What About Aftershave? Is It Necessary?

Most guys probably recall “trying out” their father’s (or grandfather’s) aftershave as kids, which was almost certainly a highly-fragranced, alcohol-based liquid.

Alcohol-based aftershave was initially introduced in barber shops as an antiseptic to kill bacteria on the skin and to disinfect shaving instruments.

Although it is an effective antiseptic, alcohol often leaves skin dry and irritated, especially immediately after shaving.Aqua-Velva-Aftershave-Splash

These days, different types of aftershaves with various consistencies and active ingredients are available for different types of skin to achieve different goals.

Although some modern aftershaves may contain alcohol, they also contain ingredients that help to moisturize and protect the skin as well as those that help to prevent and relieve irritation caused by shaving.

Types of Aftershave

  • Tonic: liquid formulation of aftershave; they typically contain toners/astringents and hydrosols.
    • Splash: “original”, classic type of aftershave.
      • Type which contains the highest amount of alcohol.
      • Helps to constrict pores (astringent).
      • Effective antiseptic (alcohol).
      • Can be irritating and excessively drying; best avoided on dry and sensitive skin types.
      • Often has a strong fragrance.
    • Lotion:
      • Has a fairly high (60-75%) alcohol content.
      • Consistency is more of a liquid than a lotion.
      • Alcohol may dry out and irritate dry/sensitive skin.
      • Can have a fairly potent scent.
  • Gel:
    • Usually has an alcohol content and consistency intermediate between lotions and balms.
    • Generally do not contain oils, thus are usually less moisturizing than balms.
    • May help to reduce post-shaving irritation; most have soothing, cooling properties.
    • Absorbs quickly into the skin; non-greasy.
  • Balms: typically the heaviest and thickest type of aftershave.Truefitt-&-Hill Aftershave Balm
    • Generally contain very little (if any) alcohol.
    • More moisturizing and lubricating than other types of aftershave.
    • Some balms contain oils to help moisturize and soften skin.
    • Recommended for dry and sensitive skin types.
    • Milder fragrance than lotions and splashes.
    • Helps to prevent post-shaving irritation.
    • May exacerbate acne flare-ups, especially those containing large amounts of oil.

The Best Aftershaves for Specific Skin Types

  • Normal Skin:
    • Able to use any type of aftershave.
    • Splashes and lotions contain astringents that constrict pores and help to kill bacteria.
    • Gels are cooling, soothing, and non-greasy.
    • Balms help to moisturize, condition, and soothe the skin.
  • Oily Skin:
    • Tonics (splashes and lotions) may help to remove excess oil because they contain astringents (e.g., alcohol).
    • Oil-free gels are absorbed by the skin and do not congest pores.
    • Natural skin toners, such as witch hazel or rose water, may dry out skin less than alcohol.
    • Alcohol and astringents remove oil from the skin, which can result in excess oil production by the skin in order to reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
    • Glycerin is a good moisturizer for oily skin.
  • Dry Skin:
    • Balms are good for restoring moisture and forming a protective layer over vulnerable skin.
    • Avoid alcohol and astringents, which can further dry out and irritate already dry skin.
  • Sensitive Skin:
    • Avoid alcohol which can dry out skin.
    • Look for fragrance-free products since fragrances can sensitize and irritate the skin.
    • Avoid dyes which are unnecessary and can irritate the skin.

