What Does Aftershave Do?
Aftershave is one of those men's beauty products we've all used at some point in our lives, without being entirely sure what it does. Aside from applying a nice scent to our faces after we shave, what's the point of using it?
Aftershave is a term used to describe any fragrance-enriched product that is used after shaving. It contains just 1-3% pure fragrance, which is much lower than the 3-5% used for eau de cologne or 9-15% used for eau de parfum. The lower fragrance content means that aftershave isn't as strong-smelling, and the smell won't last as long.
However, aftershave isn't just about the smell. It's also useful for:
- Cleansing – Most aftershaves have a higher alcohol content, and that alcohol works as an antiseptic and astringent to kill off any bacteria on your skin. Aftershave is used to reduce the risk of infection after shaving removes the top layer of skin and exposing a lower layer. It can also prevent any shaving cuts or nicks from getting infected.
- Relieving – Not only can the alcohol content of the aftershave help to prevent infections, it can also provide relief from razor burns. The tingling and stinging feeling you get after applying the aftershave means the alcohol is doing its job.
- Moisturizing – Many aftershaves are made with moisturizing and hydrating nutrients, such as aloe vera, glycerin, or coconut oil. These ingredients ensure that your skin is protected from damage and kept properly hydrated.
Aftershave isn't just about smelling nice—it's also highly useful for keeping your face clean and hydrated. After you've finished shaving, splash a bit on your cheeks and neck to reduce infection, moisturize, and prevent razor burns and ingrown hairs.
Types of Aftershave
When we think of aftershave, most of us think of the old-school Brut or Old Spice liquid aftershaves. However, men's grooming products have advanced significantly in the last few years. Now, aftershave comes in a surprise range of formulas:
Splash – The term "splash" refers to the classic liquid aftershave. This type of aftershave contains 1-3% fragrance, along with alcohol to act as an antiseptic. Some may contain toners and hydrosols as well. They are ideal for use in hot climates, as creams, lotions, and balms may melt or feel very oily on your skin. The liquid aftershaves are also ideal for those with oily skin, as the alcohol helps to dry out excess skin oil. The scent of splashes tend to last longer than other types of aftershaves.
On the flip side, those with dry skin should avoid aftershave splashes like the plague. The alcohol will dry out the skin oils, leaving your skin vulnerable to damage by heat, environmental toxins, and particles.
Balm – An aftershave balm is a thicker, heavier-feeling unguent or cream that is applied to dry or sensitive skin. The ingredients in the balm will provide protection and relief from irritation as well as prevent infections and razor burns. They are ideal for colder or drier climates, as they can infuse moisture into dry skin.
However, be warned: balms may be a bit too oily for those with oily skin. The ingredients will add a layer of oil that mimics skin oil, thus potentially increasing sebum production. These aftershaves aren't typically made to be non-comedogenic (non-pimple-causing), which could increase your risk of acne breakouts. The smell of aftershave balms won't last as long as splashes, thanks to their lower fragrance content.
Lotion – Lotions are thicker than balms, with more soothing, moisturizing, and irritation-reducing ingredients. You'll find that many aftershave lotions can help to relieve razor burn, acne, and other irritations, as well as cool your skin (thanks to menthol). In some cases, the lotion can even be a skin-tightening and rejuvenating treatment, helping to improve skin health.
The problem with thicker lotions is that they tend to have a high oil content, which can lead to oily skin. Some lotions contain more astringent properties than others, which can lead to excessive oil elimination in the driest parts of your skin. The alcohol content of the lotions could burn sensitive skin, cuts, or rashes. The scent of your lotion will also wear off far faster than liquid aftershave splash.
Cream – Creams are thick and heavy, containing emollients and moisturizing ingredients that infuse your skin with water, nutrients, and oils. If you have very dry skin, using an aftershave cream can help to protect your skin from damage, razor burns, and infections, all the while increasing skin oil production. The cream may also be useful for soothing irritated skin or rashes.
However, for guys with oily skin, creams tend to be a bit too thick, and can leave your skin feeling greasy and increase skin oil production. Additionally, the scent of aftershave creams isn't very long-lasting.
Alum Block – Alum blocks are solid blocks made of mineral salts and alum, which you rub all over your face after shaving. The all-natural mineral ingredients can help to tighten your skin and smooth out any blemishes and bumps.
However, the minerals can also cause excessive dryness and whatever you do, do not get the alum in your mouth—it tastes absolutely horrible!
Toners – Toners are a form of skincare product that help to tone the skin and treat irritations and skin problems. Most toners are used with other skin creams, but there are aftershave toners you can apply immediately after shaving.
These toners can help to deal with fungal infections, acne, allergies, insect bites, cuts, and rashes, as well as heal scars and lighten skin blemishes. However, they do little to hydrate or protect your skin, so you'll need to use them ALONGSIDE your regular aftershave.
