The use of aftershave can be traced back to early Roman times. We can only imagine what those products were like, but like so many products, aftershave has evolved. In its earliest forms, perhaps even the Roman versions, aftershave was purely an antiseptic. Usually containing large amounts of alcohol or witch hazel, it was intended to prevent infection in the cuts men would occasionally get while shaving. The trouble was that it burned like the dickens, so men avoided it whenever possible. The earliest scents to be added to aftershave were Bay Rum and Sandalwood, both quite masculine smelling, but neither did anything to reduce the sting.
Gillette Series Sensitive Skin
|For sensitive skin, non-greasy||$||4.75|
Anthony Aftershave Balm
|Absorbs immediately and reduces minor razor burns||$$||4.75|
Clinique for Men
|Moisturizes skin, suitable for all skin types||$$||4/5|
Geo F. Trumper
|Non-greasy and seals the skin||$$$||5/5|
Baxter of California
|Alcohol-free, contains aloe vera to calm sensitive skin||$$||4.9/5|
Today, aftershave is still alcohol or witch hazel based to prevent infection and to act as an astringent to reduce skin irritation. Luckily, manufacturers have also learned to add lotions, gels, or powders to reduce the burn and moisturize your skin more effectively.
So What Does Aftershave Do Exactly?
In addition to removing hair, shaving does several things to your face. Most men use warm or hot water to soften their facial hair. This also opens the pores of your skin. The pores are opened further by some of the ingredients in common shave soap and shaving creams. While you shave, you are removing hundreds of thousands of skin cells. Many are already dead and your skin needs this exfoliation to remain in tip-top condition, but removing them exposes a raw, irritated second layer. This is the source of razor burn.
So, after shaving, you have pores that are wide open and irritated skin. Both are exposed to the dirt and bacteria in the air. The alcohol or witch hazel base of aftershave will close the pores and kills bacteria on contact. Both are great, but neither does anything to reduce the skin irritation. Quite the opposite, alcohol and witch hazel are both irritants. That is where the other ingredients come into play. Many manufacturers add aloe vera, oils, or balms of various types in order to alleviate the skin irritation that many men suffer from post shave. In addition to eliminating skin irritation, some of these products act as a lotion in order to soften your skin in an attempt to reduce age lines and wrinkles.
Many aftershaves contain a fragrance. The scent is added in many ways, from essential oils to a group chemicals. Despite being marketed as both a cologne and aftershave, they are not truly interchangeable products. A cologne does not have the antiseptic qualities of a good aftershave and, vice-versa, an aftershave does not have the long lasting scent qualities and nuances of a good cologne.
Some Aftershave Recommendations
As with any other product, some aftershaves that are better than others. There are five products that we think rise above their competitors. Geo F. Trumper Skin Food is the product we consider the best of the best.