You prepared your beard for a nice close shave. Your safety razor is sharp with a brand new blade and rich shaving cream lather is already built with your badger shaving brush. You finished shaving and now what?

What do you use? Aftershave balm vs aftershave splash vs lotion? What’s best and what’s really the difference?

But let’s take it from the beginning, shall we?

The main thing what everyone should know before reading ahead is why one might need to use an aftershave.

It definitely isn’t about the scent. After all, if you want to smell nice, a cologne will do the job, so why aftershaves?

What is aftershave for?

When we wet shave there are many bacteria which can land on our skin. The razor we shave with or the shaving brush we use has been used a couple of times before and have bacteria on them.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to get rid of them or clean your shaving tools as well as possible, these bacteria are going to land on your skin. Plus, when we grow beards the skin pores need to expand in order to accommodate the long hair.

Further reading: Reviews of the best safety razors

So the first thing after shaving is having these big pores and bacteria freshly landed on them. This could eventually lead to infection.

And that’s what aftershaves are for. Aftershaves help in clearing out any bacteria and closing your pores after we are done cleaning so as to block any more bacteria from entering the skin.

Now, depending on the type of aftershave, you might also have different reasons to use one. Even though they all share similar features, there are a few things that really make a difference to your (after)shaving session.

Aftershave Balm Vs. Splash Vs. Lotion. What’s the difference?

All three types of aftershaves – splash, balm, and lotion – they’re pretty different.

  • In most cases, aftershave splash is an almost alcohol based product which is also an antiseptic.
  • Aftershave Lotion is a milder version of the splash and normally, it doesn’t contain alcohol
  • Finally, the balm is a semi-solid moisturizer which is mostly used if you are experiencing lots of roughness after your shave.

Although every wet shaver -and why not beard wearer, will have his own choice among the three types of products, it’s worth knowing the differences.

Each of these aftershaves give a different good and effect, so let’s take a deeper look into what are the components of each and what makes them good to use.

Balms and lotions usually use other natural product like tea tree oil to give a similar effect of cleansing as we experience with alcohol. Lotions which are exactly like the Splash but with lower contents of alcohol or Balms which have no alcohol and is a very good soothing/softening agent.

Not every product has the same kind of effect; for example, as Aftershave Splash is an alcohol-based product which could dry the skin. Aluminum starch, which is one of the main components of aftershave lotions, could be toxic if used more than the FDA-recommended amount.

So it is essential to do your research on the effects and ingredients of each product. Let’s see what’s inside each one of them.

What is aftershave splash

Aftershave splash. Understanding the differences with lotion and balm

Image Courtesy: Volodymyr P/ 

The first time that aftershaves were introduced to modern society was by barbers.

They used them as they had a high alcohol content and were effective at killing bacteria. At that time, it was the only antiseptic available that could do the job.

This type of alcohol based aftershave splash helped in killing bacteria, avoiding infection and the transmission of disease from one client to another through shaving instruments.

The reason it became so popular was the revitalizing sensation and tingling effect caused by the fragrance and the alcohol.

There are however a few things that make aftershave splashes a no-go for guys with sensitive skin. More particularly, there are three things to keep in mind.

  1. Although a great antiseptic, this type of aftershave splashes leave the skin dry and irritated.
  2. Also the alcohol makes the pores tighter which gives way to ingrown hair.
  3. Lastly, most splashes contain synthetic fragrances and sometimes dyes.

An aftershave in my opinion has three main characteristics – to soothe, nourish and moisturize the skin.

But alcohol doesn’t do any of them other than cleaning the area and avoiding infections. In short if you are very particular about the health of your skin it would be best to avoid aftershave splashes because they don’t really help in that area. Not to mention if shaving with sensitive skin. It might irritate your skin even further after you’re done shaving.

How is aftershave splash used?

There are two reasons why anyone would like to use an aftershave splash, i.e. using it as an antiseptic and due to the revitalizing sensation it leaves behind.

We’ve all been to the barbers’ shop to get a shave and the signature end is the two pats by the barber’s splash filled palms which makes our skin tingle and feel cleaner.

Needless to say that the best time to use it yourself is right after shaving. So here’s what you need to do:

  1. Make sure that your skin is clean from hair, shaving oils and lather.
  2. On top of that, it’s good to have your face splashed with cold water so that your pores close. This is also a good idea if you have sensitive skin.
  3. Lastly, towel dry your face, as water will dilute the aftershave splash and your skin won’t be able to absorb it quickly.

Common ingredients and their effects

SD-Alcohol 40, the main ingredient which takes up more than 70% of the bottle which is exactly why it is often confused with Cologne.

Glycerin is another one, it is a hydroscopic ingredient found in many aftershave products. Glycerin draws moisture from the air to the skin, allowing freshly shaved skin to become moisturized again.

Allantoin is another common ingredient which is anti-inflammatory and also has a moisturizing characteristic. Synthetic fragrance is the number one ingredient that may cause of skin irritation and infections.

What is aftershave lotion?

