First things first, don't get burned. It's not good for you. When you read enough about skin and the literature starts to refer to sunburns as 'first degree burns,' it's not hard to vow never again. But shit happens, and we're not here to be judgmental—just here to let you know which moisturizers to use when you get peel-y.
According to the product development world at large, your regular body lotion is not enough after you've been scorched red—and they're not wrong. Mostly because of one little four letter word: aloe. This is your key ingredient when looking to hydrate and soothe burned skin. All your friends from California have been telling you this for years, and they were right.
So to answer the question, “How is after-sun lotion different from normal lotion?” more explicitly: It's cooling. The formulas feel more gel-like than creamy, so when they sit on your skin, it's refreshing as opposed to suffocating. But there's more! Let's look at the products by their additional attributes.
DON'T PEEL SO MUCH
A standby product for anyone who grew up with a pool, Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe is just heavy enough to seriously treat skin and prevent peeling while being non-acnegenic and safe for both face and body. (As an aside, after-sun lotions have a lock on fun, yellow-orange monochrome packaging that feels appropriate for summer.)
Similarly, Coola's Environmental Repair Plus Radical Recovery After-Sun Lotion is safe for all areas of skin but feels a little more like a traditional body cream (the aloe is still in there, trust). However, if you used your Coola Classic Face Sunscreen SPF30 in Cucumber, you probably won't have to resort to this.
MOISTURIZE, BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY
The unequivocal office favorite is Korres Yoghurt After-Sun Cooling Gel. It's the lightest of the bunch with a scent refreshing enough to become your year-round body lotion. Also, don't you just love it when people spell yoghurt with an h? Sounds that much better.
But making a strong show for reliable moisturizers everywhere is Avène's After Sun Repair Lotion (in a pump bottle, no less). It's light, thanks to the brand's essential eau thermale, but the cool down is long-lasting—as is the light, pleasant scent.
BE TAN LONGER
This is probably the biggest selling point of any lotion to come into existence, plus it feels a little less like a scheme because you're treating your skin in the meantime. Clarins' After Sun Moisturizer Ultra-Hydrating (another wonderfully orange bottle) is one crucial part of Clarins' extensive sun line. Their Self Tanning Instant Gel is pretty good, so they're trustworthy when it comes to looking bronzed.
But the real star of the after-sun show is Sun Bum Cool Down Hydrating After Sun Lotion. That banana scent, that wonderfully non-photogenic bottle. It does it all, and for less than $10. Sun Bum? More like Sun Overachiever.