Aftershave Ingredients

  • Astringents/Toners: cleanse skin and help to minimize the appearance of pores. They cause a mild coagulation of skin proteins which helps to dry, harden, and protect the skin.
    • Witch Hazel:Witch-Hazel
      • Main active compounds are tannins, which are polyphenolic compounds with the following properties:
        • Exhibit a constricting and drying effect when applied to the skin.
        • Have anti-inflammatory properties.
        • Inhibit bacterial growth.
        • Facilitate skin repair processes.
        • Can sensitize the skin to other irritants.
      • Witch hazel helps to constrict pores (astringent) while drying out the skin to a lesser extent than alcohol.
    • Alcohol:Isopropyl-Alcohol
      • Can excessively dry skin, causing flaking and peeling.
      • Likely to irritate sensitive skin.
      • SD (specifically denatured) alcohol 40 is a mixture of ethanol and a denaturing agent; it is a common component in many aftershave products.
    • Alum: compound composed of aluminum (and potassium or sodium) forming a salt with a sulfate.Alum-Crystal
      • Antiseptic properties.
      • Astringent properties.
      • Helps small nicks and cuts to stop bleeding.
      • Decreases the incidence of post-shaving irritation.
  • Hydrosols are obtained from steam distillation of essential oils and are generally mildly antiseptic.
    • Rose water
    • Lavender water
  • Polyquaternium-10 is a surfactant (detergent) that also functions as a preservative; it has antiseptic properties.
  • Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Oil) is derived from the leaves of the Australian Tea Tree.
    • Antiseptic properties may help to control acne by decreasing bacterial growth.
    • Anti-inflammatory properties help to prevent and treat skin irritation.
    • Can be irritating to the skin, especially in patients with eczema (atopic dermatitis).
  • Aloe Vera:Aloe-Vera
    • Helps to soothe and heal burned and irritated skin.
    • Effective moisturizer with anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Contains vitamins A, C, E, and several B-vitamins.
    • Contains calcium, potassium, sodium, copper, iron, and magnesium.
  • Humectants: attract water from deeper skin layers and the atmosphere into the outer skin layer; they help to minimize the drying effects of other ingredients.
    • Glycerin:
      • Antimicrobial properties; FDA approved treatment for burn wounds.
      • Helps to moisturize and minimize dehydrating effects of other ingredients.
      • Moisturizer and lubricant that helps to soften dry skin.
    • Urea
    • Propylene Glycol
    • Sorbitol
  • Moisturizers help to soften the outer skin layers by reducing evaporation of water (transepidermal water loss).
  • Vitamin E is the collective name for a group of fat-solube compounds.
    Vitamin E
    Tocopheryl Acetate
    (Vitamin E)
    • Alpha-tocopherol is the only form recognized to meet human vitamin requirements.
    • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to neutralize free radicals, which are compounds that can cause damage to cells and tissues in the body.
    • Moisturizer with anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Vitamin E has been shown to act synergistically with vitamin C.
    • Topical formulations are not always stable, especially when exposed to UV light.

Scent and Fragrance

While fragrance is not necessarily a major factor in selecting an aftershave product, one definitely doesn’t want to choose a scent that isn’t appealing to him (or those in close proximity).Cologne-Fragrance

If you have sensitive skin or atopic dermatitis (eczema) that can be easily irritated, you should probably avoid products that contain fragrance, as many fragrances are irritating to certain skin types and can sensitize the skin to other types of irritants.

Also, unscented products are useful if you wear any other type of fragrance (e.g., cologne) because you probably don’t want to mix too many different types of scents unless you’re sure that they work together to complement one another.

While the possible combination of scents is essentially infinite, there are basic notes from which all scents are constructed (i.e., fresh, floral, oriental, and woody notes).

Aftershave Application Routine

Immediately after I finish shaving, the very first thing that I do is rinse my face with cool water, which helps to constrict the pores that were opened with the hot water used while shaving; this helps to prevent any bacteria from getting into the pores and hair follicles.

After rinsing my face with cool water, I wet my alum block with cool water and rub it over the freshly shaved skin to seal any small nicks and cuts on my face.

Alum is an antiseptic and astringent that helps to prevent ingrown hairs and post shaving irritation.

Lastly, I dispense a dime-sized (smaller than you probably think)  amount of aftershave product into my palm before rubbing my hands together and then gently patting it evenly onto my face, under my chin, and on my neck.Dime-Sized

I avoid rubbing the aftershave vigorously into the skin, which may cause irritation.

Conclusion

There are a myriad of different aftershave products available today, but they generally are meant to accomplish the same thing–to prevent and treat skin irritation caused by shaving and to moisturize and protect your skin.

There are four main types of contemporary aftershaves, each of which is well-suited to one or more skin type.

Active ingredients in aftershave products function as topical antiseptics and astringents to kill bacteria and constrict pores to help prevent inoculation of the hair follicles.

Other components help to condition, soften, and soothe skin while protecting it from environmental damage and inflammation.

Aftershaves come in a wide variety of fragrances that can complement other scents, such as cologne, as well as unscented and fragrance-free types.

Comments

If you have used any specific types of aftershaves that you like or dislike, please leave let me know why you like or dislike using it in the “Comments” section below.

What’s the Best Shaving Razor: A Guide

Although the beard has become more popular in recent years, most guys continue to shave [some or all of] their facial hair.

The average beard contains 6,000-25,000 hairs, each of which grows at a rate of 0.25 mm/day, making high-quality razors with sharp blades essential grooming tools for most men.

