Growing up in the 1980s, my main exposure to the world of aftershave was this bizarre commercial for Skinbracer (by Mennen) that I was able to watch just now for the first time in 30 years thanks the glorious wonder of YouTube.
My lasting impression as a young teenager watching it was in the fact that once the guy had shaved, slapped on the aftershave, and hopped out of his limo, this good-looking woman was totally all over him and he didn’t even have to say a word – that’s some damn potent stuff. On retrospect, I also wonder what kind of dummy is riding a motorcycle wearing a three-piece suit and a helmet, and why we all thought short shorts were OK for jogging back then. But, I digress.
What is aftershave in the first place?
Modern aftershave has two main components – an antiseptic and a moisturizer. The antiseptic is there to reduce the risk of infection when men cut themselves shaving. The antiseptic contains a healthy dose of alcohol to clean out any cuts; although the overwhelming majority of razors are safeguarded against cuts in a host of different ways.
The second component, the moisturizer, softens skin after a shave, keep the pours open and preventing oil from clogging them. When you apply aftershave after taking a shower, it wipes away all the excess dirt and oils that can clog your pores, causing acne and red skin.
What’s in Aftershave?
Alcohol is a major component, as previously mentioned, but essential oils are what is doing the real legwork here. Tea tree oil is a common ingredient; it is an antiseptic and antibacterial naturally. Other great essential oils to look for in aftershave or to include should you choose to make your own are lavender, witch hazel, Vitamin E, and cedar wood.
Witch hazel is an astringent, which means it shrinks or reduces tissues that it comes in contact with. Outside of aftershave, it’s commonly used to treat poison ivy and hemorrhoids. Vitamin E is full of antioxidants and helps hunt down free radicals. Lavender obviously has a great smell, but also is soothing to the skin and the nostrils. Cedar wood naturally warms your skin, repels insects, and keeps skin looking healthy.
What’s That Smell?
Ironically, the least essential part of an after shave is the one that is the most heavily marketed – the fragrance. Putting distinct manly smells into aftershave allows the likes of Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger into a market that they literally have no business in. A unique smell leads to dramatic, fashion-based packaging – different sized bottles, different shaped packaging, artificial coloring of the product, etc.
How Do I Apply Aftershave?
Well the first step should be pretty obvious – don’t use it until after you shave which also means after a shower. Put a few drops of aftershave on your hands and rub it together, this lets some of the alcohol evaporate – too much can really sting your face particularly if you have open cuts on your face already.
Start at your cheeks and rub down to your jawline and then your neck. If you feel like you need more, apply a second pass with less product. Do this regularly to promote healthy skin that looks, feels, and smells great.
Until next time, Full Beard Ahead.