Why use Aftershave – Do I Really Need It?

What does Aftershave Do?

If you think about what the act of shaving actually does to your skin i.e. scrapes a sharp blade across it, it is easy to see why it may have a detrimental effect.

When shaving you not only cut the hair but also remove the outermost layer of skin cells, as you do when exfoliating.

Therefore aftershave actually serves some pretty important purposes:

  • Heals - aftershaves contain ingredients with antiseptic qualities that help to heal any nicks and cuts from shaving 
  • Soothes - shaving can cause razor burn or irritation to the skin which a good aftershave can help to reduce and soothe
  • Prevents - the astringent in aftershave closes the pores and helps to prevent bacteria from infecting the newly shaved skin
  • Moisturizes - a good balm or lotion will moisturize the skin and leave it looking and feeling smooth and soft

Is Aftershave Really Necessary?

Actually yes, in my opinion and in that of many skincare professionals, it is necessary to use aftershave, to keep your skin hydrated and protected from the detrimental effects of the environment.

The real question is;  what type of aftershave should you be using?

Should it be the traditional aftershave splash or would an aftershave lotion or balm be better and how do you choose?

What Type of Aftershave Should I Use?

Which aftershave you choose is subjective, depending largely on your personal choice and what you want from the product.

Here are a few guidelines to give you an idea of which is likely to be the best for you, depending on your skin type.

Aftershave Splash

Aftershave splash, as the name indicates, is a thin liquid which traditionally used a high level of alcohol for its antiseptic qualities.

Aftershave splashes often still have alcohol included in their ingredients nowadays, but they tend to be in lower quantities, with the gentler witch hazel taking its place.

The trouble with alcohol is that it has a very drying effect on the skin, which can lead to flaking and irritation, especially if your skin is already dry.

It also stings!  Although some men think that this is proof that the aftershave is doing its job properly, actually it is not a wholly necessary discomfort.

A splash is a good option if you have naturally oily skin, but I would recommend one with no or very low alcohol content, preferably one that is witch hazel based. 

Witch hazel is a natural astringent that is milder and less drying than alcohol, and also acts as an anti-inflammatory which soothes the skin rather than stinging it.

An after shave splash that combines witch hazel with moisturizing aloe vera which itself is a natural anti-inflammatory, as well as containing antioxidants and vitamins is ideal.

Aftershave Lotion

The distinction between an aftershave splash and an aftershave lotion is often minimal, but in general a lotion is a slightly thicker liquid, less like water.

Whilst some may contain alcohol, there is less of it and more of the moisturizing components.

If you have sensitive skin, lotions tend to be gentler than splashes, especially if you pick and unscented one specifically for sensitive skin.

An aftershave lotion is a good choice if you have combination or oily skin.

Aftershave Balm

Using an aftershave balm will give you maximum moisturizing and protection from the elements and is the best option for dry skin.

Whilst balms can be liquid, they are generally slightly thicker than splashes and lotions and contain carrier oils which are quickly absorbed into the skin.

Typical ingredients include witch hazel, aloe vera, tea tree oil and vitamin E to nourish the skin.

Using aftershave balm will soften and moisturize the skin without leaving it feeling oily, like some thicker moisturizing creams.

A Few Top Tips when Shaving

We have put together a list of steps you can follow when shaving, to minimise the risk of irritation, razor burn and ingrown hairs:

  • Wash/Shower - making sure that your skin is clean and free from dirt and oil is essential for preventing possible infection.  Showering before shaving also softens the skin and opens the pores so that the razor can cut through the hair more easily. 
  • Lubrication - use of a good quality shaving cream or soap is key to reducing friction and helping the blade to glide smoothly across the skin.  If you have very reactive skin, you may find a pre-shave oil applied a few minutes prior to the shaving cream will provide an additional barrier between the blade and skin and help give maximum glide. 
  • Sharp Blades - always make sure that the razor you use has very sharp blades to avoid dragging and for a good clean cut. We would recommend a double edged safety razor for the very best shave, especially if you have sensitive skin.  Not only is a single blade less irritating, the cost saving for you is substantial over the year.
  • Direction - shave in the direction of hair growth.  Whilst shaving against the grain will give you a closer shave, if irritation is an issue for you try shaving in the same direction as the hair grows.
  • Rinse - rinse the skin thoroughly with warm water to remove soap residue and then splash all over with cold water to close the pores and gently pat dry, without rubbing.
  • After Shave - apply the after shave of your choice, then a moisturizer if required.

If you have any small nicks or cuts, treat them with either witch hazel, a styptic pencil or alum block.

Regular exfoliation helps to keep the skin free from dirt and oil and stops the build up of dead skin cells.

This is important in helping to prevent ingrown hairs, a common side effect of shaving. 


For the past 12 months, I have been testing and playing with all sorts of hair removal products for Hair Free Life. My goal is to provide the most accurate and up-to-date hair removal consumer information on the internet. When I'm not photographing, reviewing and researching hair removal products I play the drums in a samba band and am a volunteer for the Swindon Lions! Got any questions? Write to us below: