9 Best After Tanning Lotions in 2020

Women with various types of tan

We know that skincare is essential. And yet many people don’t moisturize after sun exposure. Whether you use a tanning bed or the beach, moisturizing maintains your tan. More so, moisturizing keeps your skin healthy. While finding the best lotion to use after tanning can be tricky, we’ve found the best options for you.

Whether you’re trying to maintain your tan, or give your skin a boost, we’ll show you some amazing lotions. We’ve taken budget, quality, alternative ingredients, and so on, into account. In the end, we’ll pick the best lotion to use after tanning.

After Tanning Lotion: Guide & FAQ

Before you start shopping, here are a few questions you might want answered first.

After-Sun Lotion: How Does it Work?

Like any lotion, after-sun lotion moisturizes your skin, maintaining its elasticity and hydration. It’ll also help prevent peeling and reverse any damage from sun exposure. You can also use after-sun lotion after you shower to help maintain your tan and rehydrate your skin.

The sun’s UV rays can damage your skin by releasing free radicals. Your skin might peel or age faster as a result of too much sun exposure. After-sun lotion slows or eliminates these free radicals, protecting your skin from damage.

After-sun lotion is especially important for sensitive skin. Different skins might have thinner barriers against UV rays. It’s stronger than regular moisturizer, with ingredients built to protect against harmful rays.

After-sun lotions help maintain tans, which also means they maintain a healthy glow. Even if you don’t see the sun a lot, you could use after-sun lotion to help your complexion. Lotions with aloe vera or peppermint oils could also help with acne-prone skin.

What does SPF or UVA/UVB mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, or how much a product protects against sun exposure. SPF 50 will take 50 times longer for sunlight to burn than if that person were not wearing sunscreen.

UVA and UVB sunlight rays harm your skin, with UVB rays causing sunburn and UVA rays, causing skin aging. Most sunscreens have Broad Spectrum technology that protect you from both these rays.

Keep in mind that sunscreen alone cannot protect you from all harmful rays. Wearing protective clothing and spending time in the shade, can give your skin a break from the sun.

Most experts recommend using at least an SPF 30 when outdoors. Higher SPFs might protect you from higher amounts of UV rays, but they last the same time as smaller SPFs.

Is after-sun lotion safe to use on sunburn?

That depends on the materials in the lotion itself. Most experts recommend using aloe vera, which has cooling properties that soothe pain. Shea butter is also a solid choice since it moisturizes the burn and reduces itching.

Sunburn occurs within three hours of sun exposure. If you feel a sunburn coming on, you should not hesitate to hydrate your skin and apply an after-sun lotion. Apply as many times as necessary, though most recommend using aloe vera in small amounts.

If an after-sun lotion has alcohol in it, do proceed with caution. Too much alcohol will further dry out your skin and irritate the burn. Applying thin layers should do the trick.

Some people recommend using after-sun even if you didn’t spend that much time in the sun, to be safe.

What ingredients should I look for in after-sun lotion?

Your skin can take a beating when exposed to the sun, so you want something gentle and lightweight. The lighter the lotion formula, the better your skin will breathe.

Make sure your after-sun lotion doesn’t have a lot of alcohol or mineral oil in it. Too much alcohol dries out your skin, and mineral oil does not let your skin breathe that well. Unscented formulas might work better for sensitive skin. Lotion that absorbs fast into the skin is also a perk.

The ingredient hydrocortisone helps reduce inflammation associated with sunburn. Antioxidants like Vitamins A and E help to restore your skin by promoting cell growth. Additionally, lavender oil, rosemary oil, and calendula oil help to condition the skin. Calendula oil is especially useful for treating superficial burns.

Some after-sun lotions combine aloe vera with peppermint, calming and restoring the skin. Aloe vera and cucumber are excellent for treating sunburn. Even if you don’t burn, the cooling sensation might feel nice after a hot day.

