A 3-Step After-Sun Skin Care Routine, According to Dermatologists

Perhaps the most important step in your post-sun routine is to rehydrate your skin with a high-quality moisturizer. Which ingredients should you look for? Nichols recommends hunting down a body lotion that contains both humectants and emollients. In simpler terms: You need ingredients that pull water into the skin and fill the cracks, thus leaving your skin supple and soft. 

One common humectant found in body and face moisturizers is hyaluronic acid, but don’t forget about the shining star of after-sun care: aloe vera. “The gold standard for a natural product is aloe,” board-certified dermatologist Christina Chung, M.D., says. “It works well for post-sun care because of its anti-inflammatory properties.” You can read all about those skin-loving properties here. 

As for emollients, Nichols prefers a plant-based oil like squalene to help maintain the skin’s moisture barrier for lasting hydration. Squalene also doubles as an occlusive, meaning it locks in moisture. Bonus: Squalene contains antioxidants that work to fight free radicals, manage oxidative stress, and protect the skin from environmental stressors, like UV rays and pollution.

You’ll want to avoid any products that contain chemical exfoliants after spending time in the sun. Steer clear of body and face products that contain AHAs or BHAs (think salicylic, lactic, or glycolic acids). Retinol body serums and lotions are another no-no for post-sun care. You can use these products a few days before sun exposure (just know that these make your skin more photosensitive, so proceed with even more diligent sun protection), but try to use something more hydrating the day before and the day after. 

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