Aftershave lotion. Understanding the differences with splash and balm

Image Courtesy: isn5000/

Aftershave lotion isn’t very different from aftershave splash, but it normally contains less alcohol.

The lotion offers a relief to freshly shaved skin with a soothing and rich formula. Not to mention the moisturizing properties of glycerin. These lotions are lightly fragranced and work especially well with sensitive skin.

What is lotion used for?

While aftershave splash is more commonly used, sometimes it can negative side-effects.

People already facing dry skin or flaking problems might experience more dryness due to alcohol-based splash.

The best solution is aftershave lotions that have very little alcohol content. The lotion uses glycerin and other ingredients given below made specially to handle sensitive skin.

The way to use it, is no different that the procedure described on the aftershave splash.

Aftershave Lotion – Common ingredients and their effects

Common ingredients of aftershave lotion are Water/EAU, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, glycerin, myristyl propionate, mineral oil, and fragrance.

Aluminum starch is used in aftershave lotions as an anticaking agent and a non-aqueous viscosity increasing agent.

Myristyl propionate is used as a skin conditioning agent.

Finally, mineral oil is used for enriching the quality of our skin and fragrance is the smell of the product.

What is Aftershave Balm?

Aftershave balm. Understanding the differences with splash and lotion

Image Courtesy: nd3000/

For people with really rough hair and sensitive skin, it is highly recommended that they use aftershave balms.

It provides nourishment, soothes, and protects the skin from shaving irritation, dryness, and razor burn. Right after you apply it you will feel both your skin and your beard softer.

Alcohol-free balm cools and conditions skin as it relieves sensitivity after shaving.

Why use balm?

Aftershave balms are mainly useful for people with rough hair and skin. It is one of the best products to soften and condition the skin/hair.

Aftershave balms are kind of creamy with thicker consistency than splash and lotions. The main feature is that they don’t leave a burning sensation like the alcohol based products and at the same time they moisturize the skin and help with irritation and razor bumps.

Aftershave Balm – Common ingredients and their effects

The balm is mainly composed of glycerin, aloe vera and allantoin.

Aloe vera, as we all know, is one of the best ingredients to improve skin quality while glycerin works best as a hydrating agent.

Allantoin is an ingredient that provides another moisturizing effect and enhances the desquamation of upper layers of dead skin cells.

Few Product Recommendations

Nivea Men Replenishing Post Shave Balm

Even the most experienced shavers can leave nicks and cuts which can get infected if not treated.

This aftershave balm helps with curing those cuts and replenishing the skin with moisture. The balm is also charged with vitamin-e.

It’s absorbed relatively easily into the skin when there’s no water on the face and has excellent skin soothing properties. The main purpose of this product is to treat sensitive skin.

It’s one of the best aftershave balms I have ever used in my life.

Clubman Pinaud After Shave Lotion

A very popular aftershave lotion is the Clubman Pinaud.

It helps nicks and cuts heal faster and at the same time, give you a very refreshing feeling.

The particular aftershave lotion has a very masculine fragrance.

I wouldn’t recommend it for people with very sensitive skin. For all the rest, don’t miss the chance trying it out.

Grooming Lounge Best for Last Aftershave

This balm is another great product which does not irritate the skin in any form.

It is a non-greasy and burn-free aftershave that moisturizes the skin deeply.

It consists of olibanum, almond oil, and lavender which will smoothen and protect your skin against post-shave irritation.

Lather & Wood Aftershave Balm

100% natural ingredients and gives almost the same effect as an alcohol-based product without the burning or dryness.

It leaves the skin hydrated and soft. On the scent department, it’s a very mild yet refreshing creamy scent. It reminds me a bit of the Nivea that I mentioned earlier.

Gillette Series Sensitive Skin Aftershave Gel

We all have to admit that when it comes to shaving creams and razors, Gillette have pretty good at what they’re doing. And this product doesn’t disappoint. Rather the opposite.

It’s a lightly scented gel that will instantly cool and refresh the skin within seconds. It is made especially to treat sensitive skin which means it is non-greasy and non-alcoholic. After all, Gillette is a brand that millions if not billions of men trust and used at least once in their lifetime.

Aftershave balm Vs. splash Vs. lotion. Pick your poison

So to conclude, there’s a unique solution for every problem, but with this deeper knowledge you can pick between lotions, balms and splashes.

In my opinion, splash is for the traditionalists who prefer the good-ol’ days of barber shop grooming and have normal skin that isn’t prone to irritation. It’s the first form of aftershaves ever invented.

If you’re one of those people who are used to the burning sensation after their shave, keep in mind that the high alcohol content will not only kill the bacteria but will also leave your skin dry and might cause flaking.

Lotions are the best option, in my personal opinion, as they don’t use such a high content of alcohol. They are mostly made to give the exact same results as a splash but it’s also sensitive skin friendly.

Lastly, aftershave balms can and should be used for people experiencing excessive skin irritation and roughness. They show excellent soothing and softening properties and work great with sensitive skin.

At the end of the day, what you pick comes down to the nature of your skin and your personal preferences. Pick your poison wisely.


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