There are several different categories (and thousands of individual variations) of razors from which to choose, with each type of razor having its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Since everyone has different skin and hair types, they have a variety of shaving needs; consequently, a product that works well for one person may not be optimal for others.

The “best” razor available on the market is a subjective term; one must select the razor which is best-suited to his individual needs.

Types of Razors

  • Straight Razor:  requires a relatively high degree of skill; propensity for nicks and cuts.  Capable of giving a close shave; can last a lifetime.Straight-Razor
  • Safety Razor:  requires time and some degree of skill; chance of nicks and cuts.  Close and consistent shave.
  • Cartridge Razor:  close shave with low risk of nicks and cuts.  Replacement cartridges are expensive.  Good for beginners and easy to use.
  • Disposable Razor:  convenient and inexpensive but usually relatively low in quality.Disposable-Razor
  • Electric Razor:  very low incidence of nicks and cuts but doesn’t shave as closely as a blade.
  • Hybrid Razor:  hybrid design between electric and cartridge razor; shave isn’t as close as that of a blade.  Portable.  Convenient.

Since I frequently use only a few of the different razor types, I focus this discussion on the types with which I’m familiar.

Cartridge Razors

Cartridge razors are probably the most popular type of razors currently used for shaving, with modern cartridges containing 3-6 blades.

Multi-blade cartridge razors lift the hair with the leading blade while it is cut below the level of the surface of the skin by the subsequent blades.

The razor handle and cartridges are generally sold separately, and the cartridges are replaced when the blades become dull (generally after only 3-5 shaves).Cartridge-Razor

  • Advantages:
    • Convenient; travel-friendly.
    • Capable of shaving quickly.
    • Ideal for beginners; easy to learn the proper technique.
    • Low incidence of nicks and cuts.
    • Replacement cartridges are readily available in stores and online.
    • Delivers a close shave by lifting each hair prior to cutting it, resulting in the hair being cut at a level below the skin.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Multiple blades may cause more irritation, resulting in razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
      • When hairs are cut too low (below the level of the skin), they sometimes grow back (inward) into the skin, causing ingrown hairs.
    • Replacement cartridges can be expensive.
    • Blades become dull after only a few shaves, which can cause skin irritation since the hairs are not cut as cleanly.
    • The cartridges are prone to clogging (between the blades) by natural oils, dead skin cells, and pieces of hair.

Safety Razors (Double-Edged Razors)

The safety razor was popularized during WWI, when King Camp Gillette was contracted by the US government to supply every American soldier with a shaving kit.

Safety razors fix the blade at a safe angle with only the edge of the blade exposed in order to help prevent nicks and cuts; adjustable safety razors allow one to change the blade exposure, which impacts the aggressiveness of your shave.

Guys with coarse facial hair may prefer a more aggressive angle, while those with sensitive skin may prefer a lower blade to skin angle.

During the past 5 years, they have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity likely because of their ability to deliver an excellent shave, although the technique requires some practice to master.Adjustable-Safety-Razor

  • Advantages:
    • Delivers a very close, clean, and smooth shave when used properly.
    • Razor blades are very sharp and high-quality; replacement blades are less expensive than cartridges.
    • Single blade cuts hairs at the level of the skin, which reduces the chances of razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
    • Less irritating single blade is well-suited for sensitive skin and acne.
    • Less expensive over time.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Requires more time and effort to shave than with a cartridge razor.
    • Relatively easy to use, but there is a moderate learning curve initially.
    • Bulky head and fixed blade angle may make it difficult to shave angular facial structures.
    • The head of the razor is fixed (doesn’t pivot).
    • Less suited for travel than cartridge razors and have to be in checked baggage for airline travel.
    • Higher incidence of nicks and cuts, especially when starting out.
    • Not useful for body grooming (manscaping).

Electric Razors

Electric razors can be divided into two different types:  foil shavers and rotary shavers.

Foil shavers contain oscillating blades that move back and forth while rotary shavers have blades that spin very quickly to cut facial hair.

Electric Razor
Foil Electric Razor

Foil shavers sometimes have difficulty shaving within the contours of the face and rotary shavers can bend into facial contours more easily.

Rotary-Electric-Razor
Rotary Electric Razor

The techniques also differ between the two; foil shavers require moving up to down and left to right while rotary shavers require a circular motion to avoid pulling out facial hair.

