ageing sun-damaged skin, this could be the one for you.
10. Mary Kay Suncare After-Sun Replenishing Gel: £12 for 192ml, 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 anti-oxidants inject some serious nourishment into sun-stressed skin, while the camellia extract calms and soothes.
The Verdict: After-suns
Decleor works wonders on small patches of skin that have caught too much sun, Neal’s Yard is a luxurious treat, while Soltan will keep those pesky mosquitos away. But for all-round cooling, redness-reducing efficacy, Dr Organic can't be bettered.