What Is Aftershave & What Does It Do?

Words by Jack Goodson
Jan 15, 2022 

Skin is sensitive to razor burn, irritation, and ingrown hairs. Aftershave is a product that you apply on your skin after shaving. It helps prevent these issues by killing bacteria and helping to soothe and heal your skin after shaving. It also moisturises the skin so that it stays healthy.

What Does Aftershave Do?

Hydrate: Aftershave is a great way to hydrate your skin after shaving. This product will help protect freshly exposed skin from becoming dry and itchy, as it is important to moisturise to keep skin healthy and looking good. (Plus, it helps to keep the area smelling fresh!)

Soothe: Aftershave helps to soften and soothe skin after shaving. Shaving can scrape off the top layer of your skin, leaving the raw, sensitive layer underneath in need of attention.

Aftershave cools the "burn" and converts it into a mild tingling, relieving you of immediate pain while preventing redness and irritation in the days ahead.

Disinfect: Aftershave also prevents your freshly-shaved skin from becoming infected! Aftershave helps fight bacteria that may cause breakouts or acne on your face post-shaving.

Different aftershaves use different disinfecting agents, each of which could have a different effect on your skin.

Alcohol-based aftershave often uses ethanol as the alcohol. Ethanol's key features make it an excellent antibacterial product, tightening pores and producing an unfavourable habitat for dangerous bacteria to grow.

However, because ethanol can reduce sebum production by the skin's sebaceous glands, it may not be appropriate for people who suffer from dry skin.

Note: When applied to newly shaven skin, alcohol-based aftershaves definitely have a stronger sting.

Witch Hazel has been used for centuries as a weak antiseptic. Nowadays, Witch Hazel is frequently used in place of alcohol as the base for aftershave, used to complement the astringency (tightening of your pores) caused by alcohol. Plus, it offers great antibacterial protection to the skin.

Because its astringent impact on the skin is not as strong as alcohol, it also does not sting or burn as much.

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Other Benefits Of Aftershave

Different aftershaves are specially formulated to treat a range of specific skin concerns. Learn how the right aftershave can help you deal with some of the issues listed below. (For specific recommendations on Humānery's top picks for aftershave, scroll to the end of this article.)

Soothe Irritated Skin
Shaving can be a rough process for many. Even if you manage to avoid accidental scrapes, there’s the possibility your skin is easily irritated. If this is the case, you should seek out aftershaves containing cooling ingredients and apply a thin layer first, then use a thicker balm afterwards. If you come across aloe vera in the ingredients, you know you’re on the right track, as its anti-inflammatory properties are vital to calming irritated skin.

Reduce Skin Redness
It’s important to note that skin redness and irritation can appear separately and don’t always come as a pair. That said, if shaving leaves your skin looking several shades redder than when you started, it’s again time to rely on the all-important key ingredient of aloe vera. Similar to how it helps to soothe irritated skin, aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory properties also reduce skin redness quickly.

Treat Razor Burn
If you've ever experienced a red rash after shaving, you've most certainly had a razor burn. While it usually disappears in time, if persistent, aftershave can help relieve symptoms such as tenderness and small red bumps. To apply the aftershave properly, rinse the affected area and dry it slowly, patting instead of rubbing. Once dry, gently apply the product. Facial razor burn can be more stubborn than other areas.

Prevent Ingrown Hairs
An ingrown hair can be an uncomfortable experience. Usually found in those with rough or curly hair, it involves the hair growing inwards into your skin. Shaving can make ingrown hairs much more likely. If you’re suffering from this condition, aftershave creams are the answer. These creams unclog pores and stop the hairs from growing inwards by introducing extra moisture.

Moisturise Dry Skin
Even if your dry skin issue is not the direct result of shaving, certain aftershaves can still help. Dry skin is due to a lack of moisture, which means you should pick an aftershave that is nourishing and offers protection from the harshness of the outdoors.

Control Acne
Aftershaves containing alcohol can help destroy germs in your skin. Left untreated, these germs can cause pimples to become even more irritated and painful. Shaving causes many invisible micro-cuts across your skin. If germs enter the cuts, you’re more likely to get an infection. Other ingredients with antiseptic characteristics, such as tea tree oil and witch hazel, can alleviate acne and clean out pores clogged with infected fluids.

How To Use Aftershave Properly?

Using aftershave can feel like a daunting task. No matter who you ask for advice, someone will have a different method that works for them. However, we have summarised the essential steps below to ensure you have a solid base from which to find the way that suits you best.

1. Get your skin prepared by washing it with lukewarm water to dislodge leftover hairs and dirt.

2. You only require a small amount of aftershave to get the desired effects. If using liquid aftershave, pour into your palm and gently clap your hands together. If using a spritz spray, hold it a short distance away before applying.

3. Slowly rub your palms across your skin to evenly distribute it across the area and begin the process of calming redness. Remember: let your skin absorb the aftershave, and do not rinse it off!

You may also wonder what the difference between Aftershave and Cologne is. There’s a simple distinction: Cologne is designed to be worn alone as a daily scent, whilst aftershave counts as an element of skincare as it is used to soothe the skin after shaving, to name but one effect.

Another question often asked is whether aftershave balm can be used as a moisturiser. The short answer is no. Although aftershave balms are more moisturising than normal aftershaves, they should not be used to replace your moisturiser. The distinction is clear: aftershaves address skin hydration, irritation, and infection after shaving whereas moisturisers address dry skin.

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