Astringents – Astringents are stronger toners that contain up to 60% alcohol. They are used for very oily skin, but can lead to excessive skin dryness (a problem all its own). The astringents can cause the skin proteins to harden in a protective layer from infections and skin conditions. However, the high alcohol content can have negative effects on sensitive skin.
Gel – Aftershave gels are typically made with menthol and/or eucalyptus, both ingredients that can cool your skin and soothe irritation while killing off bacteria. These gels are ideal for men with oily skin, as they are lighter than creams and lotions and won't increase skin oil production. They are absorbed into the skin quickly, where they work to protect your skin. They're ideal for hot and humid conditions that cause you to sweat a lot.
However, they're not the most effective option for men with sensitive skin, as the menthol and eucalyptus may be too potent. Their moisturizing properties are also less than effective, as they're intended to be quick-acting without protecting the skin.
Aftershaves for Your Skin Type
Finding the right aftershave is all about knowing your skin!
For men with dry skin, you want something thicker and heavier, something like an aftershave lotion or balm. If you have very dry skin that is prone to cracking and chapping, you should opt for a very thick cream. The higher oil content of these creams will help to protect your skin and prevent excessive dryness.
For men with oily skin, you want to stick with lighter aftershaves that contain less oil, such as a splash or gel. You'll find the higher alcohol content of the splash will eliminate excess skin oil, while the gel will be quick-acting without increasing skin oil production. Toners and tonics can also help to reduce excess oil on your skin.
For men with combination skin, you're going to need two types of aftershaves: a splash or gel aftershave for the oily T-zone, and a lotion or balm for the drier areas. Stay away from creams unless your dry zones are VERY dry.
For men with sensitive skin, opt for a lotion, balm, or cream that has a very low alcohol content, and try to find soothing ingredients formulated specifically for sensitive skin. The higher alcohol content of splashes, toners, and astringents and the menthol/eucalyptus of gels may be too strong for your sensitive skin.
How to Apply Aftershave
Applying aftershave is wonderfully easy, though the application process changes slightly from product to product.
Here is a step-by step guide for each type of aftershave:
Step 1: Splash a bit of the liquid into the palm of your hands and rub them together gently. This will spread the liquid over the surface of. your skin, making it easy to apply to your face and neck. The heat will also activate the scent.
Step 2: Open your palms for two seconds to allow some of the alcohol to evaporate. Doing this will reduce the burning sensation once you apply the aftershave.
Step 3: Pat your face and neck gently with the liquid aftershave. DO NOT rub, but dab the liquid onto your skin.
Step 1: Squeeze a dollop of the thick cream or lotion into your palm, or scoop out enough balm to coat the tip of your finger. Rub your hands together gently to spread the cream out over your hand.
Step 2: Gently apply the cream, lotion, or balm to your cheeks and jaw first, then to your neck. Use a downward motion from your jawline to the base of your neck. Be gentle—the last thing you want is to rub too vigorously and cause razor burn.
Step 3: If your skin is very dry, apply a second, thinner layer. Make sure your face and neck are evenly covered with the lotion, balm, or cream.
Step 1: Make sure your hands are very dry before squeezing the gel into your palm. Rub your hands together gently to spread the gel over the surface of your palms.
Step 2: Quickly apply the gel to your cheeks, neck, then jaw. The quick-acting gel will evaporate quickly, so you need to move fast.
Pretty simple, right? Following these steps will ensure a proper application of any type of aftershave to your face and neck!
Always apply to a clean face. Make sure your face is thoroughly washed after your shave, getting rid of any traces of shaving cream or trimmed hairs. A good face wash (sans cleansers, just warm water) will help to open up your pores.
Apply to the right places. When applying an aftershave splash, make sure to hit your cheeks, jaw, and neck (to prevent razor burns and irritations), but also to your shoulders, chest, and wrists. This will ensure the fragrance lasts longer.
Know your skin type. Make sure you know whether you have oily, dry, sensitive, or combination skin before buying an aftershave. You need to find the right aftershave product according to your skin type.
Remember: it's not perfume/cologne. Aftershave is intended to be light and fragrant, but its real purpose is to condition your skin, not provide an all-day scent. For a longer-lasting smell, you'll need to stock up on proper eau de toilette or eau de parfum.
Moisturize first. If you want to protect your skin or reduce dryness, apply a non-scented moisturizing lotion before spritzing with aftershave. The protection offered by the moisturizer will reduce infection, dryness, and irritation, and the aftershave's scent particles will cling to the oil of the lotion, making it last longer.
Don't overdo it. Too much aftershave can be bad for your skin (remember the high alcohol content?) and overpowering to the nose. If you're going to use a stronger-scented aftershave splash or spray, stick with a couple of spritzes or a small amount of liquid.