  • Advantages:
    • Quickest and easiest way to shave.
    • Reduces the incidence of ingrown hairs when used properly.
    • Most modern electric razors are waterproof and can be used with or without shaving creams, soaps, and gels.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Electric razors can provide an adequately close shave, although most cannot shave as close as a safety razor or cartridge razor.
      • Using shaving cream or gel allows the electric razor to cut hairs more closely and reduce skin irritation.
      • Foil shavers generally shave more closely than rotary shavers.
    • High initial cost, although they may cost less over time compared to cartridge razors.
      • Blades and foils usually need to be replaced every 1-2 years.
    • Since blades remove the outermost layers of skin and electric razors do not, it is beneficial to regularly exfoliate skin when using an electric razor.
    • Can initially cause irritation and razor burn; it takes some time (usually about 3-4 weeks) for the skin to adapt to using an electric razor.

Trial and Error

The best one can do from passive experience is carefully weigh the positives and negatives of a given type of razor and make an educated decision about which one to try first.

The most effective way to find exactly which razor is right for you is through trial and error; fortunately, if you’re not satisfied with your initial purchase, you are free to try other options in order to find which razor is ideal for you.

Similar to other products, there is no panacea with razors, and the ideal one for you is the one that provides you with the type of shave that you’re seeking.

At times, the ideal razor depends on your situation.  If I have a bit of time, then I like to use my adjustable safety razor; if I’m pressed for time, then I can get a close shave quickly with a multi-blade cartridge razor.

If I’m really short on time or if I’m at work and it’s not practical to wet shave, then a dry shave with an electric or hybrid razor will suffice.

Comments

If you have experience with using any of these types of razors, feel free to leave a comment in the “Comments” section below and let me know why you prefer or why you dislike a particular razor.

 

What About Shaving Mirrors? Toilettree–An Outstanding Product

Shaving in the shower is convenient for several reasons; however, it has its own set of challenges.

One of the most annoying limitations is not being able to see what you’re doing when you’re trying to shave because of inadequate lighting or because your mirror is always obscured by condensation.

Among the most useful gifts that I have received is the Toilettree LED Fogless Shower Mirror; although I wasn’t expecting this particular present, I have been pleasantly surprised with it and have been using it for years.Fogless-LED-Mirror

Background

The Toilettree company was founded in 2010 by Gary Parisi and his sons in Rockland County, NY. It originated as a hobby, allowing them to remain in contact with one another, but it soon grew into a full-time business due to the increased demand for their quality and innovative products.

Specifications

Size: 9.5″W x 7.5″H (external dimensions)

Mirror surface: 8″W x 6″H

Price: $39.95 (for lighted model; travel mirror is $17.95)

Rating: 4.5/5 (excellent)

Retailer: www.amazon.com Continue reading “What About Shaving Mirrors? Toilettree–An Outstanding Product”

What’s Alum? A Review of The Art of Shaving Alum Block

Background

The Art of Shaving is a retailer of upscale shaving products that was founded in Manhattan in 1996 by Eric Malka and Myriam Zaoui.

It was purchased by Proctor and Gamble in 2007 and its headquarters are now located in Miami, FL.

Alum is a compound in which aluminum and a monovalent cation (usually potassium) form a salt with sulfate; it is an astringent and helps stop small nicks and cuts from bleeding.

Alum is an acidic compound; it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and can help decrease the incidence of post-shaving irritation.

When used in wet shaving, alum comes in the form of a block or other solid that can be directly applied to the skin afterward; The Art of Shaving Alum Block can be used after shaving to help prevent post-shaving irritation.

Alum-Block-Case

Specifications:

Type: Solid block.

Texture: Smooth.

Color: Whitish; translucent.

Scent: Unscented.

Finish: Smooth; leaves skin with a “tight” feeling.

Price: Inexpensive ($5.43 per ounce); lasts a long time.

Rating: 5/5 (Ideal)

Retailer: www.amazon.com Continue reading “What’s Alum? A Review of The Art of Shaving Alum Block”

What About Shaving Cream? Eh…and Soap/Foam/Gel?

Shaving cream is something that I had anticipated using since I was a child; I relished the scent and appearance of the cream long before I actually began shaving.

These days, there are so many shaving products that a lot of guys feel inundated with choices when trying to make a decision on which particular product to purchase.

The type and quality of the particular shaving product can make a big difference with regard to the comfort and the quality of your shave.

Shaving creams, soaps, and gels help to lubricate the skin and soften the facial hair to make shaving easier and more comfortable while helping to prevent irritation; however, each class of product has its own unique properties.

