Physical Health, Tips & Techniques, Wellness / Self-Care

Post-sun Recovery tips for Skin and Hair

Hopefully you don’t get burned, but if you do…

words by: Adam Hurly
Jul 19, 2022

After a long day in the sun—and whether you feel it or not—your body is tired. That intense sun can really deplete you of your energy, on every level. That includes your skin and hair, both of which are on the front lines in terms of UV ray exposure. And that’s precisely why it’s smart to treat your exterior to a post-sun recovery regimen.


Read on for our post-sun skincare and haircare tips.


Post-sun skincare tips

1. Take a cold shower

As soon as you’re home, take a cool or lukewarm shower, and use a mild cleanser to flush away any product residue, sweat, chlorine, sea salts, and so forth. (Emphasis on gentle with that cleanser, since your skin may be sensitive and easily irritated from the sun exposure, even if it appears fine at first.)


2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Drink water. Lots of it. Your entire body needs it now, and your skin will benefit as much as any other organ, in terms of its resilience and ability to recover from the sun exposure. You can even throw in Pedialyte.


Secondly, nourish your skin with lightweight, nourishing lotion—something with hydrating, restorative ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane, ceramides, and glycerin. Many people prefer oil- and butter-free products by daytime, since those ingredients can otherwise weigh down a product. (Especially on the face.)


That being said, if you sleep in an air-conditioned room at night (or if it gets cooler and drier at night wherever you are), then lather on something denser before bed, to help trap the moisture inside your skin and prevent further dehydration as you rest.


We like CeraVe’s evening facial lotion (with hyaluronic acid and ceramides) after a day in the sun, and Paula’s Choice squalane and shea body butter for overnight restoration.


3. Prioritize soothing ingredients

Even if you aren’t sunburnt, your skin craves soothing, calming ingredients after a day under the sun. Look for products that use aloe vera, chamomile, niacinamide, ceramides, green tea, cia grass (AKA tiger grass, aka centella asiatica), cactus extract, and more.


We like Gold Bond’s healing lotion for the body (since it has aloe and Vitamin E), and Cardon’s Hydro Boost Gel for the face (since it has cactus extract, niacinamide, and Vitamin E).


4. Avoid Retinol 

If your skincare regimen includes a retinol product, then you’ll want to lay off it for a day or two. (And ideally, you did the same the night before any intense sun exposure.) Let your skin rebound from the day before you apply the ingredient—and the same goes for any other biting ingredients, like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and other chemical exfoliants (or physical scrubs, too). Be gentle on your skin across the board these.


Same-day sunburn tips

The rules for post-sun recovery change slightly if you’ve ended the day with a sunburn. You can read our tips on how to heal a sunburn for the full recovery plan, but know that immediate care should prioritize cool showers, low friction (from fabrics, so keep it loose), soothing ingredients (especially aloe vera and oatmeal), and extra-gentle cleansers and hydrators.


Post-sun haircare tips

The sun can be extremely damaging to your hair’s cuticle, which is the protective cover that seals in moisture and keeps hair smooth. So, if you did not otherwise coat your strands in a UV/heat-protectant product (like COOLA’s), or cover it with a hat, then you may notice it is more dry, brittle, and frizzy than usual.


Regardless of the scenario, always start with a gentle shampoo, to rinse out any chemicals, salts, sweat, product, and more. Then, today and in the days to follow, prioritize conditioners and hair masks—those which focus on restoration, repair, hydration, smoothness, and so forth. Some are leave-in stylers (like Sachajuan’s), others are 5-20 minute masks (like Redken’s), longer-wear masks (like Olaplex’s) or overnight masks (like Bumble & bumble’s). Others are simply the standard-fare post-shampoo conditioners (like R+Co BLEU’s); just make sure to leave them in your wet hair for 1-2 minutes before rinsing them out, and avoid the use of a blow dryer for the next few days (as well as additional intense sun exposure).


In the days following sun exposure, it can be smart to do a scalp scrub, too, even if your hair fully covers the scalp. The heat, UV rays, sea water, pool water, and other elements can all dry out the scalp just as much as the hair (and the rest of your skin), and a simple scrub will help lift away any dead, rough skin that is otherwise ready to flake off. Try SunBum’s, which also has apple cider vinegar to balance the scalp’s pH levels and thwart any buildup of fungus or bacteria. (The former of which is a primary cause of dandruff.) Don’t exfoliate more than 2-3 times a week, now or ever.


Don’t forget that your scalp can get sunburned, so bring out the snapback.