Rehydrate your skin after time spent in the sun with these refreshing aftersun creams, lotions & butters

Chances are, you have your sun protection plan of action nailed: you’ve done the research and have your chosen sunscreen to protect your skin packed and ready to go. But an aspect that’s often less spoken about is that aftercare is an equally important step to help prevent skin dryness, sooth the skin and replenish moisture after time in the sun.

“There’s nothing more dehydrating to the skin than the sun,” explains Boots Soltan suncare expert, Clare O’Connor. “It’s really key to try to replace as much lost moisture as possible at the end of the day.”

Here, we take a closer look at what goes on underneath the surface, answer some of your burning questions and provide our top aftersun picks, to help keep skin cool, calm and collected come heatwave or holiday.

What happens to skin after a day in the sun?

If you’ve spent a lovely long day on the beach, you’ll probably be able to tell straight away if your skin is feeling the drying after-effects. Aesthetic doctor, Dr Sophie Shotter explains in more detail what’s behind the changes you might be experiencing.

“Exposure to UV radiation dries things out,” she says, “our skin is a carefully maintained environment that’s designed to support healthy cellular function. Cooling and rehydrating it with moisturising skincare products is essential.”

Cue: aftersun.

“Aftersun tends to be something that’s light and easier to apply to sore skin, whereas moisturisers typically require more massaging in”

What is aftersun & what does it do?

A good question, and luckily, Clare has the answer for us. “The main purpose of aftersun is to comfort the skin after sun exposure.”

We’ve likely all experienced that post-sun tight dryness and a specially formulated aftersun product can help provide genuine relief to stressed skin. “Aftersuns are designed to be incredibly moisturising, and should your skin be overexposed and slightly pink, their cooling effects may help comfort the skin, as well as soothe,” says Clare.

Plus, their texture can provide a useful summer upgrade to your regular moisturiser. Clare explains, “Aftersun tends to be something that’s light and easier to apply to sore skin, whereas moisturisers typically require more massaging in.”

How to use aftersun

No multi-step routine needed here. Just gently rub it on, as you would any body cream or lotion, to reap the benefits.

And if you’re wondering ‘how often should I apply aftersun?’ Dr Shotter says it’s best to apply it all over the body at night, to give it time to be absorbed, for it can be most effective.

She says, “Apply it to all sun-exposed areas of the body, preferably after you’ve showered to help lock in moisture.”

And don’t be shy about using an aftersun product more than just once, especially if you’ve overdone it and are dealing with sunburn or sun-damaged skin. Re-apply whenever you feel your skin could do with a little pick-me-up or, really, as often as you’d like.

Is aftersun only for sunburn?

Although aftersun is often associated with sunburn, because of its hydrating ingredients and soothing properties you don’t need to reserve it solely for when your skin has been enthusiastically kissed by the sun.

And you can get sun-damaged skin even on cloudy days, if the UV index is three or more – regardless of the temperature. So even if your skin is just a little red or dry as a result of being outdoors, it can be a good idea to treat it to some aftersun.

“If you’re feeling hot and bothered after a long day in the sun, try keeping some aftersun in the fridge for a cooling effect.”

How to store aftersun lotion

“If you’re feeling hot and bothered after a long day in the sun, try keeping some aftersun in the fridge or another cool, dark environment – for a cooling effect,” suggests Dr Shotter. “The cold lotion can help calm the skin down even more.” Sounds like post-beach bliss to us.

Another top tip? “Definitely don’t carry it in your beach bag (as it will get too hot) and make sure both your sunscreen and post-sun products are within their shelf-life period,” says Dr Shotter.

Caudalie Vino Sun After Sun Repairing Lotion and Nivea Sun After Sun Moisturising Lotion both stood on white podiums in front of a medium pink background
9 of the best aftersun products to try

From face creams to refreshing lotions, here are nine top aftersun picks to help soothe and calm post-sun skin from top to toe.

Best aftersun for the face

Try: No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Facial Recovery Aftersun

• Size: 50ml
• Hypoallergenic

Intensely hydrating, this mask/face cream hybrid is gently soothing and comforting. Deeply moisturising to help skin recover, it also contains Matrixyl 3000 Plus; a unique and concentrated peptide technology to help skin firmness, as well as retinyl palmitate to support the skin-renewal process.

Best aftersun lotion for body

Try: Soltan Soothe & Moisturise Aftersun Lotion

• Size: 200ml

• Lightly fragranced

This soothing aftersun lotion is all about restoring as much hydration to dry limbs as possible. It’s lightweight and easy to apply: simply rub onto parched skin and watch as it helps restore it back to its best.

Best scented aftersun

Try: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Air Soft After Sun Lotion

• Size: 180ml

• Cruelty-free

After you’ve jumped out of the bath or shower, lock in moisture by slathering on this hydrating aftersun lotion. With a dual ribbon formula, it taps into the nourishing and soothing properties of aloe vera to help nourish sun-stressed skin.

Best aftersun for prolonging a tan

Try: Lancaster Golden Tan Maximizer – After Sun Lotion

• Size: 250ml

• For face and body

Prolong your tan for up to one month, and instantly calm sun-exposed skin, with this refreshing aftersun lotion, made with buriti oil and Lancaster’s Tan Activator Complex. Its blend of conditioning ingredients also help to prevent dryness, leaving skin looking as if lit-from-within. 

Best aftersun body butter

Try: Soltan Soothe & Moisturise Aftersun Body Butter

• Size: 200g

• Vegan-friendly

Body butter is an indulgent and luxurious way to give thirsty skin the hydration it needs. This offering from Soltan is non-greasy, non-sticky and provides a hit of long-lasting moisturisation that also absorbs quickly into skin.

Best aftersun for a tan top-up

Try: Piz Buin After Sun Tan Intensifying Moisturising Lotion

• Size: 200ml

Using the aptly named plant extract tanimel, this aftersun lotion contains tech that helps increase the production of the skin’s natural tanning pigments. Its fast-absorbing and hydrating formula also means less peeling and flakiness to keep your glow going for longer. 

Best aftersun lotion for humid weather

Try: Caudalie Vinosun After-Sun Repairing Lotion

• Size: 200ml

• Non-comedogenic

• Vegan-friendly

• Suitable for all skin types

This aftersun lotion, enriched with aloe vera extract, grape water and coconut, is great for giving skin a dose of dewy radiance. Soothing, cooling and nourishing, its non-greasy, non-sticky formula is a warm weather lifesaver.

Best aftersun cream

Try: Shiseido After Sun Intensive Damage SOS Emulsion

• Size: 50ml

• Contains hyaluronic acid

Specifically formulated to use on the face, this intensive aftersun melts into skin like a dream. It’s super moisturising thanks to hero hydrators, hyaluronic acid and aloe vera, while softening peppermint extract helps refresh and re-energise.

Best aftersun spray

Try: Nivea Sun Moisturising After Sun Spray with Aloe Vera

• Size: 200ml

If you find sprays easier to use than creams and lotions, this Nivea aftersun is the one for you. It’s lightweight, easy to rub in and uses hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and glycerin to help rehydrate sun-parched skin with each spritz.