June 8th 2021
The problem with sun care for sensitive skin doesn't end at SPF. While protection is of course the most important factor, hydration and repair are key too; no matter how sensible you were with your sensitive-friendly sun cream.
Those with more sensitive skin are not only more susceptible to burning but the effects can be more damaging, due to the already weak barrier. Aesthetic Doctor and skin expert Dr Terry Loong explains: "The epidermis (outer layer of the skin) is the protective layer. This layer is compact, providing a barrier which has tight junctions between the cells, protecting the inner layers and avoiding evaporation of moisture or too quick an absorption. The barrier also protects the dermal layers from UV damage. The dermis is where the collagen, elastin and hydration is produced and direct damage to this layer can cause damage to the DNA of these skin-plumping, elastin- and hydration-producing cells, making your skin look old, tired and red.
"Sensitive skins normally have impaired barrier function i.e. the junctions are weak, hence chemicals, toxins or environmental triggers can enter the skin and triggering an immune reaction, causing redness, swelling, blistering or pain. This is when we see skin "react" and we label it "sensitive". Sensitive skins therefore risk damage from UV rays which could make them prematurely age."
Thankfully, after sun formulas tend to focus on calming and cooling, yet added preservatives and perfumes might make it into the mix - something that will only upset your already stressed out skin. Here's my edit of the best after suns for fragile skin; together with my list of the best sun creams and guide to SPF, that's your summer sorted.
As readers will know, I am a big fan of Ultrasun - it saved me after many years of reacting to popular sun creams and so it's the first brand that springs to mind when it's time to sort out my summer skincare. It's less natural than my other picks in this selection but despite containing 'parfum' and alcohol, the non-greasy gel formula feels impressively gentle and has soothed away sunburn on a few occasions with its mineral oil-free and preservative-free formula. It's quite thick so does take some time to sink in but once it does, skin is relieved and moisturised back to life.
£17, buy online
Anything with 'rescue' in its name attracts my attention for sensitive skin and this super soothing balm from Clinique lives up to expectations. Fragrance free (as is their signature rule) and oil-free, it feels incredibly rich and so one tube will easily last you the summer - unless you do what I do and start using it as a general moisturiser because it feels so good. Softening and calming, it's based on aloe, barley and chamomile - a hat trick of sensitive-friendly ingredients.
£20, buy online
There's a common theme here, of course, and aloe vera is clearly the hero ingredient as it features in Sk:n's top product for irritated skin, whether due to sunburn or otherwise. A gorgeous gel formula (there's nothing more cooling than a gel when your skin is burning up), it sinks in easily and contains vitamin E and moisturising allantoin too. Minimal ingredients, maximum comfort.
£12.50, buy online
Recent research has found that sun damage can continue to occur post-sun exposure, which means aftersun is more vital than ever. Dermatologist-led brand Eucerin’s offering is not only free from perfumes, emulsifiers and preservatives, but it uses two key plant actives to protect the skin from damage. It melts into the skin without stickiness and is particularly targeted at those with PLE.
£13.50, buy online
We know that UV rays cause damage to our skin, but did you know that the damage reaches right into your skin’s DNA? While most after sun products do their best to cool the skin and soothe the redness, a new generation of products are using cutting-edge science to go deeper and repair the damage done by the sun’s rays. Ladival’s after sun is one such product, using n enzyme derived from blue-green algae to restore damaged DNA. Perfume-free and non-greasy, it’s the best skin support that money can buy.
£13.99, buy online
A light and calming formula which also claims to help to prolong your tan, this aftersun is slightly pricier than what you'd pick up in a supermarket but the ingredients are well worth it. With apricot, shea butter (a non-comedogenic hydrator that really locks in moisture) and rosehip as well as the traditional aloe vera to soothe sore skin and antioxidants in the form of green, white and red tea, it's packed with natural goodness to nourish sun-exposed skin.
£33.95, buy online
Used in hospitals to help wounds heal, lanolin is nature’s finest skin saviour and Australian brand Lanolips’ medical-grade formulas are the best you’ll find for conditioning the skin. Not strictly an aftersun but a brilliant sunburn soother nonetheless, the Everywhere Multi-Cream is rich and nourishing, sinking into the skin to quench the driest of complexions. It does contains some natural fragrance, but I’ve not found this to cause any trouble and the combination of vitamin E, milk, and shea butter makes it irresistible. Slather it on.
£10.99, buy online
Another Aussie brand, Sukin specialises in natural skin care and this apothecary-like bottle of aloe vera gel contains just three ingredients to soothe irritated and dried-out skin be it after the sun or post-shaving. Unlike a lot of pure aloe products it’s satisfyingly non-sticky, immediately vanishing into the skin and leaving it feeling cooler, softer but in no way covered in residue. What more could you ask for?
£8.10, buy online
June 25th 2020