Shaving Foam and Aerosol Gels

  • Contents are packaged in cans with aerosol propellants that allow them to be applied directly to your face without having to work the product into a lather.
  • Although the foam may appear rich and luxurious, it can be deceptive, and the low-quality lubrication doesn’t offer as much skin protection as that obtained from traditional shaving cream and soap.Shaving-Foam
  • They often contain fragrance and alcohol, which can irritate and dry out skin, worsening post shaving irritation.
  • These products do not allow your facial hair to be lifted off of your face so that it can be optimally cut by the razor; hairs that are pressed flat against the skin can increase the chance of razor burn.
  • Shaving foam is relatively cheap and convenient; it is ideal if you’re in a hurry.
  • Shaving foam is quick and easy to use; it is a perfect product for teenagers and guys just starting to shave.

Continue reading “What About Shaving Cream? Eh…and Soap/Foam/Gel?”

What’s Pre-Shave Oil? Does It Make a Difference?

Most guys (myself included) began shaving with a razor and a can of aerosol shaving cream as teenagers; a relatively small number of men used oil after shaving to help with skin conditioning.

The use of oil prior to shaving came into public attention in the 1990s, and it has steadily increased in popularity.

So, what exactly is pre-shave oil; is it beneficial, or even necessary?Pre-Shave-Oil

Most pre-shave oils are a blend of natural plant oils; some of these oils are the same types as those found in facial oils and other cosmetic products.

Although pre-shave oil has begun to enter the mainstream over the past two decades, many have either not heard of it or have not tried it for themselves.

There are several benefits to using a pre-shave oil in addition to a high-quality shaving cream or gel; these benefits include additional lubrication, softening of facial hair, and a reduction in post-shaving irritation.

What’s In It?

Although pre-shave oil can be made using synthetic products, most guys agree that those derived from natural plant oils are of superior quality.

Quality pre-shave oils are packaged in dark glass bottles, which helps to prevent their degradation.

Depending on the types of oils used, they can have benefits ranging from increased lubrication to maintenance of the natural skin barrier.

Most naturally-derived pre-shave oils are a blend of 2-3 ingredients: Continue reading “What’s Pre-Shave Oil? Does It Make a Difference?”

What About Men’s Shaving? A Guide

When I think about shaving, I picture of all the shaving products currently available; all the razors, creams, gels, brushes, aftershave, and other shaving products on the market make it easy to forget that shaving is a crucial part of any guy’s skin care routine.

Shaving-Set
My Shaving Essentials

Although men have been shaving their faces for centuries, this essential challenge remains: to shave as close as possible without causing skin irritation.

Overaggressive or improper shaving techniques in an effort to shave more closely may only result in frustration and irritation.

Some techniques that have been employed to avoid shaving-induced skin irritation include:

  • Shaving while applying less pressure.
  • Development of pre- and post-shaving skin treatment.
  • Giving up on shaving altogether and growing a beard.

Shaving seems pointless if you have to compromise closeness; one reason that the beard has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past decade could be due to the perception that shaving is a hassle.

Although growing a beard is certainly a viable option, it should be a matter of choice and not a consequence of becoming so annoyed that you abandon the very idea of shaving.

While no technique or product can guarantee a shaving experience completely free of irritation, following a few simple guidelines drastically reduces your chances.

Preparation is Essential

Before you rush off to pick up your razor, it’s important to make sure that your skin is prepared for the impending shave.

Clean skin is ideal, so the first step is to wash your face to remove oil, dirt, and debris that accumulates throughout the day; shaving during or just after a shower gives the heat and steam time to soften your facial hair, making it easier to shave.

Hydration reduces the stiffness of beard hair by 30-65%; the force necessary to cut a beard hair is reduced by 20% after 1 minute and 40% after 4 minutes of hydration.

If you don’t have time for a shower, a good alternative is to wrap your face in a hot, moist towel for 2-3 minutes, which softens the hairs and opens pores.

Another grooming tip is to exfoliate your skin prior to shaving, which removes dead skin cells that can otherwise end up lodged between the blades of your razor.

A mild physical exfoliant can be used to gently exfoliate your face, which only takes 30-60 seconds.

Since shaving is an exfoliating process, it’s best not to be overly aggressive and to rinse with lukewarm water when you are finished.

A clean, exfoliated face helps to keep the razor free of debris during the shave and helps to prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs afterward. Continue reading “What About Men’s Shaving? A Guide”