Scientific data has not proved the effectiveness of coconut oil. Yet, research shows it can treat inflammation. Its high-fat content also makes it a decent moisturizing agent. That said, oil can keep heat in sunburn, so you might want to wait 24 hours before applying coconut oil to a burn.

Even with a lightweight formula, too many essential oils might irritate sensitive skin. In short, different lotions will work for different people. If you try a lotion and it does not work (or if you have a reaction), stop using and try again.

Can I refrigerate some after-sun lotions?

Yes you can. Aloe vera and cucumber are natural, cooling ingredients. Putting the lotion in the fridge further cools those ingredients. Even if a lotion doesn’t contain aloe vera or cucumber, cooling the lotion should still help.

What is the difference between an after-sun lotion, sun cream, and moisturizer?

While people use after-sun lotion and moisturizer for similar purposes, they are different. After-sun lotion treats sunburnt skin, so it has active ingredients that soothe irritation. After-sun lotion could be an upgrade from moisturizer for that reason.

Moisturizer does hydrate your skin. But, it does not have the same active ingredients as after-sun. Moisturizer would not be as adept as treating a significant sunburn. If you’re not much of a vacationer or don’t see the sun that much, regular moisturizer should work fine.

Sun cream, like sunscreen, protects your skin from the sun, rather than heal your skin after a long time in the sun. Long story short, sun cream will protect your skin before sun exposure, but it won’t cure anything.

Can after-sun lotion protect me from skin cancer?

Anyone who spends a long time in the sun runs the risk of skin cancer. Yet, using tanning beds raises that risk a lot higher. They use concentrated UV radiation to cause changes in your skin. On that note, the need to moisturize after is much higher.

It is true that people with darker skin tones have some more natural protection from UV rays. Skin cancer is still possible for these people, though. Long story short, all people should apply sunscreen or after-sun lotion.

The simple answer is that after-sun lotion will not protect you from skin cancer. This is especially the case after extended periods in tanning beds. After-sun lotion might stave off skin cancer onset for a bit, but it cannot completely protect you.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says that each sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. Getting five sunburns might double your chances of developing melanoma. Long story short, protect yourself from harmful sun rays as best you can.

Best After Tanning Lotions: Our Top 9 Picks

Now you understand what after-sun lotion is and how it works. On that note, we can look at the top picks currently on the market:

1. Best Overall: Maui Vera Organic Sunburn Relief & After Sun Moisturizer

  • Contains essential oils such as lavender and peppermint oil
  • Witch hazel hydrates and peppermint cools the skin
  • All-organic materials
  • Repairs and replenishes the skin in a few days
  • Changes burns to tans with later applications

Maui Vera combines the best and most vital ingredients, like lavender, aloe vera, and noni. An unusual ingredient for after-sun lotion, noni is a critical ingredient. It helps promote skin regeneration and hydration, making for a speedy sunburn recovery.

All Maui Vera products are hypoallergenic too, so it should be good for sensitive skin. But, you might need to let it dry before you get dressed again. Sometimes, the peppermint oil separates in the tube. If you shake the bottle before applying, you can prevent peppermint over-application.

A quick tip for application: make sure you apply the lotion in thin layers; otherwise, it might not rub in and peel off. Even with light applications, the product goes a long way in around 1-2 days. Otherwise, it has a pleasant beachy smell.

2. Most Popular: Banana Boat After Sun Lotion

  • Contains coconut oil and cocoa butter
  • Primary ingredients include Vitamin E and aloe vera
  • Maintains a tan over a long time
  • Non-greasy finish

A time-honored favorite, Banana Boat’s after-sun lotion helps enrich sunburned skin. Its powerful combination of aloe vera and Vitamin E soothes burns fast. There isn’t much of a smell, like with other lotions, but it should still do the job fine. The Vitamin E should also prevent burned skin from peeling.

