Last updated on December 5th, 2018 by Garrick Dee
Not a lot of men know about alum block. But should be an essential part of any aftershave regimen.
This product helps your skin feel refreshed, prevents razor burn, in grown hair and gives you feedback on areas you did not shave well.
This product is a miracle worker that doesn’t get credit it deserves.
An essential tool in the old days
Before shaving became a multi-billion dollar industry, alum block was the go to aftershave solution in any man’s shaving kit.
Now men would prefer other products like aftershave creams, bay rum, splashes or balms.
Make no mistake that these products are useful but the almighty alum trumps them all in one important factor – price!
And none of those products provide the same benefits.
Must have for serious wet shavers
Since you probably don’t know much about alum, I’ll take this opportunity and explain everything you need to know.
The main component of alum block is alum which is a natural astringent.
It has a bunch of uses that range from industrial to cosmetic.
And we’ll focus on the latter for this article. Alum is also a major component in styptic pencils that also stops bleeding.
This same property is found in alum block, only with a much larger surface area.
Natural antiseptic and astringent
Alum block is such a great aftershave product because it is a natural antiseptic and astringent. It soothes and tightens the skin’s pores that helps prevent razor burn.
Another benefit would be closing up minor nicks and cuts that may occur while you shave.
It is a coagulant which means it’ll clot the blood and stop bleeding. Alum is the same ingredient in styptic pencils that also stops bleeding.
The Egyptians were the first to used alum as an aftershave more than 4,000 years ago. And men have used this product ever since to relieve irritation. So this shows us that alum indeed works and should more popular that it is now.
Provides feedback on sensitive areas
Aside from its nick stopping and soothing benefits, alum helps provide feedback on irritated areas.
On areas with irritation, you’ll feel a stinging sensation. The more irritated the area is the more powerful the sensation is.
This is great if you’re trying a new technique or going a different direction. It’ll let you know if you cut too close.
It’ll also tell you when you need to change shaving equipment because it’s dull, too aggressive, etc.
Alum is does not have any odor so you can use this in conjunction with other aftershave products such as an aftershave balm or bay rum aftershave.
If you wear cologne, the odorless properly of alum is a huge plus.
But make sure to apply alum first before applying another aftershave because alum soothes any irritation and closes cuts thus limiting the stinging sensation from other products.
If you’ve had a poor shave, alum will shield your face from potentially more irritation from another aftershave product.
Doubles as a deodorant
Alum also works as a deodorant. But I’d recommend using different alum on your pits and face to prevent any cross contamination.
Remember that your armpit has a lot of bacteria so you wouldn’t want that bacteria on your face where it’s far more sensitive.
Note: There are deodorants available that have alum. You use this one your face but make sure to check if it contains potassium alum or ammonia alum.
But avoid using ammonia alum on your face as it will sting much more than potassium.
For best results, use this after shaving.
Before using it make sure to rinse your face thoroughly to remove any residue – hair, dead skin and shaving cream.
Soak in water
Run the block of alum under running water for a few seconds then rub it on your face, at least the areas you’ve shaved. Alum dries quickly and the next step will depend on preference. You can leave it as is or rinse it off.
One thing to note about alum is that it leaves a tight feeling on the skin. You’ll feel the tightness when smiling or chewing. And that tight feeling slowly dissipates as you go about your day.
But if you’re feeling uncomfortable with it just rinse it off. Either way your face will reap all the benefits.
Let it dry
Before storing it in its plastic casing, make sure to let the alum block fully dry or you’d risk ruining the product and not be able to use it again. If you have an expensive marble countertop, don’t leave it on there or it’ll stain.
Styptic pencil is another product that a lot of people take for granted in favor of other products.
But more experienced shavers still have this to treat nicks and cuts.
Both these products have the same composition (made from alum) and work similarly.
However, alum block contains aluminum potassium sulfate and styptic pencil only contains plain aluminum sulfate.
While both will work well treating small cuts, aluminum sulfate is much stronger and will leave a white mark on the face.
Potassium sulfate in alum isn’t as strong and goes on clear your skin.
Alum block has a larger surface area so it’s easier to apply on the face. Styptic pencil works in a much smaller area and meant used to treat cuts.
Alum block isn’t popular because it isn’t as widely available as let’s say a cartridge razor. But fortunately more and more drug stores and pharmacies are selling this.
You can also find alum in the deodorant section of health shops or supermarkets but buying this retail will cost 3 times more. A better option would be buying from Amazon.
