After Shave Lotion VS Balm: Compared

After Shave Lotion VS Balm: Compared

By Daniel Broadley

After Shave Lotion VS Balm: Compared

Aftershave lotion and aftershave balm can be a bit confusing to navigate. They’re sold right next to each other, and they couldn’t possibly be anymore different. Perhaps it’s the names of the products that often mislead consumers into believing they need one or the other. They’re certainly not interchangeable. In fact, one of them is most likely bad for you. 

Understanding these products, their ingredients, and what kind of formulas you should be looking for will help you choose a post-shave product that will work well for your skin. If you frequently deal with irritation, razor bumps, or dry skin, you’ll definitely want to know your options for remedying the issue. 

What is Aftershave Lotion?

Think of a lotion. It’s something creamy and lubricating that comes from a pump. You need to rub it into your skin to make it work. After it’s well worked in, it leaves you skin soft and eliminates dry patches. Aftershave lotion is in no way, shape, or form, a lotion. It has almost nothing in common with lotion. In fact, it does the exact opposite of what lotion does. 

Aftershave lotion is actually more like a toner or an astringent. It contains a substantial amount of alcohol (or witch hazel), and it’s very drying on the skin. Alcohol kills bacteria on the surface of the skin, which may prevent small cuts and nicks from becoming infected. Alcohol will burn and sting on broken or irritated skin while it’s working, and this burning sensation isn’t an indicator that the product is doing something beneficial. 

Aftershave lotion often contains some kind of an artificial fragrance. Fragrance from artificial sources is commonly regarded as a skin irritant. It doesn’t serve any purpose in treating your skin, and the fragrance won’t stick around for long. It causes unnecessary dryness or redness that is better off entirely avoided. 

The logic behind disinfecting any cuts and scrapes after you shave might seem reasonable. Aftershave lotion may not be the best way to do that. If you’re shaving a clean face with a clean razor, there’s no reason to slather your entire face in alcohol. Instead, a small tab of antibacterial ointment right where you need it will get the job done.

What is Aftershave Balm?

Aftershave balm is the product with the lotion type consistency you’re probably expecting. It’s a thicker formulation, usually made without alcohol or witch hazel. A good aftershave balm will contain natural skin soothing ingredients, like vitamin E and plant extracts, to moisturize and treat your skin after you shave.

Some aftershave balm contains fragrance. If you don’t have especially sensitive skin, this may not bother you. Even if your skin is tough, you might want to err on the side of caution and avoid any face products that contain ingredients that may potentially irritate your skin. 

Some aftershave balms will contain active botanicals in conjunction with moisturizing ingredients. Things like tea tree oil can help to gently disinfect any cuts or wounds on the surface of the skin after shaving without irritating the skin further or drying it out. If the sanitizing factor is important for you, keep your eye out for that ingredient. 

If you’re a morning shaver, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for aftershave balm with SPF. Your skin is more sensitive after you shave, meaning it's more prone to experience adverse effects from sun exposure. If you can find a product that rolls sun protection and skin soothing benefits into one, your morning routine will be a lot easier. Just rub it in and you’re ready to go. 

Which One Do I Need?

You almost always need aftershave balm, rather than aftershave lotion. There’s no need to use something so harsh and drying on your face, especially after you’ve taken a razor to the surface of your skin. There isn’t anyone who would really benefit from such an aggressive approach to post-shave care. If you’re using an aftershave lotion, toss it out. It’s not doing you any favors.

Some people use aftershave lotion because they find it helps them to manage oily skin, but these effects are only temporary. When you feel like an oil slick and you’re seeing breakouts or ingrown hairs around your beard, your first inclination is probably to get the oil off of your skin as fast as possible. An aftershave lotion will do that, but it's merely providing short term relief that will translate to greater problems later on.

Oily skin is often attributed to an overproduction of sebum, a waxy oily substance your skin creates to protect itself. Sebum acts as a barrier between the skin and free radicals of the world. You need a little bit to protect your skin. It’s only problematic when you create too much. If your skin is prone to overproducing it, stripping your skin of its sebum barrier completely will only encourage your skin to produce an excess. It wants to replace what it lost.

Using a gentle toner on your face won’t completely strip the sebum. You’ll have enough left to maintain good skin texture and moisture without sending your body the message to produce more than necessary. It might take a while for your skin to rebalance itself once you stop using aftershave lotion, but once it does, your skin will be easier to maintain. You might even find that you break out less. 

Can I Use Something Else?

Aftershave balm is a simplified solution, but it’s not the only thing you can use to take care of your skin post-shave. You can use a few drops of tea tree oil followed by a rich moisturizer to keep your skin smooth and healthy after you shave. Finding the right combination of products may require a little more work than picking up a preformulated aftershave, but you’re more likely to get better results when every ingredient is targeted to your concerns.

Tea tree oil and coconut oil are both natural antibacterial ingredients. Tea tree oil won’t provide much moisture, making it a better balancing alternative for oilier skin types. Coconut oil will provide moisture while it’s naturally fighting bacteria. If you find that your skin is tough or that you develop flakes in your beard, give coconut oil a shot. 

Using any type of skin soothing moisturizer is ultimately better than using nothing at all. If you don’t have an aftershave balm and you don’t want to use oils on your face, any fragrance free moisturizer that’s safe for sensitive skin will provide you with benefits.

If you’re under a dermatologist’s care for a skin condition like acne, psoriasis, or rosacea, he or she will probably recommend a specific product to use after you shave. Medicated creams and ointments can sometimes interact negatively with aftershave products. Ask your dermatologist what you should be using and follow those instructions.


Although aftershave lotion is a popular product that many people use, it’s probably not doing your skin any favors. As medical science improves, skincare companies are constantly producing innovations that are better and more effective. Aftershave lotion doesn’t have much of a place in a healthy skincare routine. 

Switching to an aftershave balm or using an alternative moisturizer after you shave will do more to improve and maintain the health of your skin. A great shave starts with great skin.

You can set yourself up for success by using the right products, and LTHR can help. Our Hot Lather Machine puts irritation and nicks to rest, giving you that barbershop quality hot lather shave right in the comfort of your own home. Interested in finding out a little more about hot lather shaving? Click here