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Aftershave vs. Face Toner: Key Differences Explained

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By: Adam Williams

If you’ve ever looked at the ingredient list on your aftershave and then compared it to your face toner, you may have noticed that they share many of the same ingredients. So what’s the difference between these two products?

In brief, here’s the scoop:

Aftershaves are designed to disinfect and soothe your skin after shaving. Aftershaves are available in a few different varieties. Some have a disinfecting agent, like alcohol, while others have more soothing ingredients, like aloe vera. Thicker aftershave balms have a moisturizing effect.

Face toners, on the other hand, are designed to cleanse, tone, and refresh your skin. Face toners can be used daily, and they don’t necessarily have to be used after shaving. Many face toners contain astringent ingredients, like witch hazel, which can help to remove excess oil, reduce the appearance of pores, and even the complexion of your skin.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the differences between aftershave and face toner:

The Variety of Aftershaves is Quite Large

The term “aftershave” is a catch-all for various products. These include:

  • Aftershave splashes: A thin and lightweight product that traditionally has a high alcohol content (such as bay rum). However, modern brands now skip the alcohol and rely on witch hazel as a base or use less drying alcohols such as cetyl alcohol. This formula is typically more concentrated than an aftershave balm or lotion.
  • Aftershave lotions: A lightweight lotion that is quickly absorbed into the skin. Like aftershave splashes, they may or may not contain alcohol.
  • Aftershave balms: A relatively new sub-category within aftershaves, aftershave balms have a hydration focus and often contain shea butter, glycerin, and allantoin. They can help to restore moisture to the skin after shaving and prevent irritation, razor burn, and tightness of the skin.

Learn more about the types of aftershaves.

The Variety of Face Toners

When shopping for new face toner, you’ll often see them categorized as follows:

  • Skin Type: Whether you have dry, oily, combination, sensitive, or normal skin will affect which type of toner you should use. Many brands formulate specific toners for each skin type.
  • Active Ingredients: Toners may rely on a combination of different active ingredients to provide specific benefits. For example, you may find toners with AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids) or BHA (beta-hydroxy acids) to help exfoliate the skin; humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid to attract and retain moisture; or unique or all-natural ingredients like aloe vera, seaweed, hydrolyzed collagen, honey, ginseng, lemon, and even snail to improve skin conditions.
  • Other Features: Aside from the active ingredients, you’ll also want to consider if the toner is pH balanced, hypoallergenic, animal cruelty-free, alcohol-free, and/or organic.

In short, face toners are much more complex in their ingredients and purpose when compared to aftershaves.

Two Different Intents

The main difference between aftershaves and face toners is the intent behind each product.

  • Aftershave is primarily used to soothe the skin after shaving and to prevent razor burn. In addition, those with alcohol in their solution will disinfect any nicks or cuts, which can help to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Face toners, on the other hand, are designed to be used after cleansing and before moisturizing. They help to remove any lingering traces of dirt, pollutants, or oil that may have been missed during cleansing. Toners also help to restore the skin’s pH balance, reduce hyperpigmentation, and prep the skin for the next steps in your skincare routine.

So, while both products can help to cleanse and refresh the skin, their main purposes are quite different.

Considering an Aftershave or Facial Toner?

If you are looking to work on preventing razor burn or want a product to help soothe your skin after shaving, then be sure to check out our reviews of the best aftershaves.

If you want to add an extra step to your cleansing routine or are looking for a product to help with hyperpigmentation, you may want to consider a face toner.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few commonly asked questions about aftershaves and face toners:

Can I use a face toner as an aftershave?

Technically you can. However, the results may not be as soothing as an aftershave. So if you ever experience razor burn, tightening of the skin, or excessive dryness after using a face toner, consider switching to an aftershave product instead.

Where should I apply aftershave?

You should apply your aftershave to the entire area that you just shaved. This will help to soothe any irritation and prevent razor burn. Mild aftershave balms can be used on other areas that you may have shaved, including the scalp, chest, groin, and underarms. Here’s a guide on how to apply aftershave for the most effective results.

Do I need to use a face toner?

The decision to use a face toner is entirely up to you. If you feel like your cleansing routine is not resulting in a tone or even complexion of the skin, then adding a face toner may be beneficial. Additionally, face toners can help to minimize the appearance of pores, prep the skin for better absorption of skincare products, and provide a boost of hydration.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more.

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