What Does Aftershave Do? Here Are The Best Post-Shave Products For Every Skin Type
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When your dad taught you how to shave, long before you sprouted whiskers of your own, he probably let you playfully slap on some aftershave. At the time, you probably didn't fully grasp the importance of that final step in your shaving regimen. That’s because you couldn’t feel the sting, nor did you know the threats that awaiting your skin after gliding a sharp razor (or worse, a dull one) over top it.
And maybe, as a full-fledged shaver now (be it safety razor or cartridge blades) you probably still haven’t closed the loop on the perfect shave regimen. Perhaps you’re not prone to bumps—and congratulations on that—but aftershave is just as important now as it was when you had your training wheels. Even more so, in fact, because aftershave has made a huge leap in the last 20 years, evolving from a bracing, drying, alcohol-laden cologne-y splash to what is now more typically a soothing, hydrating, skin-pleasing lotion. And if you aren’t using it you’re doing yourself a big disservice.
So, what does aftershave do? In short, it will hydrate, calm, and cool (understandably) angry and irritated post-shave skin. If you shave with a razor, you need aftershave. Whether or not you’re prone to bumps, razor burn, or ingrown hairs—and especially if you’re prone to those things—you need it. And you need it for a host of reasons.
What does aftershave do?
It hydrates your skin
First things first: Using aftershave these days is a little less Kevin McCallister in Home Alone, and a lot more like a hot towel treatment at the barbershop. That’s because most of them don’t use alcohol anymore, since it dries out the skin. Aftershave acts like a high-grade moisturizer—akin to a winter balm or a night cream—by forming a thick, protective layer over top the vulnerable skin. Your pores should already be tightening (from the cold splash of water you applied, per your diligent shave regimen), and now the post-shave product can form a thick, defensive, and nourishing layer over top it all.
It stops the spread of bacteria
Aftershave also prevents the spread of bacteria and neutralizes the odds of infection, razor bumps, ingrown hairs, and more. Since most aftershaves these days aren’t centered on skin-drying ingredients like alcohol, they often include ingredients like tea tree oil, which naturally neutralize bacteria and prevent post-shave breakouts. However, if you want the potency of an astringent/antiseptic splash, then stick with witch hazel, which is a less abrasive way to keep pores unclogged and tone your skin. All of this being said, there are ways to neutralize the threat of bacteria without destroying the pH levels in your skin and risking an entirely different kind of burn. Primarily, you can minimize bacterial threats by following a proper shave regimen and practicing good razor hygiene.
It soothes and calms the skin
Don’t confuse the hydrating function of aftershave with its ability to soothe and calm your skin. You just shed the uppermost layer of your cells, and that raw, vulnerable skin is in need of some serious care. Aftershave halts the burn and turns it into a tingle, relieving you of immediate pain and preventing redness and irritation for the days ahead. The big difference between many aftershaves and a standard moisturizer will be the inclusion of ingredients like aloe or eucalyptus, for this very reason.
The Best Aftershave for Every Skin Type
Here’s a prescriptive guide to the kind of aftershave you should use based on your skin type.
For oily skin: Pick a natural skin toner—something with witch hazel or rose water. You can use this between shaves too, to help balance the pH levels in your skin.
Thayers alcohol-free witch hazel and rose water splash, $8 at Amazon
For dry skin: Pick a nourishing balm, since it will double down on restoring moisture levels while it shields, tones, and soothes the skin.
The Art of Shaving unscented post-shave balm, $39 at Amazon
For normal skin (not too dry, not too oily): Choose a light lotion that subtly tones and soothes skin, without suffocating your pores.
Aesop Moroccan-neroli post-shave lotion, $50 at Nordstrom
For sensitive skin: Try a gel or an aloe-rich product to cool and calm skin on contact.
Gillette sensitive skin post-shave gel, $3 at Target
For razor-bump-prone skin: Try something with tea-tree oil to neutralize bacteria and prevent the odds of clogged pores and infection.
SheaMoisture tea tree oil and shea butter aftershave serum, $7 at Target
For ingrown-hair-prone skin: Get an exfoliating and toning agent that helps dissolve dead skin cells and prevent trapped hairs from curling up inside clogged pores.
Anthony ingrown hair treatment, $32 at Amazon
For redness- and irritation-prone skin: Look for cooling ingredients like aloe vera, and apply liberally. (Consider a lightweight first layer, followed by a dense balm.)
The Body Shop aloe-enriched water-gel, $16 at Amazon
Harry’s aloe-enriched post-shave balm, $8 at Target