With its lightweight formula, Banana Boat’s lotion should be safe on sensitive skin. You can use it on your face too. While most people use this lotion for moisturizer, it does do an excellent job of maintaining a tan. Plus, its non-greasy formula makes it easy and comfortable to apply.

The Banana Boat after-sun lotion works fast to turn a burn into a tan within a few days. Sometimes after-sun lotion can leave your skin looking shiny or ashy. Banana Boat’s medium consistency leaves your skin feeling new and shiny, without residue.

3. Best Budget Option: Burt’s Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother

  • Fast-absorbing and non-greasy formula
  • Can apply to both the face and body
  • Contains all-natural ingredients
  • Soothes intense burns fast
  • Smells good without overpowering

A soothing aloe vera scent is one of many things that helps Burt’s Bees Aloe and Coconut Oil lotion stand out. It absorbs fast so you can put on clothes almost immediately after applying. The best part is that it also works fast, soothing sunburns 1-2 days after first applying (use as needed).

Burt’s Bees Aloe and Coconut Oil lotion also reduces peeling and itchiness. It doesn’t have too many essential oils, so it should not cause a lot of irritation for sensitive skin. For some people, it might stay cool on their skin even a few hours after applying.

4. Best Aloe Vera Option: Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel

  • Uses aloe vera leaves, rather than powder
  • Seaweed extract creates a non-sticky formula
  • Somewhat thin gel for daily use
  • Not too runny or too thick consistency
  • No unnatural or extraneous ingredients

The Seven Minerals Aloe Vera gel uses aloe vera plants grown in southern Texas. As a bonus, the product itself comes with an e-book. Here you learn all the ways you can use aloe vera, so sunburns aren’t the only things you might cure.

Seven Minerals does not use any extra or unnatural ingredients. They have a lightweight, breathable formula that doesn’t leave a sticky residue. For people with sensitive or acne-prone skin, an oil-free formula may prove helpful. There’s also no strong or unnatural scent in the lotion.

5. Best Cooling Option: Sun Bum Cool Down Aloe Vera Gel

  • Formulated with Vitamin E and tea tree oil
  • Helps lock in and maintain a tan
  • A little bit of lotion can go a long way
  • Comfortable, soothing texture
  • Does not use any alcohol

Sun Bum prides itself on producing cruelty-free, gluten-free, and vegan products. Their unique Vitamin E and tea-tree oil-infused formula heals sunburns and moisturizes skin. You don’t need to use too much to feel a gentle cooling sensation. Plus, the smell is not that strong, unlike some other aloe vera gels.

You can use this gel for more than only sunburns. It does not have alcohol, which might irritate more sensitive areas. It’s also mild enough that you can use it on your face. Sun Bum even encourages you to put the product in the fridge for an even more tangible cooling effect.

6. Longest Lasting: Australian Gold Moisture Lock Tan Extender Moisturizer Lotion

  • Seals in moisture
  • Yummy cocoa butter scent
  • Contains aloe vera to relieve burns
  • Softens skin after a shower
  • Does not leave a sticky residue

The Australian Gold Moisture lotion seems to have everything. Its non-sticky formula leaves no residue. The aloe vera relieves burns, has a decent consistency, and even helps to soften skin. It can also maintain tans for several months after you’ve stopped spending time in the sun.

If you have sensitive skin, this lotion should not overwhelm you. The gentle cocoa butter scent might also be soothing. Besides locking in your tan, it should also lock in moisture. A healthy dose of Vitamin E should leave your skin feeling hydrated and soft.

The formula is also lightweight, so your skin can breathe after a sunburn. In the same way, the lotion should absorb fast. In some cases, you might find a sunburn turning into a healthy tan over time.

