Aftershave Alternatives: 11 Good Substitutes

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Aftershave plays an important role within the shaving routine.  The primary purpose of aftershave is to disinfect your skin to prevent infection, and some aftershave products, to help the skin retain moisture.

As we recently discussed, there are many different types of aftershave which include splashes, lotions, and balms.  

Today, we want to share with you a few aftershave alternatives.  These can be used if your current aftershave ran out or are simply looking for a long-term replacement.  

Note for men with sensitive skin: Before trying any of the below alternatives, always do a patch test or speak with your doctor when applying unfamiliar ingredients or products to your face.

1. Alcohol

Alcohol-based aftershave splashes commonly rely on denatured alcohol (SD Alcohol 40).  Alcohol is effective at killing existing bacteria and helps to prevent new bacteria from growing.  Aftershave may also contain other types of alcohol such as isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol – commonly known as rubbing alcohol.  

By applying alcohol, you will achieve the same disinfectant qualities of a standard aftershave without the added fragrance.  However, with repeated use, alcohol can dry out your skin.  This may cause some mild irritation for some men.    

Alcohol will sting when it comes in contact with open wounds. 

2. Witch Hazel

A non-stinging alternative to alcohol is witch hazel.  Derived from a flowering plant, witch hazel is a natural disinfectant that kills bacteria and an anti-inflammatory that reduces razor burn.   Witch hazel is often used in premium aftershaves and skin toners.  To apply, pour out approximately a tablespoon-sized amount and apply evenly to your face.  Witch hazel works well for all skin types.

Witch hazel is found in common household products such as Preparation H wipes.  These wipes often contain just witch hazel and aloe that have been absorbed into a towelette.  

3. Lotion

When you shave daily, your skin will begin to dry out.  Signs of dry skin include mild redness, wrinkles, flaking, and pain to the touch.  Aftershave balms help to prevent dry skin by being both a disinfectant and moisturizer.  As an alternative to aftershave balm, a face lotion or moisturizer will help to prevent dry skin.

However, with their moisturizing focus, lotions don’t contain disinfectants, so you should ensure that you thoroughly rinse your skin with water before applying lotion.  

4. Toner

Men’s toners are designed to improve skin tone and the appearance of your pores.  Witch hazel is a common ingredient used in toners to achieve these results.  As an alternative to aftershave, a toner can help disinfect the surface of your skin upon application.  A toner should be used for your specific skin type to achieve effective results.  

To test a toner, apply to a cotton ball or pad and rub against freshly shaved skin.

5. Aloe Vera

Pure aloe vera has been clinically proven to have anti-inflammatory properties.  When applied to your face after shaving, aloe vera gel can provide relief from razor burns, irritated skin, and minor cuts.  Aloe vera is often included in naturally-formulated aftershaves.

6. Alum

Alum, also known as potassium alum, is the original aftershave.  A natural mineral salt, alum has some antimicrobial properties that can mildly disinfect a freshly shaved face.  When wetting and rubbing on your face, some stinging may occur.  Stinging often occurs as a result of an aggressive shave or if there were minor cuts.

Alum is also found in natural deodorants.

7. Cold Water

Applying cold water after you have shaved can help cool off your face and stop any small cuts (weepers).  Applying cold water only provides temporary relief and is not an effective long-term aftershave alternative.

Contrary to popular belief, splashing cold water will not make your skin pores close.  Skin pores do not open and close. 

8. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is often recommended by DIY-focused sites as an aftershave alternative due to its inclusion of acetic acid (about 5%-6%).  Exercise caution here as the smell can be unpleasant and the results are mild at best.  Should you attempt this, dilute the apple cider vinegar roughly 50/50 with water, shake, and apply.  

9. Cologne

Most colognes are made from a mix of oil (fragrance), alcohol, and water.  Using this as a substitute to aftershave is possible.  Before applying to your face, mix the cologne with a carrying agent such as witch hazel or glycerin.  By pre-mixing, the scent strength will be reduced.

10. Hydrogen Peroxide

Used to treat minor cuts, hydrogen peroxide is a mild antiseptic that can clean a wound.  However, it is not recommended for extended use as an aftershave.  Only consider hydrogen peroxide if you accidentally cut yourself and have no other antiseptic agents available.  Apply a small amount to a cotton ball and apply to the open wound.

11. Natural Oils

Carrier oils and essential oils have been claimed to solve many skin aliments which include wrinkles, razor bumps, and cuts.  Many of these claims have not been scientifically proven.  However, these oils can provide a pleasant scent.  Some oils such as coconut oil or jojoba oil may help to prevent dryness.

About Shawn Burns

Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn's expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.

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