10 best after-shave products
Quell the itch and banish razor burn with one of these soothing bathroom essentials
A lot of men these days just don’t go for the vigorous, abrasive, slap-it-all-over school of aftershave immortalised in 1960s advertising.
The gentler version, an after-shave balm, lotion or cream, is just as soothing as it sounds, and often the way to go. These tend to suit every skin type and have moisturising benefits as well. Indeed, they often serve as a gateway into men’s skincare for those new to the concept.
Tender, post-shave skin is something men of all ages increasingly aspire to: our testers ranged from their twenties to their seventies. All found the products we feature here good for ameliorating that fiery feeling that comes when a perfect shave has brought the razor blades too close for comfort.
All the different types of products we’ve tested here have very much the same purpose in the post-shave scenario: calming and moisturising skin that has been aggravated by shaving, dealing with resulting problems such as rashes, itching, redness and burning, all described by various members of our panel.
Our testers had a number of different skin types, so our list will appeal to normal, dry, sensitive and averagely oily skins right. Products were tried for a couple of weeks, looking for how effective they were at banishing the post-shave issues, as well as ease of use, packaging and any additional skincare benefits.
Balms provide a very good one-stop-shop for men who don’t want to get too involved in a skincare regime, as they tend to be moisturising and protective – though they do not do away with the need for sunscreen and helping avoid premature ageing and wrinkles. They tend to be very pleasantly fragranced, but if you want something noticeable you would probably need an aftershave lotion or eau de cologne as well.
Aesop Moroccan Neroli Post-Shave Lotion, 60ml: £35, Liberty
Our tester was keen on the clean and understated packaging of this brand. He liked using the product, which has a base of sandalwood, like most traditional shaving products, made interesting with unusual spicy notes, which is subtle but does last well. The product, which is often sold in tandem with the shaving serum in the same range, is a lotion with a similar consistency to thick single cream, so he found it easy to apply. It was quickly absorbed, didn’t leave his face feeling oily and left no residue on his skin. As someone with sensitive skin, he said found it a bonus that was not at all astringent and really felt soothing, easing irritation with its carefully selected botanical oils that, as promised, have a very pacifying effect on the skin.
Terre d'Hermes, 100ml: £50, Harrods
Our tester, who is in his forties and has used the same after-shave for years, is now an enthusiastic convert to this balm. He has sensitive skin, prone to occasional bouts of eczema, and finds the balm soothing and quickly absorbed, leaving an oil-free softness, which bodes well for vanquishing his skin problems. It has a very attractive – indeed, award-winning – light perfume of orange and grapefruit with a woody base note of cedar and vetiver. Also, the bottle looks good in the bathroom: square and solid with a definite masculine feel.
Bulldog Sensitive aftershave balm, 100ml: £5.50, Feel Unique
This is designed especially for men with the kind of extra-sensitive skin that manifests itself as redness and tightness post-shave. It has a mild and nourishing fragrance-free formulation containing baobab, oat oil and willow herb, which might account for the faint and far-from-unpleasant vanilla-ish smell our tester detected, though it didn’t linger. He used it instead of moisturiser (which, in common with all our younger testers, he has no fear of) and found it very soothing, and helpful with a bit of shaving rash. A little went a long way, which, when considering the price, made it an extremely good-value buy. It had good absorbency leaving no residue, and also what he perceived as an energising effect on his skin.
Acqua di Parma Colonia Pura Balsamo Dopobarba Balm, 100ml: £49, John Lewis
This looks and smells wonderful, the only problem is that, with no pump dispenser, it is quite hard to get it out of the bottle (think tomato ketchup). Our tester felt that Balsamo Dopobarba sounded much more interesting than after-shave balm, and it certainly did the trick, soothing to any feeling of itchy burn, which he often experiences after a wet shave, despite having what he describes as tough, normal skin. The subtle scent of citrus fruits stayed with him for most of the day, obviating any need for further perfuming (somewhat to his relief).
ClarinsMen After Shave Soother, 75ml: £23.50, Harrods
This is a light cream that applies easily, leaving the skin feeling relaxed and soft. The non-oily, alcohol-free balm is comforting on “razor-stressed” skin and dries quickly, leaving no traces on the face. The fragrance is discreet with sweet floral notes, from the purslane or blue alpine thistle it contains. Out tester did find it splendidly soothing on his skin, which can be prone to redness and irritation as well as the dreaded razor burn.
Elemis SOS Emergency Cream, 50ml: £47: Elemis
The SOS Survival Cream is a daily moisturiser, so nourishing that it is recommended for use as an aftershave balm. Our tester liked this product very much, and is making it a permanent feature of his routine. He found it a bit thicker than anything that he had tried before, but the pump action made it easy to get out of the bottle. It is designed to seal in moisture while leaving a protective barrier that is slowly absorbed over the course of the day, and he found that it stayed moist on his face for longer than he would have expected, without seeming at all oily. The smell was pleasant but slight, not strongly redolent of the lavender, willow bark and myrrh that feature in the ingredients. It was very soothing.
Creed Aventus aftershave moisturiser, 75ml: £85, Selfridges
House of Creed began in London in 1760, predominantly involved in tailoring, and moved to Paris in 1854. Aventus was launched to celebrate its 250th anniversary. It is a veritable fruit salad of blackcurrant and bergamot top notes, blended with apples, pineapple, rose, jasmine blossom and oak moss. This is a moisturising after-shave balm that, our tester was pleased to report, delivers a soothing effect after a shave. The rich, creamy product goes on very smoothly, has a genuinely calming effect on the cheeks, and it smells great.
Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme Soothing aftershave balm, 100ml: £37.50, Feel Unique
After a seriously thorough shave our tester applied this balm and found that it immediately took the edge off the itchiness of his sensitive skin. It contains ingredients designed to promote optimum hydration and he felt that his skin benefited from this moisturisation as the balm went on smoothly and sank in very quickly. He loved the slim, translucent bottle and the fresh, clean, subtle smell, which is a cocktail of bergamot, lemon, tarragon and, intriguingly, yuzu.
Sisley Sisleyum for anti-age ‘global revitalisant’, 50ml: £179, John Lewis
In developing Sisleyum, Sisley was aiming for a one-stop revitalising aftershave product designed specifically for men’s skin to deal with the effects of ageing, oily or acidic and reddening skin, and frequent attacks of irritation caused by daily shaving. Our tester, in his early seventies is a fan of this multi-faceted approach to skincare and found the cream easy on the skin, quickly absorbed leaving no uncomfortable wetness on the face, giving a fresh, smooth feel, soothing the razor burn. The subtle, light minty smell lingers long after application, neither too dominant nor completely absent. Not cheap, but he felt that as a “first-class” product that leaves the face rejuvenated as well, you are getting your money’s worth.
Origins for Men Fire Fighter, 50ml: £20, Boots
Our tester, aged 27 and with slightly oily skin, really challenged the claim to take the burn out of shaving, as he went in with three days’ stubble to discard. He was pleasantly surprised by how well this lotion took the sting out, as promised, absorbing quickly and leaving his skin feeling firm but soothed, with a herbal-smelling mix of chamomile and cucumber, adding eucalyptus and peppermint to give it the zing and keep the oiliness under control. He found the packaging wholesome enough for any self-respecting chap to have on the bathroom shelf and will keep using it, as it was effective and good value as well as being hypoallergenic, alcohol free and suitable for all skin types.
Aesop got top marks among the younger testers for an effective, soothing product, while the older chaps particularly liked the clean-smelling Terre d’Hermes, and everyone thought that Bulldog represented extremely good value.
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