Few grooming products evoke a sense of nostalgia quite like aftershave. Maybe you were first introduced to it as a child, watching your father shave before work, or perhaps you remember the smell of your grandpa’s signature aftershave lingering in the air after hugging him. You watched, imagining what that mysterious, aromatic liquid was, and wondered if you’d use it when you grew up. Now, you are grown up, and those time-honored shaving traditions have largely fallen to the wayside in favor of fast, no-fuss routines. As a result, for many, aftershave maintains its mystique.
We’re here to help you get to the bottom of that mystery once and for all. Ahead, we’ve put together a guide to this men’s shaving staple. We’ll explain what aftershave is for, what it does, and how to use aftershave in your daily grooming routine. Plus, you’ll find advice on how to perfect your shaving routine and recommendations on the best Kiehl’s aftershave formulas to add to your Dopp kit. Dust off your straight razor and read on to learn how to use aftershave—just like dad did.
What Is Aftershave?
As the name suggests, aftershave is a product designed to be applied to the skin immediately after shaving. Traditionally, it is formulated for men’s facial skin, but a quick Google search will tell you there are plenty of women’s aftershave products on the market, as well. Aftershave is often scented and may include an astringent, like alcohol, to help visibly minimize your pores.
What Does Aftershave Do?
The benefits of an aftershave are largely dependent upon the product’s formulation, but typically, aftershave is used to help soothe the skin post-shave. Admittedly, that’s a little vague, but different types of aftershaves have different benefits and uses.
Products formulated with alcohol help sterilize the skin after shaving, which limits bacterial growth and the chance of infection (this is especially important if you nick yourself with the razor). Those made with moisturizing ingredients can help hydrate the skin and replenish its natural moisture barrier. Finally, products that contain mild chemical exfoliants help remove dead skin cells, which can help prevent ingrown hairs. When choosing a men’s aftershave, you should look for one formulated for your unique skin type and skin concerns—for example, if you’re prone to razor burn, you’d likely benefit from a gentle, skin-soothing liquid or lotion.
What Kind Of Aftershave Should You Use?
To help you find the right aftershave for you, we’ve compiled a short list of three of Kiehl’s best-selling aftershave formulas, who they’re for, and what they do. Meet your match below.
For Normal Skin:
Facial Fuel Energizing Tonic For Men
If you have no major post-shaving concerns (like razor burn), you can use a mild facial toner as your daily aftershave. We recommend Facial Fuel Energizing Tonic For Men, which contains caffeine, bamboo extract, and ascorbyl glucoside, a skin-friendly vitamin C derivative. The invigorating formula soothes the skin after shaving for a hydrated, comfortable feel. When used regularly, it also helps diminish the visible signs of fatigue for a refreshed, healthy-looking appearance.
For Oily, Acne-Prone, Or Combination Skin:
Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion
To soothe skin prone to oiliness, try Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion. Our cult-classic toner, first formulated in 1964, contains a refreshing blend of plant extracts, including menthol, camphor, and aloe vera. When used as an aftershave, it helps soothe and balance the skin. You can also use it as a toner after cleansing or as a spot treatment to help calm problem areas.
For Sensitive Skin:
Ultimate Razor Burn & Bump Relief
For those prone to irritation, including razor burn and ingrown hairs, we recommend our top-rated Ultimate Razor Burn & Bump Relief. This effective aftershave cream with willow herb and gentle lipo-hydroxy acid instantly cools and hydrates just-shaved skin to reduce irritation. The moisturizing formula gently exfoliates the skin to minimize the appearance of razor bumps and ingrown hairs and helps strengthen sensitive skin to make it better able to resist post-shaving irritation. The nourishing formula is safe for all skin types and can be used after every shave for a smooth, sting-free finish.
How Do You Use Aftershave?
For aftershave to do its job effectively, you need to make sure that you’re shaving properly and caring for your skin well. Here, we’ve curated a simple, five-step shaving routine to help you get a close, comfortable shave.
Prep With A Cleanser
A clean, smooth canvas is vital for shaving. We recommend prepping your skin with an exfoliating face wash, such as Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub. Our best-selling men’s exfoliator contains caffeine, menthol, and crushed apricot seeds and helps slough away dead skin cells, oil, and other impurities. When used before shaving, it also helps soften tough facial hair to enable a closer shave. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used up to three times per week to cleanse and exfoliate men’s skin.
To prep your skin, dispense a small amount of the scrub onto clean fingertips and lightly massage over your damp face. Take care to avoid the delicate eye area, and don’t apply too much pressure while you scrub. Once finished, rinse your face thoroughly with lukewarm water before moving on to the second step.
Shave Slowly And Carefully
Apply a generous layer of shaving gel, like Close Shavers Squadron Smooth Glider Precision Shave Lotion, to the areas you plan to shave. This Kiehl’s favorite with vitamin E and eucalyptus oil helps soften tough facial hair for a more comfortable shave. It also helps protect the skin from irritation and enables you to get a smooth, precise finish.
This lightweight gel can be applied directly to dry skin before shaving—no water needed. Smooth a small amount onto areas you plan to shave, then remove hair with a clean, sharp razor. To limit irritation, shave in the direction of hair growth and rinse your razor after each swipe. Once you’ve finished shaving, wash any remaining shave gel off your face with lukewarm water and gently pat your skin dry.
Kiehl’s Expert Tip: For more tips on shaving without irritation, read our article How To Avoid Razor Bumps And Still Get A Close Shave.
Apply Your Chosen Aftershave
After patting your skin dry, you can apply your preferred aftershave product. For the most part, how you apply it is a matter of personal preference. For liquid formulas, like the toners mentioned above, you can either splash it directly onto your skin and pat it in, or use a clean cotton pad to swipe the aftershave over your face. Both methods are effective, so choose whatever works best for you.
Cream formulas should be applied like a serum. Dispense a pea-sized amount onto your clean, dry fingertips, then gently massage the lotion over shaved skin, focusing on areas prone to irritation. Allow the aftershave a minute or two to absorb before moving on to the next step.
Lock In Hydration With Moisturizer
Next, hydrate your skin with a mild facial moisturizer, such as Ultra Facial Cream. This Kiehl’s must-have contains glacial glycoprotein and a blend of nourishing emollients, including olive-derived squalane and avocado oil. The non-greasy formula absorbs quickly to soften skin with lasting, 24-hour hydration. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used daily for smoother, healthier-looking skin with continued use.
Kiehl’s Expert Tip: To help address specific skin concerns like dullness or unevenness, look for a more targeted moisturizer. Find your perfect match in our article Find The Best Moisturizer For Your Skin.
Style Any Remaining Facial Hair
Add shine and softness to any remaining facial hair with an all-purpose styling treatment, like Grooming Solutions Nourishing Beard Grooming Oil. This lightweight beard oil, which is formulated with pracaxi oil and a blend of aromatic essential oils, helps soften and tame coarse facial hair. It also helps moisturize and refine the skin underneath your beard for a nourished, well-groomed appearance.
Next: learn more beard grooming techniques in Your Ultimate Guide To Beard Care.