• After sun

The reason for after sun

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by the programme Radar to speak about after sun products. I had to consider whether to do it or not, as I am not too keen on television presentations. In contrast to interviews for magazines, you have little control over what and how your story is broadcast. Some cutting and pasting can, in no time, make your carefully thought out statements sound very different than you intended. Having said that, I did give my story to Radar in the end. Because sun burn is so common. And the incorrect use of after sun can do your skin a lot of harm. For the purpose of clarity I have put it all down on paper for you.

Everyone gets burnt once in a while

Prevention is, of course, better than cure, but the reality is that almost everyone gets burnt once in a while. By the way, I do too. A recent Swiss study among school children revealed that no less than 60 percent of the children had been sunburnt at least once during the past year.

How do we deal with that?

What actually is sunburn?

Applying cream after you’ve been sunburnt is a good idea. By moisturising you are counteracting dehydration of the skin and helping recovery of the skin’s barrier function.

Sunburn is, in fact, an inflammatory process whereby dangerous free radicals can form and cause damage. The quicker you soothe your skin the better. Creams can help with this. You should, however, choose an un-perfumed product, with no irritating ingredients, such as menthol, or a high alcohol concentration. Just don’t let it be the ingredients, generally put into an after sun product, which give that lovely cooling sensation…

Believe me, you are better off applying nothing at all than a product with irritating ingredients such as perfume, menthol or alcohol. A sunburnt skin is even more sensitive to this type of damaging substance.

Is a special after sun really necessary?

Simply put, it doesn’t matter if you go for a normal body lotion, face product or after sun – as long as the ingredients are beneficial. Preferably choose a water based product (aqua will be listed at the top of the ingredients list). Rich oily products retain the heat in the skin, precisely what you don’t want! So this is a definite priority in the first few hours after burning.

What would be beneficial in your after sun product?

Aloe vera is in almost all after sun products. But have a look at the scientific studies of this product in the case of sunburn, and the results aren’t unequivocal. As a well conducted study of a cosmetic product containing no less than 70% aloe vera showed, it had no effect on the sunburnt skin. Although not much research has been carried out into the exact effects of other active ingredients in creams after burning, hydrating substances such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, barrier repairing substances such as niacinamide, soothing substances such as panthenol, liquorice root and beta glucan and antioxidants are certainly recommended. We know that these substances, in particular, recover the moisture balance in the skin, strengthen the barrier function, suppress the inflammatory process and counteract the forming of free radicals. Apply this after cooling down and preferably apply a layer of cream onto the skin every couple of hours.

What else can you do after getting sunburnt?

  • Firstly cool down, preferably not with ice but, by having a lukewarm bath or shower or with a cool compress on the skin. Compresses with cooled down green tea are a good idea, green tea soothes and eliminates free radicals. You could also have a bath with oats. Sprinkle around 40-50 grams of fine porridge oats into a bath of lukewarm water and lie in it for around 15 minutes.
  • A high dose of vitamin D seems to reduce redness after an hour and stop the inflammatory process and damage. That has been shown in research.
  • If necessary, you can take a painkiller in the first couple of hours after burning. Choose a so called NSAID (aspirin or ibuprofen). These reduce pain and inflammation.
  • It isn’t a good idea to go into the full sun after getting sun damage, or if you still have red skin. Not even if you have a thick layer of sun cream on. And that white shirt will provide barely any protection… Give the skin which has burnt time to recover. Therefore, stay in the shade. Remember that, even in the shade, you still need to protect your skin with an SPF.


Best regards,


Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology


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