The 10 Best Sunburn Relief Gels and Lotions of 2022

Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel relieves cuts, bites, and itchiness

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Keeping your skin sunburn-free is ideal, as this sort of inflammatory reaction to UV rays is not only uncomfortable but has been linked to skin cancer later in life. However, if you do happen to slip up and spend a few too many hours in the sun or forget to lather on SPF, there are a number of post-sun skincare products to ease the pain and help your skin heal from your minor (or major) sun infraction: sunburn relief gels and lotions.

Reviewed & Approved

Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel is harvested from cold-pressed aloe plants to relieve irritation from cuts, rashes, insect bites, and itchiness. Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After-Sun Soother is a great option if you're looking for a hydrating lotion.

“It is important to apply products on your skin when you get a sunburn to help alleviate the inflammation and minimize the peeling,” says Nazanin Saedi, MD, director of Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center.

When looking for a sunburn relief gel and lotion, Dr. Saedi recommends choosing products with aloe vera "to help alleviate the heat sensation." Avoid “any topical creams or lotions that have a topical anesthetic agent, because that will cause a potential allergic reaction,” she adds. We researched dozens of sunburn relief gels and lotions and evaluated them for active ingredients, grease, and price. We also consulted with experts like Dr. Saedi.

Here are the best sunburn relief gels and lotions on the market.

Best Overall: Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel

4.9
Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel

Courtesy of Amazon

We chose Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel as our top pick because it's harvested from freshly-cut, cold-pressed aloe plants, making it more potent than many competing products. Basically, it’s the equivalent to rubbing a fresh aloe vera plant to your skin, with the added benefit of other ingredients such as natural seaweed, which help thicken the aloe so it can stick to your skin. You can also use it to help relieve irritation from cuts, rashes, insect bites, scalp itchiness and dandruff, and razor burn. 

Best Lotion: Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After-Sun Soother

Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After-Sun Soother

Courtesy of Amazon

Dr. Saedi is a big fan of Burt’s Bees sunburn solution. Not only does it contain aloe vera, but unlike most sunburn relief gels, it is also powered with coconut oil, to help hydrate the skin.

If you have naturally dry skin and need an extra boost of hydration, this non-greasy lotion is a game-changer. It is also 98.6 percent natural—free of all parabens, phthalates, and petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly)—and packed with natural antioxidants and nutrients including honey and natural flower extracts.

Best Budget: Banana Boat Soothing Aloe After-Sun Gel

Banana Boat Soothing Aloe After-Sun Gel

Courtesy of Amazon

Banana Boat After Sun Aloe Vera has been around for several decades, and it’s quite likely you slathered it on your very first sunburn. In short, it's a tried and true remedy that has passed the test of time.

Dr. Saedi suggests “the original” gel over the lotion, as it is packed with soothing aloe vera. “I like it kept chilled,” she adds. The quick-absorbing gel is also available nearly everywhere and is a steal compared to many competing products. 

Best Spray: Sun Bum Cool Down Aloe Vera Lotion

Sun Bum Cool Down Aloe Vera Lotion

Courtesy of Amazon

Sometimes it can be difficult to apply a gel or lotion to hard-to-reach areas of your body that are experiencing the wrath of the sun. Sun Bum’s Cool Down Aloe Vera Spray is a simple solution to this problem, offering an effective sunburn solution in the form of an easy-to-apply, non-greasy, and quick-drying spritz. While aloe is the key ingredient, it is also enriched with vitamin E for hydration and cucumber extract, giving it a soothing and cooling scent. 

Best for Face: Coola Radical Recovery Moisturizing Lotion

Coola Radical Recovery Moisturizing Lotion

Courtesy of Amazon

If you haven’t experienced the glory of Coola sun products, you are seriously missing out. This ultra-moisturizing and lightweight after-sun lotion, which the brand describes as a “wheatgrass shot for your skin,” might be a bit of a splurge, but think of it as an extension of your skincare regimen.

In addition to aloe vera, it is packed with antioxidants and other high-quality ingredients you might find in your daily moisturizer. organic agave, rosemary extract, and oils such as lavender, sunflower, sweet orange, mandarin peel, and cedarwood are just a few of them. It is also free of any parabens, sulfates, phthalates, gluten, or oxybenzone.

Best Gel: Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Gel

Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Gel

In addition to their convenient spray, Sun Bum also offers an after-sun treatment in gel form. This aloe gel is also formulated with other skin-soothing ingredients—including vitamin E and tea tree oil.

Reviewers rave that it is gentle enough for those with the most sensitive skin, is quick-drying, non-greasy. In addition to providing sunburn relief, will also help you maintain your tan without peeling as long as possible. 

Best for Kids: California Baby Aloe and Arnica Cream

California Baby Aloe and Arnica Cream

Courtesy of Amazon

California Baby is the go-to product line for parents looking for clean products formulated with the very best ingredients for their little ones. Their Aloe and Arnica Cream, a subtly lavender and clary sage scented moisturizer, is safe and gentle enough for newborns, but also an effective sunburn solution for adults with sensitive skin, allergies, or eczema.

While it contains aloe vera like all of the other products on our list, calendula and arnica montana add to its soothing and cooling abilities. It is also cruelty-free and allergy tested in addition to being free of any harsh chemicals, petroleum-derived ingredients, parabens, and synthetic fragrance. 

