Last Updated: December 5, 2016 | This Article May Contain Affiliate Links
aftershave splash lotion and balm

Aftershave Splash vs. Lotion vs. Balm – What’s The Difference Between These Products?

If you experience a lot of discomfort post shave and are looking for soothing relief and more importantly, moisture, an aftershave can be extremely useful.

However, one thing that trips up even expert wet shavers alike is the type of aftershave that they should be using. Most notably there are three different types of aftershaves available at your disposal – splash, lotion, and balm.

What’s more is that many men avoid aftershave altogether due to it stinging when applied given that it contains alcohol.

Here’s the deal though:

If you are looking for some post shave relief but don’t want to experience that horrible stinging sensation, then you will want to read continue.

Further below I am going to be breaking down the differences between an aftershave splash vs. lotion vs. balms – by the end you will know exactly which product to pick up in order to leave your face not only free of razor burn and general skin irritation, but also leaving you well hydrated and your face soft to the touch.

Editors note: Since publishing this article, we have since reviewed the best aftershave balms on the market.  Be sure to check out our complete guide here.  

Larger Role in The Traditional Shaving World

To fully understand aftershave, its important to understand its role within the bathroom, and to set expectations accordingly.

It would be foolish of us to say that just one product will be the cure all for every single issue in the bathroom.

For example, if you are getting nicked when making the passes with your razor, clearly aftershave isn’t the problem. If you are getting cut up, there is an issue with either the razor blade itself, your technique, or even the shaving cream or soap that is being applied.

Also when experience razor burn or general skin irritation could be indicative of your morning ritual that needs to be tweaked.

To experience the perfect shave, many items need to be in order in addition to aftershave. Here’s just a very brief overview of everything to look out for when conducting your morning shave.

First and foremost, before you shave your whiskers, its important that you either apply a warm towel or take a hot shower. This will help to thicken the follicles, but also make them a bit more pliable which will increase overall comfort. A pliable whisker means that there won’t be tugging or pulling when you make the pass with the blade.

Once your skin is prepped an application of a pre shave oil can help with providing a slick lubrication base to your skin and to further increase follicle pliability. Pre shave oils are largely optional and dependent on the wet shavers preference. However if you are looking to try one out, we recommend checking out our recent post reviewing the best pre shave oils.

After pre shave oil application comes the lathering of your shaving cream or soap. While there are noticeable difference between the two products , its important that you use a high quality product. An inferior cream or soap that comes from a aerosol can won’t be doing you any favors. In fact a can of shaving cream will likely dry out your skin due to the harsh chemicals contained within the product. If you are thinking about investing in a shaving cream for the first time, we rate some of the highest quality ones on the market today (hint: Taylor of Old Bond Street won).

Prior to applying any quality shave cream, you should be using a badger hair brush as it will help keep your whiskers on edge along with providing a gentle pre exfoliation. This pre exfoliation provided by the badger hair brush will help to loosen dirt and bacteria from the depth of your pores. If your budget allows, you should invest in a silvertip badger brush for the highest level of performance like this brush by Parker.

Most importantly, a quality silvertip brush will help to whip up a lather that leaves a lofty cushion along with a slick lubricated base allowing the razor to gently glide and cut the hair.

Now on to the most important aspect – the shave.  When doing your first pass, you are going to want to go with the grain. Prior to lathering and shaving, map out the hairs on your face to see which direction they are going – this app is extraordinarily helpful in charting your whisker growth directions.

The actual blade type that you use to make the passes is negligible. Whether you are using a double edge safety razor, straight edge razor, or cartridge based razor. The most important aspect is to make sure that you change your blades regularly to ensure the sharpest edge possible.

A dull blade will not achieve a clean cut, of which makes for an uncomfortable shave and likely skin irritation and razor burn.

Once all the above have been achieved, we are now in the post shave process – thus the entrant of aftershave into the mix.

As we eluded to in the beginning of the article – aftershave is primarily bucketed up into three distinct categories:

  • splash
  • lotion
  • balm

Here we will dive into each one of them in more detail:

Aftershave Splash – The One We Are All Familiar With

An aftershave splash is going to to be a solution that comes strictly in liquid form. Traditionally speaking, aftershaves used to contain bay rum. This solution was alcohol based (rum) and provides a potent stinging sensation when it comes in contact with an open wound.