Have I convinced you to try alum block?
You’re next question probably is what is the best?
Most of these products are the same
To be honest there is no such thing as “best alum block” because all the good brands have the same chemical composition.
This means that there isn’t much of a difference between brands.
Don’t be cheap
I do however caution you to avoid cheap Chinese brands because these products may contain lower grade alum that won’t last as long and not work as well.
Make sure that you’re buying something made from solid alum and determining factor would be price.
And range would be between $6 and $25 in Amazon. Sizes will vary and most will have a plastic case where you can store this.
Having said all that, I’m sharing with you some product recommendations to give you an idea how much and what brands are good.
Gentleman Jon is one of best value for money alum blocks available right now. It’ll cost around $8 for a 3.7 ounce block and it comes with a case.
I was debating whether to put this or the RazoRock on top and eventually decided on this because it’s slightly cheaper.
If you buy the RazorRock in Amazon, it’s actually cheaper but you’ll have to pay for shipping even if you go over the $25 threshold.
And it is a bestselling alum block and styptic product in Amazon, getting rave reviews.
So this product should be good. This product is made from 100% potassium alum.
Unlike RazoRock that has a stick version of alum, this product only comes in block form so it won’t be as travel friendly.
RazoRock is a consumer favorite because it works great. And it’s compact size makes it easy to handle.
You don’t have to worry about finding a place to store this because it comes with its own plastic case. This is a big deal because this products it from moisture and water that erodes it and decreases the length of time you can use it.
Despite its size (or lack thereof) a 3.2 ounce bar will last for years. RazoRock says that their product contains natural occurring potassium alum mineral salts.
There are two variations of this product…
The stick version is more expensive than the block and would be a great option if you travel a lot. And even if the block version is small, it’s also cheaper so get this if you just need something to use at home.
Bloc Osma is another quality brand from France who’s been in the business for over 6 decades. Their alum blocks are handmade but I don’t think that makes much of a difference in terms of quality.
Even if it’s imported, this is still one of the cheapest alum blocks (or bloc d’Alun if you’re French).
You can get two of these for less than $9. And considering that “The Art of Shaving” alum block is asking for $20 for a similar sized product – the choice is obvious.
It is cheaper than the RazoRock and Gentleman Jon but one thing that holds it back would be the lack of a plastic storage to protect this and keep it dry.
One way around this would be buying a soap container or storing this on an unused metal jar cover.
Barber is another great budget option in this list. It isn’t as popular as RazoRock or Gentleman Jon but nonetheless a good choice.
Funny despite having a Spanish sounding brand that’s translates to “Barber”, this product is from France.
Like all the products in this list, it is made from 100% natural alum and it has good size – 3.52 ounces. And costs less than $8! It also comes with a case that keeps it dry and protected.
You may be familiar with Parker safety razors but I bet you didn’t know they make alum blocks.
Theirs is one of the biggest available at 125 grams or 4 ounces. That’s larger than the 3.7 ounce Gentleman Jon and will cost a little over $11.
Taylor of Bond Street is another popular brand that also makes shaving soaps, creams, aftershave balm and pre shave oil. And most of their products made it our “best of” lists and their alum block is no different.
Unfortunately, their products are too expensive that’s why it fell way down this list. I’ve mentioned earlier that one of the most important considerations when buying alum block is price.
A 75 gram bar will cost a whopping $16. That’s smaller than the Barbero and Gentleman Jon but twice more expensive.
This product from Osma Laboratories is the most unique product in this list. Instead of compressing powdered raw material, the manufacturer used pure alum stone cut by hand.
A big reason why this is more expensive than any of the 3 alum blocks listed above. If you include shipping, this will cost almost $18 for a 100g bar.
Alum block is an essential tool that should be in every man’s shaving kit. It soothes razor burn, stops bleeding and closes the pores that’ll prevent infections post shave.
It’ll also provide feedback on areas that you may have shaved too close – great if you’re trying a new technique.
Since all of these products made from alum, just pick one that’s the cheapest, preferably with a case to protect it from moisture and contaminants.
Out of the 6 alum blocks listed here, I really like the Gentleman Jon and RazoRock because both are cheap. The latter has a stick option if you travel a lot.
Other products listed here work well but will cost more.
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Cover image source: http://www.geltir.com/thread-255-page-99.html
Garrick spends his days researching and writing about grooming. When he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him hanging around with his wife and son.