What Is Aftershave For?

Last time I told you about the best aftershave for men options, but what is aftershave for? Sure, you use it after you shave, but why is it so important to pick a good aftershave? Some men might think it’s more important to select a good shaving cream or lotion.

The most important feature of aftershave is its antiseptic agent. These range from denatured alcohol, stearate citrate to witch hazel. You might think you are a professional shaver, very chuffed with yourself that you never bleed. But dragging a razor across your face will inevitably nick your skin, even if it’s not visible to your naked eye.

Aftershave will prevent those little cuts from becoming infected. It will also help to reduce skin irritation.

When did men start using aftershave?

If you thought the metrosexual trend is something new that only emerged recently, think again, men’s grooming became popular in Victorian times. The first perfume was used by the Egyptians millenniums before, but it had the connotation of being something that women used. But the Victorians started liking the idea of a scented aftershave.

The Hungarians were the first to start experimenting with men’s scents, lotions and aromatic waters. By 1770 using aftershave was a standard part of the Barbers routine in many countries. A French barber, Jean-Jacques Perret, even went so far as to write a book about it, “The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself”. He gave advice on shaving techniques, recommended special shaving equipment and gave tips to minimize cuts. Most importantly, he elaborated on what aftershave is for.

What types of aftershave do you get?

When you decide to go out and grab a bottle of aftershave, you might get stuck in front of the supermarket shelf, staring at all the various options

The two basic options you need to decide between, are splashes and balms. The basic difference between the two, a splash has a liquid-base and a balm a lotion-base. Splashes contain toners, astringents and hydrosols to provide you with great antiseptic protection. The balms also include an antiseptic, but also offer relief from irritation and include a moisturizer.

What are the core aftershave ingredients?

Once you know what aftershave is for, you might become more interested in the ingredients. As mentioned above the antiseptic agent is the most important element of a good aftershave. Years ago most aftershaves were alcohol-based, but the problem is that it’s quite a harsh antiseptic.

Witch Hazel is a much nicer one, and it has the bonus of smelling great as well. It is a natural product, a great option if your skin is on the sensitive side. If you stay in quite a dry climate, you should rather consider using a balm for the moisturizing element. If you like DIY, you could create your own aftershave at home.

Basically the two main ingredients that you should look out for when checking the aftershave bottle, is the antiseptic and the moisturizer. To add a bit of fragrance, some aftershaves use essential oils. Each oil has its own specific benefits, it might be worth your time to do a bit of research before you select your aftershave.

If you can find an aftershave with Aloe Vera in, you are guaranteed it will be good for your skin. Your skin will feel rejuvenated after applying the aftershave.

Random fact: The first make-shift aftershave was a spider web soaked in oil and vinegar. The Roman barbers used it as a therapeutic plaster to soothe the face after a shave. The vinegar was their antiseptic and the oil was the moisturizer.

Why should you bother with aftershave?

The two main ingredients of aftershave answers the question what is aftershave for: protecting your skin from germs and adding moisture to it.

Mid-life cycle bacteria fills your razor blade from the previous time you used it. Then you use that razor on your freshly washed skin, usually you would shave after a hot shower, so your razor blade meets your wide open pores. Those bacteria now have the chance to mingle with your pores, causing skin irritation and possibly skin infection or acne.

You might protest and argue that you clean your razor really well after every shave, but unfortunately bacteria is everywhere. So to stay on the safe side, rather lather your face with a nice aftershave after you’ve dragged a blade across your skin.

Firstly your aftershave will help clear out your pores, and the astringent will then seal your pores to stop outside bacteria to get in. And this is why Witch Hazel is so amazing – it’s an antiseptic as well as an astringent! The combo of Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera is great if you sometimes get an acne attack after shaving.

Scary fact: continuous skin irritation is the leading cause of male skin aging, as well as causing uneven skin tone plus sagging skin. When you select a good aftershave, you can replenish the moisture that’s lost while you’re shaving and create a protective layer, preventing shaving irritations such as shaving bumps and burns as well as ingrown hairs.

Let’s rave some more about Witch Hazel

So basically it boils down to alcohol vs witch hazel. Like I said, back in the day alcohol was the only base antiseptic you could pick when selecting an aftershave. The problem with it, is that it will burn the living daylights out of you when you apply it straight after you shave. Maybe some men like the feeling, knowing that all possible bacteria are being zapped like crazy by the alcohol. But I think the Witch Hazel route is much more pleasant and effective.

So to recap, Witch Hazel is an antiseptic, an astringent, as well as an anti-inflammatory. Unlike alcohol, it won’t dry out your skin. Plus it smells nice. What more do you want?

If you don’t struggle with a sensitive skin that dries out from alcohol and you’re looking from a cheap aftershave, you could consider sticking to an alcohol based aftershave. Basically what it does, after zapping all the bacteria away, it tightens your skin to make sure they can’t come back in. I would recommend that you consider moisturizer if you like sticking with alcohol in your aftershave.

I told you about essential oils earlier? Well, Tea Tree is a very good friend of Witch Hazel, used as a cleanser element. So if you can find a combo of those two, your grooming routine is sorted.

Wrapping Up – what is aftershave for

I hope this answered your question “what is aftershave for?”. So next time someone asks you “What is aftershave for?” you can tell them it’s more than just making the ladies swoon when you walk past smelling irresistible. Although that is definitely a bonus element of looking after your skin!


Hey! I am Andries and I am the owner and curator of this blog.

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