Best after-sun product for calming and repairing sun-damaged skin

Even those of us who don't necessarily worship the sun can at least acknowledge the pleasure of basking in it, from the first rays of the morning to the hazy warmth of the evening. It's just nature at work, as sunlight helps regulate everything from sleep cycles to vitamin D production.

That said, when it comes to the sun, having too much of a good thing is especially so - and the results can be uncomfortable at best. "Too much sun exposure, especially without SPF protection, can lead to an inflammatory response in the skin," says Toronto dermatologist Geeta Yadav, MD. "This is one of the main components of sunburn: inflamed skin that's hot to the touch."

This is where the best after-sun products can shine. Specialized formulas often provide anti-inflammatory agents to calm the skin within minutes, as well as antioxidants (countermeasures against UV-induced free radicals) to counteract long-term damage to the skin. Aloe vera is probably the best-known of these ingredients. "In addition to being moisturizing and naturally rich in antioxidants, it's very soothing on contact," says Yadav. (The key is to keep it pure in a highly concentrated form.) Another winner is chamomile: "It contains a compound called azulene, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties."

That said, don't forget that after-sun products primarily only help relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of sunburn. "It does not eliminate the damage caused by radiation, including an increased risk of skin cancer," Yadav warns. "If you find yourself having to use after-sun products all the time, it could be that you're not using enough sunscreen." If that's the case, consider using a next-generation sunscreen formula (whether chemical- or mineral-based) to prevent exposure in the first place - and remember to reapply.

But if it's too little and too late to prevent it - we're only human, after all - here are 18 products that offer instant relief. Think of it as an excuse to relax and take refuge in the shade.

Dr. Barbara Sturm Aloe Vera Gel
This face and body gel contains an impressive 90% organic aloe vera leaf juice to help neutralize free radicals and soothe panthenol (better known as vitamin B5).
Tower 28 SOS Intense First Aid Essence
As a follow-up to the (hugely popular) soothing facial mist from the AAPI brand, this pH-balancing formula doubles the main ingredient hypochlorous acid (an anti-inflammatory active that can be used even on chronically sensitive skin).
Nécessaire Niacinamide Body Lotion
While the base oil of this lotion consists of marula, kakai and hydrangea oils to fully nourish and soften the skin, it gets its soothing action from niacinamide, known for its ability to inhibit inflammation. The formula is also carefully calibrated to achieve the specific pH that best supports healthy skin barrier function.
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Calming Essence Mask
An immediate pick-me-up after a long day outdoors, this mask combines effective and extremely gentle cica, allantoin and niacinamide. The sheet form pressed into the skin has an added benefit: it encourages better penetration of the infused ingredients for immediate relief within minutes.
African Botanicals Marula Intense Skin Repair Balm
This comforting lip balm is designed to soothe and protect the skin in all extremes of weather, including hot summer days. It is enriched with baobab oil and niacinamide, although marula oil (derived from an heirloom variety grown by South African farmers) stands out for its ability to reduce redness and tingling.
Augustinus Bader Body Oil
Betty Gilpin is a fan of Augustinus Bader face oils. As for the body, the head-to-toe version is equally powerful - and equally loved. It contains the German brand's proprietary stem cell technology, called TFC8, as well as olive and argan oils, vitamin E and squalane to renew sensitive skin.
Nuori Sun Repair Serum
Instead of waiting for a blush, this powerful serum works best when applied immediately to replenish moisture and quickly reduce redness. The fragrance-free formula includes soothing chamomile and hyaluronic acid, as well as a blend of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals-namely, potent vitamins C and E.
Refreshing Floral Restorative Calming Mask
This velvety mask is a nighttime salve for stressed skin, thanks to a strategic blend of floral extracts, including fatty acid-rich passionflower oil and calming cornflower water. In addition, squalane provides a stabilizing boost to the lipids naturally present in the moisture barrier.
Mario Badescu Facial Mist with Aloe Vera, Adaptogen and Coconut Water
There's nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than a facial mist - especially this one. It pairs aloe vera with hyaluronic acid and coconut water to calm and hydrate, as well as adaptogens to buffer skin stress (which only stimulates more inflammation).
Pai Instant Kalmer Ceramide Essence
Redness can't compete with this well-thought-out formula. Designed for ultra-sensitive skin, it combines sea aster (which inhibits inflammation), calming oat extract and hyaluronic acid to quickly soothe the skin. As an added benefit, it also avoids common irritants - including alcohol, menthol, menthol, witch hazel and eucalyptus - that can exacerbate flare-ups.
Coola Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion
Like a tonic to quench your thirst after a long day, this moisturizer pairs aloe vera, which helps skin retain moisture, with gentle lavender and rosemary. Nourishing sunflower seed oil helps counteract environmental stressors, and this formula can cause redness after a burn.
RéVive Moisturizing Renewal Hydrogel
While four molecular weights of hyaluronic acid are the main ingredients in this lightweight serum - allowing each to penetrate different skin layers - not to be missed is the combination of aloe vera, cucumber and chamomile extracts.

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