Do you know the difference between aftershave balms and aftershave gels? Ditto for lotions and splashes? Maybe you know that they have different ingredients and weigh differently on the skin. That’s a good place to start! However, it’s also important to know which one pairs best with your particular skin type and your environment: Different post-shaves offer different types of healing and defensive benefits.
Before we get into a more prescriptive list, you can break down aftershaves into a small range of categories, most commonly the four below:
Splashes: Watery, often containing toning ingredients, like witch hazel. (Avoid drying alcohol-based splashes and astringents).
Gels: Lightweight option, water-based and oil-free.
Lotions: Medium weight, most similar to standard moisturizers in application. Can contain oil or be oil-free.
Balms: Occlusive and heavy, deeply hydrating and defensive.
However, we think it’s best to approach your post-shave purchase from a tailored POV, by considering your skin, the situation, and/or the environment. Here are our suggestions, based on the most common variables.
If you are prone to ingrown hairs and bumps:
There are targeted aftershaves especially for you. They exfoliate dead cells, soften hairs, flush pores, disinfect skin, and quickly seal off skin all in one fell swoop. Look specifically for ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid.
Try: Anthony Ingrown Hair Treatment, $34
If you are in a dry and/or cold environment:
You need to prioritize moisture and its retention, so choose a heavy aftershave balm that can nourish and clean skin, while also sealing it off from the dry air around you. Balms are the most occlusive pick, and can help revive your skin when it’s at its most susceptible, even under these harsh seasonal/geographic conditions.
If you are in a hot and/or humid environment:
You don’t want to suffocate the pores, which will only aggravate and hasten the odds of bumps and irritation. Opt for an oil-free, lightweight option, like a post shave gel, or even a witch hazel toner (should you be prone to post-workout sweating or oil buildup—see the next tip too). If it’s sunny, you may consider following the witch hazel splash with an SPF moisturizer for added nourishment, as well as defense against toxins and UV rays.
If you just worked out or are oily-skinned:
You want to use a lighter aftershave, probably something like a splash or toner. Witch hazel is a terrific ingredient, since it can tone the skin’s oil production, while also neutralizing any critters. It sanitizes skin like the alcohol-tinged splashes of yore, but it soothes and nourishes at the same time (very much unlike the alcohol-based ones).
Try: THAYERS Rose Petal Toner, $8
If you have dry skin:
Balm in winter, aftershave moisturizer in summer. That balm will shield your skin from moisture loss while mitigating bacteria and irritation. However, it will also feel too heavy at the height of summer, thus you’ll want to pick something equally defensive and hydrating, but less occlusive. That’s where aftershave moisturizer comes in. It’s a lot like aftershave lotion, but it specifically works to seal off the outer layer of skin like any regular moisturizer (plus the requisite toning that you need from an aftershave). Similarly, you could also deploy an aftershave splash and layer it with your go-to daily moisturizer.
If you have sensitive skin:
First, consider the other variables from this list, and then choose an unscented option (or a naturally scented pick, like with peppermint or lavender oil). If we could pick any one for you to start, it’d be a witch hazel + aloe vera toner, followed by your go-to fragrance-free moisturizer.
Try: THAYERS Unscented Alcohol-Free Toner, $10
If you shave before bed:
Just as you should wear a heavy duty moisturizer at bedtime, now is when you should wear the heaviest post-shave of them all. So, go with a balm, unless it’s egregiously hot and humid. A balm will help skin recover better while you sleep, and will hold the longest against any dry air conditions that the winter (or even the summer A/C) hurl at skin.
If you have seemingly no constraints:
In theory, you can use any and all types of these products, then. The goal is to tone the skin, and shield it off from toxins and moisture loss. So, take your pick. But might we recommend an aftershave lotion? It’s a good medium-heft choice, and a moisturizing one at that.
For more shaving-related content, read up on how to prevent ingrown hairs, if you need to buy a shaving brush, the best shaving soaps/creams/gels to buy and how to properly shave with a straight razor.
Photo via 20th Century Fox