An Expert’s Guide To Aftershave Balms

Everything you need to know, from what they are and when to apply to the best versions you can buy today.

Words by: James Uden

Sensitive skin, poor preparation, hurried razor strokes and products containing harsh ingredients can all influence how much irritation your shave causes. Even by following the most meticulous shaving process, removing layers of stubble and leaving your face freshly exposed will generally leave you with a spot of sensitivity to address.

To guarantee your skin is left feeling calmer and smoother, no matter what your shave throws at you, it’s time to introduce a quality aftershave balm to your routine.

What is an aftershave balm?

Aftershave balms are specifically designed to treat a whole host of minor to majorly-irritating skin sensitivity issues that are caused after you have gone to town with your razor.

Post-shave aggravation can be relatively mild for a lot of guys, but things can soon become very painful and severe if you suffer from the likes of razor burn or ingrown hairs. These are issues you really want to be as prepared for as possible, particularly if you like to shave just before heading out the door and find yourself requiring some urgent relief.

What does aftershave balm do?

A high quality aftershave balm will sign off your clean shave with the assurance that your skin is being revived to full strength. It will cool and calm any immediate soreness while relieving any dryness with a hefty does of moisture. Nurturing ingredients will then get to work treating any lingering irritation, redness and sensitivity.

This dedicated product is something that a more all-round skin moisturiser can’t fulfil as successfully. While moisturiser can absolutely make skin feel softer in general, the ingredients used in aftershave balms are more considered towards the vulnerable state that skin is left in after a shave.

Your face needs to heal – using anything other than a soothing aftershave balm to try and address this puts you at risk of some discomfort and sharp stinging caused by ingredients that are too harsh for freshly irritated skin.

Could I use traditional aftershave instead?

Sure, in theory it performs a similar job for your skin, and alcohol offers strong antibacterial qualities, but this can come at a painful price. Aftershave containing significant levels of alcohol can hit with such harsh intensity on contact (look no further than the iconic bathroom scene in Home Alone) that it actually causes more discomfort and irritation.

No-one wants to be woken up by screams coming from the bathroom first thing in the morning.

What to look for when buying an aftershave balm

Aesop Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion

Aesop Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion

Most aftershave balms are handily created to care for all skin types. But it should be considered a must-have product for men who have particularly sensitive skin and are susceptible to experiencing any degree of irritation after shaving. The last thing you want to be leaving the house with is a face that looks red or sore and feels tight. Your aftershave balm should be kind to your skin, fast-absorbing for comfort, and don’t go overlooking the value of an attractive scent.

As our lifestyles continue to become more conscious towards the planet and personal wellbeing, you can learn a lot from taking a moment to read through and understand the formulas and ethics behind your grooming products. In the case of aftershave balm, look out for key ingredients that are renowned for their skin-nurturing qualities: aloe vera is well know for soothing skin and repairing damage; calendula has anti-inflammatory qualities that can help to calm rashes; shea butter helps keep skin smooth and hydrated; while oils like jojoba or argan can further soothe and soften skin without stinging or leaving a greasy residue.

Ultimately, you want a balm that makes you feel fresh, clean and handsome while enhancing your shaving experience in the process.

How and when to apply aftershave balm

Applying an aftershave balm to hand

Bulldog After Shave Balm

Once you’ve finished shaving, don’t reach straight for the balm. Take the time to wipe away any leftover cream or soap with a flannel soaked with warm water, then follow by applying some cold water to your face to start cooling it down and closing your pores.

Be sure to not dry your face completely before taking a healthy amount of aftershave balm and applying it gently over the freshly shaved areas. Let it soak in and embrace the cool relief that follows.

Recommended aftershave balms for 2022

We’ve tested hundreds of shaving products over the years, and these are our recommendations for every budget, skin type and type of shaver.

Aesop Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion

For the luxury shaver

Aesop Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion

Aesop Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion

If you’re going to shave properly every day you might as well make it a luxury experience. The rich, refreshing scent of this lotion could be used as a standalone cologne. Similarly rich in consistency, the sense of immediate rejuvenation is there on application as the botanical oils blended with sandalwood and panthenol rebalance and hydrate the skin.

This is about as good as a post-shave experience gets without being in a barbershop.

Buy now: Aesop

Bulldog Original After Shave Balm

For the quick, everyday shaver

Bulldog Original After Shave Balm

Bulldog Original After Shave Balm

Aloe vera, camelina oil and green tea are the hero ingredients behind this balm that is so soft, soothing and non-sticky on application that it could probably replace your day-to-day moisturiser.

Bulldog also make a dedicated sensitive formula with added baobab oil, oat oil and willow herb for an even gentler boost of post-shave protection.

Buy now: Mankind

Clinique For Men Post-Shave Soother

For the fast shaver in need of a cool down

Clinique For Men Post Shave Soother

Clinique For Men Post Shave Soother

This soothing balm from Clinique leans on an aloe-rich formula to provide hydrating relief from any razor burn and dryness. A subtle, cooling tingle lingers for a refreshing uplift and assurance that the surface of your face is having the time of its life, even after what can sometimes feel like a rushed, tedious shaving experience.

Buy now: John Lewis

Harry’s Post-Shave Balm

For the once a week shaver

Harry’s Post-Shave Balm

Harry’s Post-Shave Balm

Harry’s have expanded on their no-nonsense razor offering with supporting products that are budget-friendly and help create a solid shaving experience at home. This aftershave balm contains natural aloe vera and cucumber extract for a cool, refreshing finish on the skin.

Relatively thick in consistency, a little goes a long way. It dries fast and carries a nice, clean masculine fragrance.

Buy now: Harry’s

Kiehl’s Ultimate Razor Burn & Bump Relief

For the sensitive shaver

Kiehl's Ultimate Razor Burn & Bump Relief

Kiehl’s Ultimate Razor Burn & Bump Relief

Kiehl’s have formulated an aftershave balm that tackles the common issues of razor burn and bumps head on, while helping skin become more resilient to razor strokes over time.

Not just focused on hydrating the skin and calming it from irritation, this formula goes further to reduce ingrown hairs and gets really smart with the inclusion of lipo-hydroxy acid, which gently exfoliates away dullness, leaving your complexion looking brighter and clearer.

Buy now: Kiehl’s

Proraso Protective After Shave Balm

For the old-school shaver

Proraso Protective After Shave Balm

Proraso Protective After Shave Balm

Proraso products bring a traditional barbershop feel to any home, but they aren’t just made to look the part. This protective balm uses aloe vera and vitamin E to quickly absorb and help restore skin to its best condition while healing any accidental nicks and cuts.

The formula is also alcohol-free so can be relied on to address any aggravating stings without any aggravating side effects.

Buy now: Amazon

Recipe For Men After Shave Balm

For the oily-skinned shaver

Recipe For Men After Shave Balm

Recipe For Men After Shave Balm

This vegan formula does what you would expect: soothes redness and irritation while also moisturising the skin. However, it goes one step further thanks to a blend of ingredients including cinnamon, ginger and burnet that removes excess oil on application and leaves the skin with a healthy matte finish.

Buy now: Mankind