After Shave Lotion vs Balm – How to Know Which One is Right for You

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Post-shave care plays a pivotal role in the ongoing quest for a close, comfortable shave.

As any man who’s nicked himself while shaving knows, getting a good clean shave isn’t just about gliding the razor on the surface of your skin, but also how you care for your skin post-shave. 

Enter the world of aftershave products: a myriad of potions designed to ensure your shaving routine doesn’t end with skin irritation or razor burn. 

To help you understand what type of aftershave is best for you, in this post we’ll break down all the differences between aftershave lotion and balm, and explain which types of products tend to produce the best results for specific skin types. 

After Shave Balm vs Lotion

Breaking Down the Best Ways to Avoid Razor Burn

What is Aftershave?

(And what does it actually do?)

Aftershave, razor and face creams on bathroom counter
[image: Lumin / Unsplash]

Aftershave is an umbrella term for the various types of skincare products whose purpose is to promote the recovery process of your skin after the sometimes traumatic experience of dragging a razor across it. 

Think of aftershave products as the final step in your shaving ritual. 

Not only do they tackle minor cuts and soothe razor bumps, but they also moisturize and often come with antiseptic properties, ensuring the freshly shaved skin doesn’t get infected.

Traditional Aftershaves: Splashes and Lotions

Aftershave lotion
Aftershave lotions, like this one from Taylor of Old Bond Street, are traditionally scented and often contain alcohol

Remember that scene in Home Alone where Macaulay Culkin’s character screams after applying aftershave? 

That’s the power of traditional aftershaves or aftershave splashes. 

Screenshot of Kevin in Home Alone trying aftershave
Let’s be honest: most of us looked like this the first time we tried traditional aftershave

Often alcohol-heavy, these aftershave lotions can give a burning sensation, especially on sensitive skin. 

However, they’re also known for their antiseptic ingredients, like witch hazel, which help disinfect those pesky minor cuts.

Aftershave lotions often have a stronger fragrance compared to other aftershave products, which can make them a good idea for those who prefer their post-shave product to double as an eau de toilette. 

On the downside, the alcohol content can be drying, especially for dry skin, which may lead to skin irritation.

Modern Marvels: Balm and Gel

Aftershave balm
Aftershave balms like this one from The Art of Shaving are more soothing, and usually better sensitive skin

A post-shave balm or after-shave balm offers a thicker consistency than lotions or splashes. 

Made with sensitive and dry skin in mind, these products often contain less alcohol and focus on a range of common ingredients that are soothing for the skin. 

Common Aftershave Balm Ingredients

A good balm will usually include natural ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, and essential oils.

Natural oils, such as jojoba oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil, are also often added for their moisturizing benefits. Additionally, vitamin E is a common ingredient for its skin-healing properties. 

Most balms will provide a subtle scent, which is great for those who might be sensitive to synthetic fragrances.

Another variant, the aftershave gel, tends to be cooling and lightweight. With soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, these are ideal for oily skin.

How to Choose the Best After Shave for Your Skin Type

Man holding up aftershave while rubbing his face
[image: George Rudy / Shutterstock]

As explained above, different types of aftershave cater to different skin types. 

While some might swear by the refreshing feel of old school aftershave splashes from brands like Taylor of Old Bond Street, others might lean towards a more modern and natural aftershave balm for its soothing effects. 

Since your skin type is the main factor in determining what kind of aftershave will work best for you, there’s good reason to to understand your skin condition and needs.

Here’s a breakdown of which types of aftershave work best for specific skin types. 

For Sensitive Skin 

A post-shave balm with soothing ingredients like aloe vera and less alcohol is a better way to go. 

Synthetic fragrances might aggravate your skin, so a balm with natural oils can be the best solution.

For Dry Skin

Look for products rich in moisturizing agents like shea butter and jojoba oil. An aftershave balm might be the best aftershave balm for this skin type.

For Oily Skin 

Aftershave lotions or gels might be more up your alley. They’re lightweight and often contain ingredients like tea tree oil known for its antiseptic properties.

Tips for a Perfect Post-Shave Care Routine

Man shaving in mirror
[image: Supply / Unsplash]

Buying the right type of after shave is the first step to a great post-shave routine, but the next one is making sure you use it properly. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the pre- and post-shave steps that will leave your skin smooth, clean, comfortable and (perhaps most importantly) handsome. 

Preparation: Start by washing your face with warm water. It softens the skin and hair, making for a close shave.

Shave Right: Using a good-quality razor and shaving cream/gel can reduce the chances of razor burn and ingrown hairs.

Cool Down: After shaving, rinse your face with cold water. It helps close the pores and reduce skin irritation.

Apply Aftershave: Choose the right product based on your preference and skin type by referring to the guidance above. (And remember – a little goes a long way.)

Moisturize: If your chosen aftershave doesn’t moisturize enough, follow up with a good face cream or similar moisturizing skincare product. 


The world of aftershaves, from traditional aftershaves to different types of aftershave balms and gels, is vast. 

The main difference lies in their ingredients, consistency, and alcohol content. 

Remember, your shaving routine doesn’t end once the razor is put down; the next step is equally crucial. 

Choose your post-shave products wisely, and you’ll be on your way to a refreshing, comfortable shave.

Of course, before you ever get to the post-shave you’ll need to actually, you know, shave. 

And for that, you need a good razor. If you’ve never tried a straight razor before, it’s worth checking out our roundup of the best straight razors for beginners

We’ve broken down the best straight razors for guys who’ve never tried one before, each of which combines the close-shave benefits of wet shaving with the ease-of-use needed for newbies. 

More Resources ↓
More Men’s Shaving Tips and Recommendations from Irreverent Gent:
More Men’s Grooming Advice and Reviews:
Banner photos: Dean Drobot and fizkes /Shutterstock; Illustration: Irreverent Gent

About Dave Bowden

Dave Bowden

Founder, Irreverent Gent
Author, Man in Command and Stop Doubting, Start Dating
Writer, Really Wordy Author Bios

Dave Bowden is a style blogger, menswear expert and best-selling author (in Canada—but still!) whose advice on how to look good and live well has been featured in New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health and more.

When not obsessing over style and self-improvement, he can usually be found spending time with his wonderful wife and two amazing sons, indulging in a hoppy craft beer, or sobbing over the woeful state of Toronto's sports teams.

Check out Dave's Style Story to find out how a chance encounter with his friend's step-dad taught him the value of looking good and living well (don't worry—it's less creepy than it sounds!), or email him at [email protected] if you want to get in touch.