What does aftershave do? Experts explain

For the most part, shaving is safe, though it does leave the skin susceptible to irritation. The small cuts that shaving creates can provide an entry point for bacteria, Dr. Sonia Batra, MD, a dermatologist and co-host of the television show The Doctors, explains.

And that’s exactly when shaving can backfire. Luckily, there's a solution – and it comes in the form of a product you're likely pretty confused about. You've probably skipped aftershave each time you've trimmed or shaved your face. Here's why you might actually want to start using it.

“While many consider the purpose of aftershave to be scent, similar to a cologne, it can actually have a useful role in the recovery of skin after shaving,” Batra says.

Aftershave often contains astringents, such as alcohol or witch hazel. These help calm irritation that occurs after shaving, stop any bleeding present, and disinfect any small nicks you may have given yourself, she explains.

“I always start with a hot towel to open pores, and finish with a cleanser and cold towel to close pores," Jared Gelbert, Master Barber at The Dapper Den Barbershop in Ridgefield, Connecticut, says. "I use aftershave to heal the open, raw shaved skin, further disinfect and close pores, and then rehydrate."

Aftershave is pretty self-explanatory. Simply massage it into the affected areas post-shave and let it soak into the pores.

Not necessarily. You can get away without using it – but it’s not always smart, especially if you’re prone to irritation.

“Aftershave is not always necessary, but can be helpful for men with sensitive skin, acne, or frequent skin irritation,” Batra says.

The astringent properties can help kill acne-causing bacteria. Other ingredients, such as Aloe Vera and moisturizing agents, can help soothe the skin, prevent irritation, and calm redness. Those are all greatthings after hair has been shaved off.

Be careful when purchasing an aftershave.

"Aftershaves sometimes contain alcohol to help rid the skin of bacteria, but alcohol can be very harsh and drying for the skin," Batra says "This sometimes worsens irritation and causes skin to flake."

If you have sensitive skin, avoid aftershaves containing alcohol, and instead, look for products with witch hazel.

“Witch hazel is a natural astringent that is less drying and doesn’t sting like alcohol. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory to soothe irritated skin," Batra says.

Another option is an aftershave with tea tree oil which, just like witch hazel, is a natural astringent and has antiseptic properties.

"You can also look for Aloe Vera to help soothe irritated skin," Batra advises. "For dry skin that needs extra moisture, look for aftershaves with vitamin E or another moisturizing oil."

Batra recommends Humphrey’s Witch Hazel Astringent, Thayers Witch Hazel Original Facial Toner, and Now Foods Tea Tree Oil, as they all use natural ingredients.

Gelbert prefers Mënaji Power Hydrator Aftershave, which he uses for most male skin types as it’s soothing and hydrating on the skin.

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