by Garrick Dee
Updated March 8th, 2019
The process of shaving takes a significant toll on the skin. Imagine a sharp blade raking across your face over and over.
What’s left is skin with little to no protection and wide open pores – a perfect recipe for disaster like infection and irritation.
Men by nature don’t want to use skin care products. I’m guilty, and most of you are. But when it comes to shaving, this is serious stuff.
Even if shaving cream has a good post-shave, an aftershave balm is essential when it comes to post-shave protection.
We will be looking at the best aftershave balms in detail here.
The default option that a lot of men use would be liquid aftershaves.
Don’t use an aftershave splash
Remember Macauly Culkin in the Home Alone movie was he screams after applying aftershave on his face?
That’s the product I’m talking about.
It stings big time because these products contain alcohol and this ingredient dry up the skin, robbing it of moisture that it needs.
A good aftershave balm does not have any alcohol. These products contain ingredients that help soothe the skin from irritation and provide moisture to nourish and protect skin from the elements.
Think of an aftershave balm as a similar product to women’s facial moisturizing products.
And with the resurgence of wet shaving, more and more men should have this product in their post-shave toolkit.
Products like the Nivea aftershave balm will significantly improve any man’s post-shave experience that you never thought possible.
It doesn’t matter whether you use a cartridge razor or a safety razor, this product will help.
Before I continue and go to the list of the best aftershave balms, let’s look at the difference between it and aftershave splash.
An aftershave splash is a liquid antiseptic with a lingering scent, so it doubles as cologne. Most of these products contain alcohol which takes away skin’s natural oils and dries it out.
This isn’t an excellent product to use if you have dry and sensitive skin. If you’re susceptible to cuts, also avoid using splashes.
An aftershave balm has a thicker consistency, almost like a cream. The application is also a little bit different. Since aftershave splashes are liquid, you’ll use more of it. Balms are thicker, and you’ll have more control how much of it you’ll use.
In most cases, a dime-sized amount is enough depending on how thick it is.
Here’s the most significant difference, aftershave balms don’t contain any alcohol.
This is important because alcohol dries up the skin. Instead, the best products contain either natural (Lather and Wood) or synthetic (Proraso) ingredients that do a few things.
Others contain hybrid ingredients like glycerin.
These include skin nourishment, moisturize and post-shave protection.
If you’re not familiar with a safety razor, it’s a device that uses a disposable double edged blade for shaving.
First, since it only has a single blade, there’s much less irritation. In the hands of an expert shaver, you’ll get a shave with almost no irritation at all. Pair it with the right blade, and it’ll mow down even a 5-day beard growth with hardly a nick or cut.
Second, DE blades are much less expensive versus a cartridge refill. Just look at Amazon. How much does a Gillette 8 pack refill cost? It’ll range between $25 and $35.
How much does a 100 pack DE blade cost?
Premium blade like the Personna will cost less than $20. Even if you change one blade per day, you’ll spend considerably less than you would a cartridge razor.
It really depends, for some men who don’t have dry and sensitive skin, they could possibly get away with just an alum block.
So this is a case would be a Your Mileage Your Mileage May Vary. Check your skin post-shave and if it has irritation then go ahead with using an aftershave balm.
It’s one of the best products that you can use to give your skin the best protection after shaving.
So whether or not to use a balm would depend on how sensitive your skin is.
An aftershave balm is just a small piece of the pie
To get a genuinely world-class shave, you’ll need more than a good aftershave balm. You’ll need to master the proper wet shaving technique, have the right tools and process.
Prep is king
The first step and perhaps the most important would be prep. Start off with a hot shower or putting a hot towel on your face. The point is you’ll need to shave with a clean canvass free from excess oil and dirt that may get in the way of the blade.
Don’t ignore the pre-shave oil
Next step would be applying pre-shave oil. Now, not every shaver uses this product in their routine.
