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Best after-sun lotion 2023: Our pick of the best after-sun creams to soothe and hydrate

Looking to take care of your skin after spending time in the sun? Here are the best after-sun lotions to buy

After a day in the sun, it’s no fun discovering that you’re actually more red than brown. But fear not: a good after-sun lotion can save the day. Reducing redness, soothing soreness and helping to stop peeling aren’t the only reasons to apply such a product as part of your sun care routine.

No matter how well your skin deals with the sun, applying an after-sun cream is essential for hydrating and moisturising skin that can otherwise start to look dry and leathery in years to come, and it can prolong your tan too.

In a market that’s full of after-sun lotions, creams, balms, milks, oils and gels, all at different prices, it can be hard to know how to find the best after-sun product for you. Good news: we’re here to help.

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Best after-sun lotion: At a glance

How to choose the best after-sun for you

Is after-sun just for sunburn?

No. Some people see after-sun as something to apply only if they get too much sun. But in fact, if you get badly burnt – with severe redness, blistering and swelling – then you should actually seek medical attention. After-sun is designed to be as much a part of your sun-care routine as applying sun-protection cream. So whether you have a very slight sun-kissed look, full-on bronzing, or mild sunburn, after-sun is for you.

What should a good after-sun do?

It should hydrate the skin, replacing all the moisture that’s lost when exposing it to the sun, while also nourishing the skin with nutrients. An after-sun should help prolong your tan, if you have one – and if you’re a little burnt, it should reduce redness and peeling too. Some after-suns do other things besides – for example, some formulas double up as an insect repellent, too.

Can I use after-sun on sensitive skin?

Yes, provided you buy a formula that’s designed specifically for that type of skin. Ladival DNA After Repair Sun Gel and La Roche-Posay Posthelios Gel (reviewed below) are both specifcally designed for sensitive skin.

How often should after-sun be applied?

Usually, after-sun should be applied daily – generally after a bath or shower (or, in the case of Vichy Ideal Soleil After Sun, you can actually use it in the shower). It should make your skin feel instantly soft and hydrated.

How much do I need to spend?

After-sun costs anything from a couple of quid up to well over £50, but you don’t necessarily get what you pay for. In fact, some of the cheaper organic after-suns are better for sunned skin than posh formulas that are packed with chemicals.

READ NEXT: Best facial sun cream: The best sun protection for your face from £6

The best after-sun products to buy

1. Ultrasun After-Sun Tan Booster: Best after-sun for maintaining a tan

Price when reviewed: £19 | Check price at Amazon

All good after-suns prolong a tan, but this one adds to it so you can come home from your holiday looking even more sun-kissed. There are other formulations available that include fake tan, but this gives a natural-looking glow, without streaking. Plus, it does everything a good after-sun product should do, too – you’ll feel it hydrating your skin the moment you apply it. But don’t forget to wash your hands after use – and wait a few minutes before putting on your clothes (especially those white jeans).

Key specs – Quantity: 150ml; Type: lotion

2. Bioderma Photoderm Refreshing After-Sun Milk: Best after-sun for sensitive skin

Price when reviewed: £22 | Check price at Amazon

This milky lotion is popular in European sunspots for its ability to immediately calm down angry sun-stressed skin, and even to soothe the painful itching of prickly heat. It’s thin enough to be really easy to apply, and it absorbs very fast, but it’s also rich enough to leave your skin feeling super-hydrated for hours after application.

Buyers rave about it. One says it was the only product that worked to soothe “very sore sun damage” acquired on a windy beach, and another says they use it as a daily body moisturiser all year round – with better results than standard moisturisers. Many say it prolongs their tan by softening their skin, and by all reports it smells delicious. The sizeable half-litre bottle goes a long way, too.

Key specs – Quantity: 500ml; Type: Milk

3. Garnier Ambre Solaire After-Sun Lotion: Best budget after-sun

Price when reviewed: £5 | Check price at Boots

This brand makes some of the most recognisable sun lotions around, and just like its sun creams, the after-sun formulas feel slightly more luxurious than other high-street brands – without costing the earth. In fact, for a fiver, this is a steal. Aloe vera hydrates your skin, while cooling and promoting healing. It feels less sticky than many of its competitors, absorbing quickly into the skin. There’s a slight after smell, but it’s by no means overwhelming and nor does it last. Keep the bottle in the fridge for the ultimate refreshing experience. Suitable for all the family.

Key specs – Quantity: 200ml; Type: lotion

Check price at Boots

4. Dr Organic Aloe Vera Gel: Best after-sun for soothing sunburned skin

Price when reviewed: £6 | Check price at Holland and Barrett

Aloe vera is one of the most common ingredients you’ll find in after-sun products. This is because the so-called ‘burn plant’ is widely considered the best natural remedy for burns, soothing the skin like nothing else when it’s still red and sore. This formula is double-strength, so it works within hours to soothe skin. Keep it in the fridge and it will feel even more cooling on the skin – although it can feel ever so slightly sticky straight after application. While other aloe vera after-sun products are pumped full of ingredients that we’ve never heard of, this one is organic and exceptionally good value – especially since you don’t need much.

Key specs – Quantity: 200ml; Type: gel

Check price at Holland and Barrett

5. Clinique After-Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe: Best after-sun for the face

Price when reviewed: £20 | Check price at Amazon

This soothing balm can be used on the body and face but it’s especially good if you have sensitive, acne-prone skin as it’s oil-free and non-comedogenic so it won’t block your pores like some other thicker formulations. It’s lightweight, easily absorbed and has an instant cooling effect. Made with Aloe leaf juice, it has a clean, fresh scent and makes a great base for applying make up.

Key specs – Quantity: 150ml; Type: balm

6. Soltan Soothe & Moisturise Aftersun with Insect Repellent Lotion: Best after-sun with insect repellent

Price when reviewed: £7.55 | Check price at Boots

If the likes of midges and mosquitos are enough to ruin an otherwise perfectly lovely holiday, then snap up a bottle of this stuff. After your day in the sun, smooth it onto skin in the knowledge that not only will you be repairing any sun damage, but you’ll be protecting against bites too. And if you’re concerned that means it’s going to stink, don’t be – it’s surprisingly mild, with no hint of the kind of smell you’d associate with repellent sprays. This is a great budget option that can be used by the whole family, although if you’ve used this lotion in previous years then you’ll be disappointed by this new formula, which proves a little more greasy and sticky than its predecessor.

Key specs – Quantity: 200ml; Type: lotion

Check price at Boots

7. Vichy Ideal Soleil After Sun SOS Balm: Best after-sun for use on wet skin

Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at Amazon

This product is a real treat to put on either wet or dry skin, with the hydrating feeling lasting much longer than other after-suns. It’s easy to apply, quick at working to rid that feeling of tightness, and the shea butter means you’ve less chance of peeling. It has a subtle scent and is free from parabens so it’s a good pick for allergy-prone and sensitive skins.

Key specs – Quantity: 100ml; Type: balm

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