What does aftersun do? Is there any difference between aftersun & moisturiser? What an awesome question, and I’m not just saying that because it came from my partner’s mum *winks*.
Before you get used to reading through a skincare ingredients list like you were checking food at the supermarket, we rely on what it says to us on the front of the bottle. Simples. If it says aftersun, we are going to use it after we’ve been in the sun, if it says eye cream, we are going to use in around our eyes (mostly because there’s only 10ml in that tiny tube *winks*) and if it says night oil… you know what you’re gonna do ‘eh!
Today I’m taking you behind the scenes of the aftersun lotions and explaining what aftersun does and if it’s any different from a ‘bog-standard’ moisturiser…
Part 1. What Does Aftersun Do?
Aftersun products are moisturisers. When you look at them from a formulation point of view, they contain the same basic ingredients as any other moisturiser would. It’s like cooking up a roast dinner, you’ve got all your main food groups on the plate. Your veggies, your meats or quorn and your potatoes (…oh and we can’t forget the gravy ‘eh!).
But we all know one person’s roast dinner can be very different to another’s. Same food groups, different style.
So when my partners mum asked me this question I explained to her that yes, aftersun lotions are just the same as moisturisers… but they usually contain more ‘actively’ soothing ingredients (aloe, bisabolol, allantoin…) than a standard moisturiser. I also explained that I’d imagine aftersun lotions to have a higher water content (more like lotions and gels) than a normal body moisturiser, so that you’d get a ‘cooling’ feel from the water, instead of ‘that’ heat being locked into your skin by an oil. Or so I thought…
Let’s take a look at some aftersun products and see if there really is any difference between aftersun and moisturiser.
Is There Any Difference Between Aftersun & Moisturiser?
Really, truly the only way to tell is to look at the ingredients list. While they can look scary you have me by your side to read you through these lists! When I started to take a peek at these ‘bog-standard’ aftersun lotions, I was a little shocked myself what I found…
Let’s start with a ‘go-to’ for many people – Nivea.
So first up – the extra soothing aftersun ingredients. Which ones do we have here? I was actually a little surprised that there weren’t more, but to give Nivea their due, they have included aloe vera (that’s the underlined ingredient). This is the only form of aloe vera that will work even though it’s low down the ingredients list, because it’s a powder. Aloe vera is mostly water (a bit like us) and the powder form is where the aloe’s been ‘evaporated’ to leave you with only the ‘building blocks’ of what makes aloe, aloe.
Now lets talk about those bolded ingredients.
The first one up – Paraffinum Liquidum (mineral oil)
I was a tad surprised this one was up so high on an aftersun. Mineral oil, is an oil that sits on the top of your skin and stops water from evaporating out. As it’s in second place on the ingredients list, there’s second most of this in the lotion. Oils are very good at ‘locking stuff in’, which is why I was surprised this was second on the list. If you’ve had a day in the sun, and you wanted to feel like you’d just rubbed your body in ice *winks*/ a ‘cooling’ lotion, then this would be the opposite…
This is how I think they’ve compensated.
The second bolded ingredient – Alcohol Denat.,
Ever put something on your skin that feels mega cooling really quickly? You’re getting that feeling because something is evaporating off your skin, fast and when it does, it’s taking some of your body heat with it. Alcohol does this. Alcohol will also ‘thin’ the lotion making it rub in more easily. I’m shocked alcohol is so high on the ingredients list as in the long term, alcohol ‘drys’ skin. That’s the reason you’ll find it used in a lot of spot treatments. It’s also quite irritating with long term use. This aftersun looks like a short term feeling for long term skin sin.
The last 3 bolded bits (Linalool, Citral, Limonene) are allergens (they’ll be coming from the parfum used in the product).
I’m surprised Nivea have used a fragrance with allergens as after sun exposure your skin is more vulnerable. It’s not the time to be using creams with strong scents or a lot of these pesky allergens in ’em.
Is there any difference between aftersun & moisturiser? There was a difference between a Nivea moisturiser and their aftersun, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. The key difference between a Nivea moisturiser & a Nivea aftersun was the high alcohol content.
