Aftershave was originally created as an alcohol-based antiseptic for disinfecting the little nicks and cuts you can get from shaving. But while alcohol does a good job of preventing infection, it tends to be very drying on skin, and splashing it on freshly shaved skin can really burn. Luckily, aftershaves have evolved a lot over the years. Depending on your skin and facial-hair type, you now have your pick of cooling gels, soothing balms, and refreshing liquids that disinfect as well as hydrate, exfoliate, and tone skin — many of which are alcohol-free and actually feel good going on. According to Dr. Anna Guanche, dermatologist and founder of Bella Skin Institute, the best aftershave for you depends on your particular skin type. “Everyone’s skin is different and will react and respond to different types of aftershaves,” she says.
With that in mind, we asked 13 dermatologists and grooming experts to weigh in on the best aftershaves for a range of skin types — whether you’re prone to dryness, razor burn, acne and ingrown hairs, or just want to maintain a healthy glow.
Best aftershave for sensitive skin
Dr. Nikhil Dhingra of Spring Street Dermatology in New York says that moisturizing after shaving is “quite possibly the most critical step in post-shave care.” When you shave, he says, you’re stripping the skin of its natural oils. So if you don’t add any moisture back in, your skin is far more likely to feel uncomfortable after shaving, potentially leading to ingrown hairs, dryness, and razor burn. It’s no surprise then, that this alcohol-free soothing balm was recommended by six out of the 13 experts we talked to and more often than any other product.
Dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse says that people with sensitive skin should avoid alcohol-based formulas that can dry out the skin, plus fragrances and irritants like menthol and lemon oil, which can cause breakouts and redness. Dr. Erum Ilyas, of Montgomery Dermatology, gives Nivea Post Shave balm top marks for its hydrating and soothing vitamin E.
Dermatologist Bruce Robinson, Dr. Michele Green, Dr. Shari Sperling, and barber Mansour Smaini of Epic Barber Shop in NYC also like Nivea’s post-shave balm for its moisturizing formula that’s free of chemicals and alcohol. Robinson says the bigger brand name means you’re getting a product that has had plenty of research baked into it. “I think they nailed it on this one,” he says.
Best aftershave for oily or acne-prone skin
Though alcohol-based formulas can be overly drying for many skin types, they are helpful for oilier skin types that want to reduce shine and grease. The goal here is to avoid any potentially pore-clogging ingredients like coconut oil or cocoa butter, dermatologist David Lortscher says.
Elle Medico, men’s grooming expert at Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa, and dermatologist Samer Jaber also mentioned this tried-and-true liquid aftershave from Italian brand Proraso. Jaber says it’s gentle enough to use every day, and Medico says it’s easy to find in any drugstore and great for closing the pores and making the skin look tight and fresh. If the astringent effect of this is a little too intense for you, Medico recommends putting some of it on a washcloth and diluting it with a touch of water before applying to the skin. “Each product is made for a specific skin type,” she says, “but may not be made specifically for your individual skin. So you might have to adjust the amount you use, especially with those that contain alcohol and witch hazel.”
Best aftershave for razor burn
If a post-shave burn is your gripe, you might want to seek out an aftershave with skin soothers like aloe and chamomile. Sperling, Lortscher, and grooming expert Laurent DeLouya of La Boîte a Coupe suggest Jack Black’s Post Shave Cooling Gel for its blend of botanicals like bacteria-fighting lavender, plus aloe and chamomile for calming irritation. Sperling also points out that it’s alcohol-free so it won’t dry out or irritate your skin.
Best aftershaves for dry skin
This Art of Shaving Balm is a favorite of both Sperling and cosmetic dermatologic surgeon Howard Sobel, since it contains skin-plumping shea butter and essential oils, and no alcohol. Shea butter is a superhero when it comes to moisturizing dry skin (and we think it feels a little more luxurious, too).
The added shea butter in this L’Occitane shave balm is why Jaber recommends it as a moisturizing option for people with drier skin. It also has a blend of anti-inflammatory and antiseptic essential oils that will soothe and cleanse your skin.
Best post-shave regimen for aging skin
When it comes to aging skin, Dhingra says you may need to amp things up with more than one product — think layering. “Your skin dries out as you get older and that dryness may set you up for inflammation after shaving, so search for ingredients like niacinamide and ceramides,” says Dhingra, who recommends starting your post-shave routine with this soothing anti-inflammatory tonic from Fellow Barber with cooling eucalyptus, arnica, which decreases inflammation, and skin-brightening vitamin C.
For added moisture, and to keep thirsty skin from feeling uncomfortably tight, Dhingra recommends upgrading your regular moisturizer to a more nourishing cream. “La Roche Posay’s Double Repair cream is a great non-clogging product with anti-inflammatory niacinamide and hydrating glycerin and ceramides,” he says
Though aftershave and moisturizer are important, Ilyas points out that the most important grooming step for older skin is applying sunblock on a regular basis — especially after shaving when skin is at its most vulnerable. “I routinely see patients who have a spot in their beard area that they assume is an ingrown hair that won’t heal but it turns out to be a basal cell skin cancer or squamous cell carcinoma,” says Ilyas. When we asked dermatologists about the best sunscreens for the face recently, Patricia Wexler of Wexler Dermatology and four others pointed us to the above EltaMD UV Clear. Her patients love it because it doesn’t feel greasy, plus it’s fragrance-free and noncomedogenic. Wexler also says it’s especially effective because it’s rich in antioxidants that help protect against skin-damaging free radicals.
Best organic aftershave
Field Works Face of Danger it’s great for people who might have reactions to harsh or artificial ingredients, because it’s made with all-natural and organic ingredients. Medico recommends it because of its witch hazel to close pores and disinfect, aloe vera to soothe raw skin, plant-based oils, and bentonite clay, which is known to pull toxins out of your skin while locking moisture in.
To prevent and treat ingrown hairs
According to Ilyas, washing with an antibacterial soap and changing your razors routinely to avoid bacteria from building up around hair follicles, nicks, or cuts can help prevent ingrown hairs. But if you already have one (or a few) Tend Skin Solution comes recommended by two of our experts. Jaber describes it as soothing and calming for skin, and it has acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) to help exfoliate and decrease skin irritation. Green says it’s a tried-and-true treatment for ingrown hairs that’s been around for a long time. “It’s the original,” she says, noting that both men and women have had success using it for years.
Ingrown hairs are caused by dead skin clogging up a hair follicle and trapping hair beneath the skin, so it’s important to exfoliate regularly. Lortscher says this Aqua Velva balm is both moisturizing (with added jojoba and mineral oil) and exfoliating. “It contains salicylic acid, which provides gentle exfoliation to help prevent ingrown hairs,” he says. Incidentally, the salicylic acid would also help someone who’s acne-prone.