June 14th 2021
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Whether to prevent peeling, to rehydrate or to prolong a holiday tan, an aftersun cream or gel can make a huge difference to the condition and look of summer skin.
But with so many out there, what should we be looking for? "Aftersun should have a rich skin nourishing agent such as shea butter in it, which not only hydrates your skin but soothes and calms it after a day in the sun," says Sam Richardson, co-founder of sun care brand Saltee. "A regenerative agent is important for skin repair too." Look for vitamin E or pomegranate extract for skin repair.
"Aloe vera is also a wonderful ingredient after sun exposure," adds skincare expert Dr Barbara Sturm. "It has a cooling effect on the skin and contains a vast storehouse of nutrients.
While many of us love the summery aftersun scent, if you're burned or you have sensitive skin, it might be wise to avoid fragranced aftersuns, as Dr Sturm says: "With after sun the goal is to soothe and calm the skin and to do that you need gentle, non-aggressive ingredients. Added fragrance, colour or acids can damage skin barrier function and make the skin more sensitive."
Formula wise, gels are great for soothing hot skin, while creams tend to be better for long-term nourishing. "Gels are lightweight and have a watery consistency meaning they can be gently applied to the skin, where as creams have to be massaged in, so if you have sore sunburned skin a gel may be less painful to apply," says aesthetic nurse Anna Baker.
Here are the ones we've tried, tested and recommend.
First things first, this smells amazing. Forget coconutty scented creams, this mingles vanilla, Tahitian gardenia and sweet orange on the most grown-up take on after sun we've ever tried. It calms the skin and soothes red bits, while the shimmering gold packaging looks chic in your suitcase if that makes a difference to you. We love this so much we think we might use it in winter too.
There's no texture quite as refreshing as a gel - you can almost hear your skin breathe a sigh of relief when you apply this, especially if it's been chilled in the fridge all day (an insider hack). This aftersun combines hydrating La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water with shea butter for a thirst-quenching drink for parched skin. This is GTG's social media manager Jemma's after sun of choice because her skin drinks it up and is left feeling super smoothe and hydrated.
Rather than the traditional coconutty, sandy smell associated with after sun, this is scented with a blend of tuberose, orange blossom and vanilla for a delicate floral fragrance. GTG's digital writer Melanie is a big fan, while our editorial director Victoria found it overly fragranced. Scent aside, this after sun is designed to prolong your tan, with Melinoil, an ingredient created to delay the appearance of sun-induced redness as well as support your melanin (the brown pigment) production. It also includes shea butter for hydration and pomegranae extract to plump the skin.
Melanie liked the pump applicator on this bottle – much less likely to get sandy and messy than a traditionak squeeze out tube and loved that applying this of an evening on holiday negated the need for perfume, you smell lovely enough already.
US suncare brand Sun Bum embodies everything we aspire to be in the summer: laidback, bronzed and care-free. This light spritz is instantly cooling yet entirely non-greasy. It includes aloe vera and vitamin E for a soothing cocktail of chill and comes out as a fine spray that we found it hard to resist spraying over and over again.
If you like the sounds of Sun Bum but prefer a cream formula, we also like the Cool Down After Sun Lotion, £16.79, which smells like cocoa and makes your skin feel cool on application.
Not strictly an after sun, but when aloe vera is the most cooling, soothing ingredient out there, we can't think of a better use for the gel. It's made from 90 per cent pure organic aloe leaf juice to reduce the appearance of irritation and soothe the skin, as well as anti-aging powerhouse purslane which helps to defend the skin from attack from free radicals and reduces the appearance of irritation. Panthenol (vitamin B5), is in the mix too, which has dditional skin soothing benefits.
GTG's digital writer Melanie has had this in her holiday suitcase since childhood and has spent many an evening in Spain slathered in it. It's silky soft on application, sinks in right away, smells like the epitome and beach breaks and does a great job of taking down any redness and discomfort thanks to aloe vera, coconut oil and cocoa butter.
We've been using Vichy's Idéal Soleil Protective Solar Water SPF all summer, so it makes sense to follow up with an aftersun from the brand too. This balm-texture is fairly thick yet not at all greasy. It's rich enough that just one application per day leaves the skin feeling soothed – ideal to apply after a day in the sun and before dinner, so there's no need to slather after sun on your skin again before bed. It takes redness down, which can often be an issue after your first day on holiday!
This soothing classic from Nivea is a failsafe after a day in the sun – just a sniff transports us back to smell transport us back to beachside breaks. It's heavily fragranced so it may not be ideal for those with sensitive skin, but it's fast-absorbing, non-greasy and non-sticky and it hydrates the driest of skin. Enriched with the addition of aloe vera and avocado oil, it makes those sunburned areas feel soothed and cool. Skin is left moisturised for hours, smooth and incredibly soft.
This mildly scented lotion in a pump dispenser (points for both those factors) had an instant cooling and soothing effect and absorbed quickly leaving our skin well hydrated, rather than merely changing the surface texture. We tested it at home pre-holiday so can’t vouch for its tan-prolonging abilities as an aftersun, but Institut Esthederm are specialists in all manner of sun protection, tanning and aftercare and have developed ‘adaptasun technology’ to optimise all stages of the pigmentation process for faster, longer-lasting tanning (they say) as well as a patented Cellular Water technology to combat dehydration. This moisturised well and the smell was subtle; jf you’re after a specialist product that’s high-tech and don’t mind paying for it, this is for you.
Finding an aftersun for sensitive skin is pretty hard unless you go for straight and simple aloe vera - that lovely nostalgic scent that so many have is one that sensitive skin can react to instantly, but with Eucerin that’s no such problem. Free from perfumes and preservatives, it’s a great option for reactive skins; it has a light, gel-cream formula which initially feels a little tacky on the skin but sinks in with a silky texture thanks to the silicones in the formula. Whether it ‘regenerates’ is hard to say without a lab but after use skin does feel notably calmer.
Although it may not look flashy, this aftersun is rather impressive; a viscous clear gel in a large pump bottle, it delivers its promise on that much-needed cooling factor that sun-exposed skin craves while also hydrating it back to life. The thickness of the gel means it takes a little time to sink in but it’s also incredibly moisturising and left skin feeling softer and well looked after. With a barely-there fragrance which doesn't irritate sensitive skin and an oil-free formula so it didn't leave us feeling greasy, this one’s a definite keeper.
Hydrating and tropically scented with a funky-looking ribbon of aloe vera running through it, this particular aftersun instantly transported us to a beach in the Caribbean (although the reality is of course really rather different). It sank in pretty quickly and left our skin with a subtle sheen which flattered our tan. It was a little tacky upon application, but overall it's a great way to make the most of sunkissed limbs and ensure you have silky smooth holiday skin even if you are in Bournemouth rather than the Bahamas.
This balm-textured aftersun does a great job at cooling and soothing the delicate areas that get sunburnt when you miss them with your SPF (It happens to the best of us). It has a light texture that sinks in very rapidly, which leaves skin silky not tacky. It's not as moisturising as some of the ones we tried, but it was soothing nonetheless.
June 14th 2021
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