Best Natural: Pura D'Or Healing Organic Aloe Vera Gel

purador

If you are looking for the most natural, fragrant, but effective product on the market, Pura D’Or Aloe Vera Gel is a must-have. It is the only USDA-certified organic aloe vera on the market with zero artificial preservatives. We also love that the skin-soothing, nourishing, and hydrating formula is available in three scents—jasmine, bergamot lime, and lemongrass.

In addition to aloe, healing ingredients also include vitamin C and vitamin E for added anti-aging benefits. While most people purchase this product for their skin, it can also be used in the hair and on the scalp.

What the Experts Say

“It’s best to use a product that is pure aloe because fragrances and other ingredients can cause irritation or [an allergic reaction] on the impaired skin of a sunburn. Aloe [calms inflammation], moisturizes the skin, and reduces and aids in pain relief.”Caren Campbell M.D., San Francisco-based dermatologist

Best Oil: COCOOIL After Sun Lime Coconut Oil

cocooil

If you prefer a body oil to a lotion or gel, COCOOIL After Sun Oil is a must-try. This silky formula of nourishing and soothing ingredients—including fair trade cold-pressed organic coconut oil, aloe vera extract, and lime oil—will not only help relieve any pain associated with your sunburn but help repair and hydrate your skin.

Did we mention it smells amazing? An aroma of coconut with a hint of lime will make you feel like you are vacationing in the tropics every time you slather it on, so you will want to keep using it even when you aren’t sun-scorched.

Best Multi-Tasker: Vaseline Petroleum Jelly

Vaseline petroleum jelly

Courtesy of Rite Aid

Vaseline is the most unlikely product on our list, but Dr. Saedi swears that it is a doctor’s secret after-sun weapon. “Dermatologists love Vaseline, and I recommend it if you blister from sunburn to help protect the skin barrier and to hydrate the skin,” she tells us.

If you don’t already have a tub in your medicine cabinet, Vaseline is available almost everywhere and costs next to nothing. 

Final Verdict

Since aloe vera is considered the holy grail of sunburn relief products, Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel (view at Amazon) is our top pick of all the amazing contenders, as it offers the plant in its purest form. However, there are other things to consider when choosing the right product for you, including the type of scent you like, your preference of oil, cream, lotion, or spray, or whether you want it to multitask as a moisturizer. For an all natural option, consider Pura D'Or Organic Aloe Vera Gel (view at purador.com) for healthy, non-irritating relief.

What to Look for in a Sunburn Relief Lotion

Ingredients

Aloe vera is the go-to ingredient when it comes to after sun care, Dr. Saedi points out. While the majority of products we picked are aloe-based, there are a few relying on other ingredients—including petroleum jelly, coconut oil, antioxidants, and plant/flower extracts.

If you’re going to be slathering your skin in a post-sunburn product multiple times per day for the next few days, it's smart to choose a product containing vitamins, antioxidants, or ceramides to help your skin bounce back to its natural state faster.

“Some products contain antioxidants like vitamin E to reduce inflammation or humectant ingredients like glycerin or hyaluronic acid to pull in hydration to the skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., New York City-based dermatologist. “Many products also contain skin-softening and -repairing ingredients like emollient oils or ceramides.” 

Consistency

There are lots of different ways to get the healing powers of aloe and other sunburn relief products onto your skin: gels, lotions, creams, and sprays are some of the most popular. When choosing an application, you should consider your comfort and the breathability of the formula.

Dr. Zeichner says to avoid heavy ointments, which may not only be painful to apply but can smother the skin. Stick to gels and lotions, at least, which layer on lightly and smoothly, or opt for a spray application if your skin is ultra-uncomfortable to touch.

Organic vs. Non-Organic Aloe

According to Dr. Zeichner, there's no need to look for organic aloe when shopping. “While many consumers prefer to use organic products, the true definition of organic is unclear [especially when it comes to skin care]," he says.

He goes on to clarify that organic is a term used by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in reference to food and farming. So while you might want to purchase organic aloe products that you plan to consume, the Food & Drug Administration has no definition for organic when it comes to medication, cosmetics, or supplements. 

What the Experts Say

"The basic premise of a post-sun product is to hydrate the skin, calm inflammation, and relieve any discomfort. You should look for a light, breathable product that will not prevent the skin from releasing heat." —Joshua Zeichner, M.D., Associate Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does a sunburn last?

    Symptoms, like burning, redness, and swelling, may continue for one to three days depending on the severity of the burn.

  • Why is sunburn bad for your skin?

    Sunburns may lead to long term skin damage, which may cause dark spots, wrinkles, and skin cancer.

  • Is lotion or gel better for sunburn relief?

    If both types contain ingredients for sunburn relief, like aloe vera, choosing a lotion or gel is a personal preference. You may find the lotion feels more hydrating to the skin and the gel may feel more cooling when first applied.

  • Can you use sunburn relief gel in your hair?

    Some sunburn relief gels can be used in your hair. However, some companies don't recommend using the products in your hair. It's best to check the label or the company's website.

Why Trust Verywell Health

As an internationally recognized health writer and product guru, Leah Groth understands that nobody wants to waste their time or money on products that fail to rear results. Over the years, she has interviewed the world's top health experts and reviewed hundreds of items, to help readers like you discover the most effective health gadgets, goops, and aids that will help you look and feel your very best.

Additional reporting to this story by Sarah Bradley

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Gluten Free.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Labeling Organic Products.

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