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.