But they should because it adds another layer of protection that’ll help the blade glide over skin minus the tugging and pulling.
The third step would be shaving cream application. If you’re using one of those canned products, please reconsider because it does not provide the best protection. In fact, it may do the opposite – create more irritation.
Don’t shave without either of these
Good shaving cream contains natural ingredients that soothe, nourish and lubricate skin to protect it from irritation. If you want the best protection, then go with shaving soap. Creating a lather using the latter will take a bit longer, but the results will be worth it.
To properly create a good lather, you’ll need a good badger hair shaving brush. This tool not only will help evenly spread shave cream or soap, but it also exfoliates skin and raise up hair follicles, making it easier for the blade to slice through it.
But not all shave creams will require a shaving brush. Lather-less creams like Cremo Cream does not need a brush for application.
It’s a personal preference. If you have the extra 5 minutes or so for prep then go with a traditional product like shaving cream or soap that produces lather.
Now it’s showtime
Next step would be the shaving process. Like what I’ve said earlier, consider switching to a safety razor because these tools will give you the best results possible.
That means less irritation and a more comfortable shave.
Post shave process
After mowing down every last bit of facial hair, the next step would be checking if you have any cuts. If you have cuts, then you’ll need to use a styptic pencil to close up those wounds.
The last step would be using an aftershave balm to provide the nourishment and moisture it desperately needs after the beating it took on a multiple pass shave.
What are the Best Aftershave Balms for Men?
One thing to look out for in aftershave balms would be the ingredients list. Check out and see if it has ingredients that help soothe skin like Aloe vera or Tea tree oil. If the product you’re looking at contains alcohol, move on to the next because alcohol dries up the skin and tightens pores.
Lather & Wood is perhaps the most popular aftershave balm in Amazon right now with over 1,400 reviews with an average of a 4.5-star rating.
They say that they have the least amount of returns with competing brands and more than 85% of the reviews gave it a 4-star rating.
The numbers don’t lie. They won’t get these kinds of numbers if their product isn’t good. And when you look closely at their history, Lather & Wood is deeply committed to making the best possible men’s grooming.
Unlike larger brands like Nivea and The Art of Shaving, this is their core business, and the customer is king.
Since this product uses only natural ingredients, the price will be a premium. A two-ounce bottle will cost just under $17 so that would cost a little over $8 per ounce.
What are these natural ingredients?
Let’s start with the two main ingredients – organic alcohol extract (from white willow bark) and glycerin.
Don’t confuse the first ingredient with isopropyl alcohol because both aren’t the same. Both components can kill bacteria.
But will not tighten up pores or sting like isopropyl alcohol does. This means much less occurrence of ingrown hair.
It also contains Vitamin E and Aloe Barbadensis leafy juice that’ll help heal nicks and cuts.
Witch hazel, rosemary, and organic coconut oil soothe and moisturize skin in areas that the razor may have shaven too close. Other ingredients include sandalwood oil (for the scent) and organic jojoba oil that also helps soothes irritation on the skin.
This particular variant has a strong sandalwood scent that you’ll immediately notice during application. But the good news is that scent quickly dissipates. This will not interfere with cologne, but the scent will linger enough that you can get away not applying cologne at all.
If you don’t like sandalwood, Lather & Wood also comes with an unscented version of this.
Lather & Wood comes in a small 2-ounce amber glass bottle that should last as much as 100 shaves or around 6 months (if you use it up to 4 times a week) or 3 months if you use it every day.
Here’s a neat feature, it has a pump mechanism on top of the bottle to give better control on how much product you dispense. And it doesn’t take a lot – less than a dime sized amount will be enough.
Finding the right consistency is essential for aftershave balms. Too thick and your skin won’t absorb it, too thin and it’ll slip off the palm of your hand. Lather & Wood has hit that sweet spot in terms of thickness.
And you don’t need a lot – less than a dime sized amount will be enough. Once applied, this product absorbs fast and leaves almost no residue which is a good thing.