7. Most Eco-Friendly: COOLA Organic Radical Recovery Moisturizing After Sun Body Lotion

  • Bottle and organic ingredients are friendly to the environment
  • Feels smooth on all skin types
  • The lotion is thick, but still absorbs well
  • Hydrates skin after a long pool or beach day
  • Pleasant, but not overpowering, fragrance

COOLA’s organic after-sun lotion is a little on the expensive side. It does have an awesome collection of ingredients, though. Essential oils and antioxidants, like lavender and sunflower oil give it awesome power. Organic agave and rosemary oil lock in moisture, while other vitamins enrich skin.

Made in California, COOLA’s lotion has a sweet beachy smell, along with a touch of lavender. Here is a slight warning to sensitive consumers, though. This product contains a small measure of alcohol, so it would help spread the lotion on in layers.

COOLA lotion is safe for use on your face and body. For sensitive skin, you might want some alcohol-free toner on hand to balance out your skin. In the same way, it might also be a little heavy for some consumers’ faces.

Despite that one hiccup, all the essential ingredients stop sunburn pain in minutes. It doesn’t feel sticky either and helps erase burns within 24 hours. The bottle and ingredients are all also friendly to the environment. You might peel a little bit while using this product, but that’s part of the sunburn healing process.

8. Best Alternative Option: Alba Botanica Very Emollient Coconut Rescue Body Lotion

  • Bottle and lotion made from recycled and sustainable sources
  • Coconut oil and coconut milk add extra hydration
  • The scent might be overpowering at first but fades fast
  • The lightweight formula makes use easy and safe
  • Non-greasy formula

You might like Alba’s Botanical products if you like the smell of coconut. Made from 100% vegetarian ingredients, the lotion helps with dry skin. Plus, all ingredients and bottle parts come from sustainable sources and cruelty-free.

Alba Botanica’s unique ingredients include coconut oil and coconut milk. Shea butter and sunflower seed oil provide extra hydrating power. Despite containing a small bit of alcohol, the lotion should be all right for sensitive skin. It is light enough that it should be safe to use on your face.

The lotion is thick and creamy but does not feel greasy. It is also not too heavy, so you don’t need to apply in thin layers. Some consumers might catch a heavy lotion scent at first. Once the lotion absorbs into your skin, the scene should fade.

9. Best Multipurpose Option: Topricin AfterBurn Cream

  • Treats all kinds of burns, sun or otherwise
  • Reduces the appearance of scars
  • Does not maintain tans, but does reduce the appearance of burns
  • Odorless, non-greasy formula
  • Proceeds from Topricin go to healing and helping burn victims

Few after-sun lotions on this list market themselves as a burn medication. Topricin is an after-sun lotion but can treat all kinds of burns. It also treats skin after radiation, and is safe anywhere on the body, including the face.

Its coconut oil base carries a lot of replenishing power, and can even reduce the appearance of scars. The bottle suggests you apply 3-4 times a day, especially before bed and in the morning. The product is also friendly to reefs. This way, it doesn’t carry ingredients that harm coral reef ecosystems.

Take note that Topricin does not maintain tans. Rather, it reduces the appearances of sunburns to help you return to your normal skin tone. Yet, it works fast to ease pain from burns and reduces peeling. Plus, it’s odorless, so you can enjoy reduced pain without an obnoxious scent.

Final Thoughts

We have looked at several excellent after-sun lotions with quality ingredients. On that note, we most recommend the Maui Vera After Sun or the Burt’s Bees Lotion. Neither one has harsh elements, and both work fast to replenish sunburnt skin.

Remember, you don’t have to go online to find a tremendous after-sun lotion. Your local drugstore might carry some fantastic brands too. Try to make sure the product contains organic ingredients, like aloe vera and Vitamin E.

Consumers with sensitive skin should take special care. Products with many essential oils or a lot of alcohol might be harsh. Be sure to apply the lotion in thin layers in that case as well. Wait for the layers to dry before applying a second layer or before getting dressed.

As a final piece of advice, you should test the product on your wrist to see if there’s any irritation. If nothing occurs after several minutes, the product is likely safe to use on the rest of your body.

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