With everyone making such different roast dinners *winks* I thought we needed to take a ‘taste’ at a couple more aftersuns to really get a ‘picture’…
Hooray, no drying alcohol content in site. Go Garnier!
The overall lotion is still made from mineral oil and most of the ingredients are ‘bog-standard’ moisturising ones.
What we are really interested in, is the soothing actives. Are there any here? I’m very happy to say yes and I’ve underlined all 3 (although 1 also has a ‘bolding’ against its name, I’ll explain more in a minute).
We have Zinc Gluconate, Aloe vera juice and Bisabolol.
- Zinc gluconate is a soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredient that also gets involved in skins healing process. You don’t need a lot of it either so big tick here.
- Bisabolol is also very similar, it’s an anti-irritant, soother that helps to calm skin. You need a very small amount, so big double tick, even though it’s low on the list.
- Aloe vera, this ingredient is so low down the list and it’s the liquid version, so 99% of this is water anyhows. They’ll be no skin effect, but you’ll probably hear Garnier talk about this ingredient and they can legally do that (read more here, about this biggest drugstore skincare con).
Is there any difference between aftersun & moisturiser? There’s no ‘magic’ aftersun ingredients, but there are ‘actively skin soothing ingredients’ in this formulation.
Finally I thought we’d take a look at another example that would be like sitting down for a roast at a Michelin star restaurant *winks*. Let’s switch drugstore main shelf, for a drugstore counter option. Does paying more money for an aftersun lotion, get you a better product?
Yessh that’s a lot of ingredients ‘eh! But do more ingredients mean we have more skin soothing actives? Kinda, yea. All those underlined ingredients have skin soothing, protective, anti-irritant skills. There’s at least 5 here, compared to Nivea’s (1) and Garnier’s (2.1).
Other than these (which you’d still probably find in other moisturisers) the lotion is exactly like a normal moisturiser.
I’ve bolded the first 3 ingredient as they’ll tell us what the lotion will be like overall, especially feeling wise. Firstly unlike the Nivea & Garnier aftersun, there’s no mineral oil in site. What we do have instead is…
- Isononyl Isononanoate, a synthetic oil that leaves a silky feeling on skin.
- Glycerin, an ingredient that’s a water magnet (humectant).
- Cyclomethicone, a texturiser. This will make it feel soft ‘n silky to rub in.
You’ll find all of these ingredients in normal moisturisers too. This will be a very silky cream to apply, it’ll feel good and the Glycerin will help to rehydrate skin. Again these are all things a normal moisturiser will do.
The last bolded ingredients (Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Linalool, Limonene, Amyl Cinnamal, Coumarin, Citronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Geraniol) Yeesh what a long list! These guys are all allergens. They come from the big dose of fragrance in the Clarins aftersun which isn’t the best move for a product that’s supposed to be sensitive to skin.
(click over to here to read some more about why you should steer clear from skincare that smell good)
Is there any difference between aftersun & moisturiser? Although paying a little extra for a brand like Clarins does get you more skin soothing ingredients, you’ll also find these in a sensitive skin moisturiser that you’d pay a little extra for too.
Part 2. What Does Aftersun Do?
I part 2’d this because after really delving into a lot of aftersun ingredients lists I’d give my partners mum some different advice. I’d first tell her to be wary of high alcohol contents in some aftersun products. Then I’d tell her that most other aftersun lotions are very similar to a normal moisturiser, the only difference being that they contain ingredients designed for sensitive skin.
That means another way to choose a great aftersun, would be to look for a moisturiser designed for sensitive skin, for example;
- Find a good dose of aloe vera in Sukin Hydrating Body Lotion (£10/250ml)
- For fragrance free re-hydration and care try PHB Ethical Beauty Scent Free Body Lotion (£14.50/250ml)
Is there a difference between aftersun & moisturiser? The final answer, nope not really. There are no ingredients you’d only find in an aftersun that you wouldn’t find in a moisturiser.
Do you use aftersun? Which brand? Are you now switching it for a skin soothing moisturiser? Come chat to me in the comments below, I’d love to know more…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who is more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She is founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Learn more here at www.HonestyForYourSkin.co.uk/Skin-Coach