Clearly, Lather & Wood is committed to bringing the best possible grooming products for men. And the reviews reflect this commitment.
It does not contain any alcohol so it won’t dry or tighten pores. Plus it soothes, nourishes and protects skin from irritation.
When it comes to skin care products, a few brands are bigger than Nivea. As a huge brand with a bevy of products for both men and women, you don’t really know what to expect with this product.
You’d think as a big multinational company, Nivea would use cheap ingredients and get away with it. But they did not disappoint at least with their post-shave balm.
So mild even girls use it
Nivea’s product is excellent for men who have sensitive skin that’s prone to razor burn, dryness, and irritation. Their product has no alcohol and contains so much moisturizing and nourishing agents that will only benefit the skin
Not only that, Nivea’s formula is so mild that even girls started using this product even if it’s for men!
Nothing too special about the packaging as it comes in an all-white glass bottle with a plastic lid. Depending on how the product is handled during shipping, you can either get a whole bottle or a broken mess.
Nivea says that this product has a small hint of fragrance it in. Some consumers say that it does linger while others say it isn’t a big deal. Some describe the scent as “refreshing” but not strong enough to clash with cologne.
The product itself is slightly thicker than massage oil but somewhat thinner than other balms. You don’t need a lot actually for full coverage – often times a dime-sized drop will do.
Nivea uses the right balance of water, glycerin, and witch hazel to protect and soothe skin. Other ingredients include maltodextrin and triglycerides to nourish skin cells.
Lastly, it contains a bit of fragrance. I’m assuming it’s synthetic because they would not disclose what type it uses.
Overall despite that fragrance content, I like this product because it simply works. It has just the right amount of glycerin to moisturize but not too much as that it’ll leave a rough skin texture or tighten up pores. If girls use something for men, you know that it’s good despite the pitfalls.
Proraso is one of the oldest grooming brands in the industry. They’ve been manufacturing grooming products since 1948.
So you know they’re all about quality being in the game for so long. Their aftershave balm is totally alcohol-free and in its place are natural ingredients that moisturize and soothe skin post shave.
This product is part of their “Blue Line” that has more hydrating properties that works great men with dry skin. If you live in a cold place, this will provide extra moisture your skin will need.
What are the ingredients?
Proraso uses a base of water and glycerin which is a combo that a lot of brands use. Glycerin is a great replacement for alcohol because it has the same antiseptic properties, but it does not dry up the skin.
It also contains Aloe Vera and sweet almond that’ll help soothe skin after a very close shave. Vitamin E helps by providing moisture that’ll protect skin.
Licorice extract also has the same calming and soothing effect as Aloe vera, so it complements it.
However, Proraso does contain preservatives such as EBTA, BHT, Xanthan gum and C10-30 alkyl acrylate.
But these ingredients are essential to extend the shelf life of this product.
The good thing though is that these ingredients don’t seem to affect how the product performs.
Another thing to note is the Proraso aftershave balm does not contain any alcohol or silicate thickeners.
Open the cap, and you’ll immediately smell a strong hint of licorice. But don’t worry the smell will not linger and dissipates pretty fast.
This balm comes in a clear glass container that holds 3.4 ounces of product which is good for 6 months. It does not have a pump so you’ll have to manually pour it out on the palm.
When you compare this to other aftershave balms, consistency is on the thicker side. Almost as thick as a pudding, some have described it. This is actually good because a little will go a long way. It won’t leave any greasy residue behind if you use the right amount.
Men who suffer from razor burn and irritation will benefit most from this product. It isn’t the cheapest, but it offers relief and makes shaving enjoyable again. Beginners should also consider buying this because of the soothing and calming effect.
Like Proraso, Baxter of California has been in the grooming business for decades. And their aftershave balm is one of their most popular products thanks to the alcohol-free content that will not dry out skin.
