It’s important to avoid excessive sun exposure, because it is linked to photoaging—the process through which skin becomes wrinkled, rough, dry, or discolored with age—and it increases skin cancer risk. But for outdoor types, caring for skin after a day at the beach or barbecue is an important part of fun in the sun. Whether you need to sooth a sunburn or moisturize to keep your glow, our guide to after-sun skin care will help you find the right products.
Keep the following points in mind as you consider after-sun skin care products:
Always use sunscreen when out in the sun to prevent sunburns and skin damage.
If you accidentally end up with a serious sunburn, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. Taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever and applying ice packs or cool compresses can ease the suffering.
If you or a family member experience fever or chills after time in the sun or after getting a sunburn, seek medical attention. This can signal a serious problem such as sun poisoning, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
What they are: After-sun skin care lotions tend to be thick, hydrating products that can seal moisture back into parched skin.
Why to buy: If you enjoy lots of outdoor time, an after-sun lotion may help keep your skin soft and supple.
Things to consider: These products come both with and without fragrance; if you have sensitive skin, opt for one without. These products are heavier than typical lotions, so use sparingly if you tend to have body acne.
Gels, Wipes, & Sprays
What they are: After-sun skin care gels, wipes, and sprays typically are designed for sun-exposed or sunburned skin. They may contain aloe, chamomile, or other sunburn soothers.
Why to buy: Gels, wipes, and sprays are easier to apply than lotions and may be less irritating to sensitive sunburned skin. Gels, wipes, and sprays can be lighter than lotions, so they don’t tend to “seal in” the heat of sunburned skin—a good thing for anyone with a sunburn.
Things to consider: If your main goal is moisturizing, stick with a lotion.
What they are: Tan extenders are highly moisturizing and may contain ingredients that are designed to slow down the turnover and shedding of surface skin cells.
Why to buy: A tan is within the top few layers of skin; slowing down how quickly your body sheds those outer skin layers can lengthen the time you remain tan.
Things to consider: Some tan extenders come in bottles that look similar to sunscreens, but tan extenders are not designed to block the sun’s harmful rays. Read labels carefully to avoid accidentally using a tan extender as a sunscreen, which may lead to a nasty sunburn.