Aftershave Balm, Lotion Or Cologne?

Shaving should be an enjoyable ritual, not a painful chore.

After shaving, your skin is dry and extra sensitive, and it's probably already beginning to look inflamed. It needs three things: to be soothed, cooled, and moisturized. 

After putting down the razor, the next step in your shaving routine should be applying aftershave. It is not to be confused with aftershave lotion, aftershave balm, and—the mistakes many men make—cologne.

While the first two are clearly post-shave products, their use cases are quite different. On the other hand, you should not put the third one on your face after shaving under any circumstances. 

It is common for men to skip proper post-shave products and slap on a cologne simply because they don't know better.

In this article, we'll explain the difference between all of these products, so you can make the right decision and get a perfect shave every time.

best mens aftershave products

What is the use of aftershave lotion?

Aftershave lotion, sometimes just referred to as aftershave, is scented and often alcohol-based. It calms shaving irritation and disinfects any small nicks you might have given yourself along the way.

True, alcohol can get rid of bacteria on your skin, but the problem is, it can also worsen irritation, dry your skin out, and cause it to flake. 

Some men like their aftershave lotions to be scented because it means they don't have to use a cologne afterward, but it can oftentimes leave skin red, dry, and irritated all morning. 

What is the purpose of aftershave balm?

Aftershave balm serves the same primary purpose as aftershave lotion: to soothe your skin after shaving.

However, unlike aftershave lotion, balm generally does not contain alcohol and is designed to moisturize your freshly shaved skin. As a result, it usually's thicker and creamier in consistency than aftershave lotion.

A typical aftershave balm has a light scent derived primarily from its key ingredients.

Many men find it is much kinder to post-shaved skin than its alcohol-based counterpart.

You'll know if the product you're using contains alcohol because that's what gives you that 'stinging' sensation post-shave.

Is cologne an aftershave?

According to the master perfumer, Roja Dove: 

"Aftershave was a fragrant alcohol rub that men would pat onto their cheeks and neck after a shave, so why it is still used to simply spritz onto the neck and wrists is beyond me."

Cologne is a term used to describe a fragrance with a very weak concentration of scent, but it's still a fragrance at its core—and definitely not aftershave.

Even more, it doesn't contain the necessary properties to hydrate and soothe your skin after shaving. Because most colognes are alcohol-based, you expose yourself to burning skin and possible irritation around post-shave cuts.

Ingredients to avoid in aftershave


Many aftershaves contain isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol, similar to what you might find in a hand sanitizer or household cleaner.

These ingredients are great for killing bacteria or toxins on your face but not so great when it comes to soothing your skin post-shave (as you can probably tell by that burning sensation you get after shaving). 

This is why it's crucial to look at the ingredients in a product and make sure you don't take something that will harm you.

Alcohol comes in many forms but can typically be found in an ingredient list as:

  • Methanol
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • SD alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol

A great natural alternative to alcohol is Witch Hazel. Naturally astringent, antiseptic, and cooling, Witch Hazel Water is an excellent cleanser, tonic, and toner for the skin. It also aids in the cleansing of the skin's pores and helps stimulate the skin.


Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics and—believe it or not—are often used in some shaving products to soften your skin, too.

Some research has also shown that phthalates can reduce sperm count, so don't take that risk and make sure you rid of any products containing it from your bathroom.

Phthalates can be found in an ingredient list as:

  • DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate)
  • DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate)
  • DMP (dimethyl phthalate)
  • BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate)
  • DBP (dibutyl phthalate)
  • DINP (diisononyl phthalate)
  • DEP (diethyl phthalate)
  • DIDP (diisodecyl phthalate)


      The problem with "fragrance" in an ingredients list is that it can mean almost anything that adds a scent to a product. In essence, it's an umbrella term for a multitude of possibly toxic and irritating ingredients.

      When in doubt, always opt for an aftershave containing a fragrance derived from natural ingredients (like essential oils) or go completely fragrance-free, if you prefer.

      Fragrance can be found in the ingredients list as:

      • Fragrance
      • Parfum

      Best After Shave Balm for sensitive skin

      Look for a balm containing soothing natural ingredients since one of the significant problems post-shave is redness and irritation.

      An aftershave balm that adequately moisturizes your skin will go a long way. 

      It would be best if you also looked for a non-greasy formula and an aftershave balm that's pH balanced so you don't upset your skin's natural chemistry.

      What ingredients do you need in an aftershave?

      Be on the lookout for these natural ingredients:

      Vitamin E 

      It protects your freshly shaved skin from breakdown caused by environmental damage, like pollution and cigarette smoke.

      Vitamin E is considered an antioxidant superhero, known for its ability to hydrate post-shave skin and calm irritation deeply.

      Aloe vera leaf juice

      Also known as Aloe Barbadensis, aloe vera leaf juice's nourishing properties promote minor wound, burn, and rash healing and is also an excellent moisturizer and emollient. It is often used as a skin and hair soother, healer, and repairer, as well as a natural collagen booster.

      White tea leaf extract 

      White tea is a lightly oxidized tea. Studies have shown that white tea has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and can strengthen and protect the skin matrix.

      Its rejuvenating impact sets it apart from other tea-based skincare agents because white 

      tea can provide partial protection from UV damage caused by the sun.

      Witch hazel

      It's a great natural alternative to alcohol. Witch hazel has all the antibacterial advantages of alcohol but is non-irritating and won't dry your skin out. 


      Allantoin's anti-inflammatory, healing, calming, and nourishing properties make it a perfect ingredient for stimulating healthy skin cell growth.

      Chamomile flower extract 

      Chamomile flower extract has soothing, healing, and anti-inflammatory properties to help calm and cool sensitive skin.


      Menthol is a natural cooling astringent used in many products for the skin, scalp, and body.

      Click here for a full list of the best natural ingredients found in men's skincare products.


      Now that you know the difference between an aftershave balm, aftershave lotion, and cologne, we believe you'll make the right decision for yourself.

      Make sure to pay special attention to the ingredients since they make the biggest difference in the post-shave experience you'll have. 

      An excellent example of a natural, alcohol-free product is our men's aftershave balm, which soothes, calms, and hydrates your face to prevent itchy rashes and blemishes. 

      The end result is post-shave skin that is cool, smooth, and refreshed.