There is hardly anything more iconic and masculine than the image of a man standing in front of a mirror, splashing aftershave on his cheeks (and barely wincing at the alcohol-induced sting). It is reminiscent of the classic scene from Home Alone:
We all know that using aftershave shouldn’t hurt, yet we still use it… And most of us are unsure of as to why.
In this article, we will review why using aftershave is important, why you should use it, and why it is important for any shaving routine. In fact, you might find that using aftershave is even more important than you think.
Read on to learn more about the real purpose behind aftershave, and why it should be an important part of your daily shaving routine.
Your Shaving Tools Are Full of Bacteria
First, we all know that if we aren’t careful, the act of shaving can cause cuts, abrasions, and inflammation to your skin. Second, you keep your razor in the bathroom, which is crawling with pathogens.
So, what do open cuts, acne, bacterial dermatitis, and folliculitis all have in common? They’re all bacterial in nature, and they can all be caused by shaving.
It doesn’t matter how clean you keep your bathroom; bacteria finds its way onto every surface. In fact, your bathroom sink probably has more bacteria on it than your toilet!
So, how do you reduce the risk of skin infections and breakouts without storing your razor in a protective bubble?
You can start by keeping your razor clean and washing it before every use. However, knowing what you know about bathrooms, no one can blame you for wanting to take it one step further.
Applying an antibacterial aftershave to your facial skin at the end of every shave helps remove bacteria from the surface of the skin and pores before they have a chance to colonize and cause infection.
How Aftershave Kills Bacteria
Traditionally, aftershaves contain an antibacterial or antiseptic ingredient, which is often alcohol. Yes, we know that alcohol is harsh on the skin and can dry it out. So, if you have sensitive skin, then it might be a good idea to avoid aftershaves with alcohol.
There are a number of alcohol-free aftershave products available that are still effective in fighting off bacteria. So, you don’t have to make a choice between an aftershave product that dries out your skin and one that fights off bacteria. For example, polyquaternium-10 is an antiseptic ingredient that is commonly used in alcohol-free aftershaves, without the drying effect.
If you prefer natural ingredients that have antibacterial properties, then consider looking for aftershave products that contain some or all of the following ingredients:
- Coconut oil
- Ginger extract
- Manuka honey
- Myrrh oil
- Tea tree oil
- Witch hazel
Aftershave Calms Post-Shave Inflammation
Not all skin problems related to shaving are caused by bacteria. But don’t worry, aftershave is the answer for other shaving-related issues as well.
Every man is familiar with the dreaded razor burn. It’s caused by repeated shaving, friction and excess pressure, and irritation to the skin. Razor burn is often caused by the following:
- Shaving over the same spot too often
- Using a blunt or a dull blade
- Using disposable razors with multiple blades
- Failing to use enough lubrication or lather
Of course, even if you are super diligent about changing your blade in a timely manner, use plenty of shaving cream to work up a sufficient lather and lubrication, and use a high-quality razor, you still end up red and rashy afterward.
Skin can be temperamental, but you can help minimize the discomfort (or ward it off altogether) by using a good, astringent aftershave.
What is an Astringent in Aftershave?
Astringents work to close the pores of your skin, causing that familiar “squeaky clean” and tight sensation you may experience after your shave.
You prepare to shave by lubricating your skin with soapy, warm water, which encourages your pores to open. When pores are open, they are exposed to all the bacteria left behind on your razor. When your pores are closed, it’s harder for bacteria to get inside and do damage.
In that sense, aftershave is a twofold defense mechanism against skin infections. Some common astringents you’ll find in aftershaves include alum and witch hazel.
Your Skin Deserves Calm After the Storm
Okay, “storm” is a little dramatic, but no one can argue that shaving isn’t traumatic to your skin on some level, especially if there are parts of your routine that you haven’t yet perfected. Every good aftershave has a calming component.
Some calming ingredients you will often find in aftershaves include the following:
- Aloe vera
- Chamomile extract
- Green tea
- Oat extract
- Lavender oil
- Vitamin E
You can also find aftershaves in balm form instead of splash form. These tend to contain glycerin or another hydrating ingredient that helps support the calming ingredient for even happier and healthier facial skin.
As a general rule, aftershaves marketed as alcohol- and paraben-free tend to be best for sensitive skin. However, even men with normal skin should avoid these harsh ingredients.
With that said, every man has his own skin type. So, the product that might work for your best friend or brother may not necessarily work for you. Therefore, you may have to try out a few different aftershave products before you find the right combination of antibacterial, astringent, and calming ingredients that works best for your skin.
All in all, if you don’t currently use aftershave in your shaving routine, you might want to think twice. If you dislike the burning sensation associated with using an aftershave, or you just don’t have the time to put into a shaving routine, you are likely doing more harm than good for your skin.
The best ways to rid the razor burn experience is to invest the little extra time into using a quality aftershave that protects your skin and ensures a smooth, comfortable shave.