Like all the products in this list, the main ingredients are water and glycerin. Again, glycerin is a choice of a lot of cosmetic manufacturers because of its antiseptic properties. And it’s a suitable replacement for alcohol.
The key is putting just enough. Baxter of California says that their product will moisturize, soothe and protect skin. If you look at their ingredient list you’ll why.
Their aftershave balm uses Aloe and tea tree oil to provide that moisture that also has healing and soothing properties that our skin needs after a grueling shaving cycle.
Organic silicones help the aloe and tea tree content to calm down irritation and condition skin.
One thing to note, this product contains menthol. So expect a tingling, cooling sensation. If that’s not your cup of tea, then go with the other products in this list.
Since this product contains citrus, expect a citrusy scent. Some reviews say that it has a lemon scent that dissipates quickly 10 minutes after application.
Unlike the other 3 products above this, that uses a bottle. Baxter of California comes in a tube. There’s no risk of something breaking when it’s mishandled during shipping.
Also, you’ll have more control over how much product you’ll use and minimize wastage. This will all boil down to personal preference.
Price wise, this I would consider this middle-of-the-road. It isn’t as expensive per ounce versus Lather & Wood. But it’s more costly than Nivea. If you don’t mind the minty feel, then this would be another good option.
American Shaving Co. is a newcomer in men’s grooming products. Currently, as we speak, they have 2 products – Aftershave balm and pre-shave oil.
Their mission is simple – to bring back the traditional wet shave – in style.
They have two aftershave balm scents – original masculine and sandalwood barbershop scent.
What I like about new brands is their aggressive marketing. American Shaving offers a money back guarantee on all their products. If you’re not happy with it, just send it back, no questions asked.
One of the reasons it’s hard to ignore this is the price. A 4-ounce tub will cost just under $17, you’ll get more savings if you subscribe. It isn’t the cheapest, but if you take a close look at the ingredients list, you’ll understand why.
What’s inside this balm?
Two main ingredients are water and glycerin which is a common base for all the products in this list. Glycerin replaces isopropyl alcohol as a disinfectant. One advantage it has is it doesn’t dry out the skin.
You’ll also notice it contains Cetearyl Alcohol. Don’t confuse this with denatured alcohol. This ingredient works as an emulsifier, thickener and carrying agent for cosmetic products.
It also has Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice that helps soothe irritation and sunflower seed oil helps regenerate skin cells.
Unfortunately, it does contain fragrance. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a synthetic ingredient used by cosmetic manufacturers to mimic natural scents. If you’re averse to these types of ingredients, avoid this.
This balm comes in a tub. At first glance, you’d think that this is a shaving cream, but it’s not. One great thing about using a tub is you have absolute control on how much product you’ll use. You’ll only need a dime sized amount for complete coverage.
Men say that this balm has a cologne-like scent that’s masculine without being too overpowering. The ladies also like the scent. There are actually two scent options – the original masculine and sandalwood.
If you don’t mind trying an artisan brand and want something that smells really masculine, the American Shaving Aftershave balm is worth a try. Don’t worry if you don’t like it just send it back for a refund.
Choosing an aftershave balm isn’t rocket science. There are only a few guidelines to follow – it must not contain any alcohol and look for something that contains natural ingredients that’ll provide post shave protection. I believe that the products here will give you the best performance.
Choosing one will boil down to what scent you like, how much you’re willing to spend and brand preference (if you have any).
Lather & Wood provides the best performance in our opinion, and the reviews don’t lie. With over 1,200 and counting, this is one of the most popular aftershave balms in Amazon. It’ll leave a manly sandalwood scent, but they also have an unscented option available if that’s your preference.
Nivea offers the best value-for-money proposition. Consumers love the protection it brings to the table. The only drawback would be the presence of “fragrance” and thin consistency.
If it’s old school you want then go with the manly licorice scent of the Proraso aftershave balm. But it dissipates pretty fast so don’t worry.
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