Many men prefer using an aftershave splash that includes alcohol because they feel that the all-to-familiar stinging sensation is proof that its working and completely cleaning out the cut you experienced while shaving.

While that may be true, it just simply isn’t necessary, especially given the alternatives that exist.

One of our favorite aftershave splashes is this one by Thayer’s.

An aftershave splash where the base ingredients are Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera will leave your skin clean, pores closed, and you are left with an even skin tone as an additional benefit.

Just a quick bit of background on the above ingredients, witch hazel is both an anti inflammatory that will work well on any sort of surface cuts on your face to completely soothe the wound.

In addition to being an anti inflammatory,witch hazel is a natural astringent. This means that when witch hazel is applied to your skin, it will close up the pores. The reason why you want to have your pores closed up post shaving is to prevent any sort of bacteria or dirt from making its way back in, especially right after you shave.

Lastly witch hazel can help tone out your skin. So if you have brown spots, it may be effective in keeping an even shade throughout your face.

Aloe vera will also provide an additional level of soothing relief to your face post shave, just the same as it does when you get a sun burn.

Of course witch hazel and aloe vera are derived from plants, so therefore you aren’t loading up any potentially harmful chemicals.

As you can see above, the components to the above aftershave is designed to soothe your skin and provide relief from general skin irritation and razor burn. So if you are coming from an alcohol based background, you can kiss that dreaded post shave stinging goodbye forever!

Aftershaves that are alcohol based tend to have a stronger scent also accompanying the solution as well. While some men may love the classic sandalwood or bay rum barbershop scent, others may feel that its a bit overpowering. Therefore if you regularly use a cologne or prefer an unscented aura, then you will likely want to get a odorless aftershave.

Aftershave Lotion – A Little Less Common

Separate and apart from an aftershave splash are lotions. Typically lotions may be a bit higher viscosity than their splash counterpart, however some brands that come in liquid form, are still marketed as being an aftershave lotion.

Of all the aftershave variants, lotions are typically the least popular of the group. However, thats not to say that there are some big players within the market. Most notably, both Clubman Pinaud and Neutrogena provide aftershave lotions that are highly regarded.

An important note is that many aftershave lotions do contain alcohol as an ingredient just like many aftershave splashes, however, its typically lower of a concentration. So when lathering this on post shave, its not uncommon to experience a slight sting/tingling feeling especially if you had experienced any nicks while shaving.

Aftershave Balm – The One That Will Make Your Skin Feel Smooth Without the Stinging

The last category, and one of our favorites are aftershaves that are considered balm. More often than not balms do not include alcohol as a base ingredient.

Instead the core focus of an aftershave balm is to moisturize and nourish your skin.

Many aftershave balms contain carrier oils like coconut, jojoba, and castor oils among many others. Some of these oils may sound familiar given their wide use within the beauty realm for both men and women. An ingredient like jojoba oil is derived from a nut and considered to be a very mild oil that most closely mimics the natural sebum oil that is excreted by your sebaceous glands.

Initially many wet shavers are cautious of the use of a aftershave balm due to its carrier oil focus. Some men feel that the application of such oil on your face (or if you shave your head) will leave it extremely oily and/or shiny in addition to an uptick in acne.

However, any quality aftershave balm made of all natural ingredients won’t have such unfavorable side effects. A quality aftershave balm should absorb into your skin only a few minutes after initial application.

Just like the witch hazel aftershave splash that we mentioned above, some aftershave balms also include witch hazel in order to realize its natural astringent and skin toning properties.

Lastly, some top rated aftershave balms also include Vitamin E oil that delivers additional skin care benefits.

Regarding the texture of aftershave balms, being that they are primarily oil based, many of them are in liquid form.  Therefore the difference between a balm vs splash vs lotion in regards to the viscosity is relatively nil.

The Quintessential Essential Post Shave Product

While aftershave will always remain a staple to wet shave enthusiasts everywhere, its always critical to understand its role within the morning shave routine.

Simply put, if you have incredibly bad razor burn or skin irritation after your shave is done, then there are a few techniques that you will need to reassess as we outlined above.

Aftershave is largely there to provide you with a splash of moisture and to close up your pores at the end of your shave.

For maximum moisture and nourishment of your skin post shave, we highly recommend that you invest in a aftershave balm.

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