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Aftershave Lotion vs Aftershave Balm: Which Should You Use?

Shaving can be pretty rough on the skin, but a good aftershave product can solve a lot of issues. If you’re not sure what kind of product to choose, this aftershave lotion vs aftershave balm comparison will clarify the differences. 

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What Is An Aftershave Lotion?

Aftershave lotion is one of the most confusing terms, in large part because the word lotion means different things in different countries. 

Aftershave Lotion – Liquid

A lot of popular aftershave brands like Proraso hail from Europe, where the word lotion often refers to liquids. 

If an aftershave lotion is a liquid, it’s basically just an aftershave splash, which is alcohol-based and laden with fragrance. In some cases, an aftershave lotion may include a little less alcohol than a splash, but not always. 

These types of aftershaves have a strong bracing and cooling effect, and they’ll also sting areas where your shave was a little too aggressive. They can double as a light cologne, but they don’t have a lot of benefits to the skin.  

They’re often recommended for their ability to constrict the skin since the warm water from shaving can dilate the pores. This constricting effect may help temporarily with redness and minor irritation, although sometimes the fragrance ingredients can do the reverse, and make the skin more irritated. 

Aftershave Lotion – Cream 

To us US Americans, a lotion is a cream with a lightweight texture. The world lotion is sometimes interchangeable with cream, but generally, lotions have more water and a runnier texture. They’re hydrating and soothing, but they’re not greasy the way balms can be. In other cases, though, brands use “lotion” and “balm” interchangeably. 

For most of this post, I’ll focus on liquid aftershave lotions, since cream-based ones are extremely similar to balms. 

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Aftershave Lotions?

Should you use an aftershave lotion? These are the pros and cons to consider. 


  • The bracing, cooling effect of alcohol and menthol can help you pinpoint any errors in your shaving or areas where you were too aggressive. 
  • Their formula is similar to a light cologne, so they can double as a fragrance. 
  • Some liquid aftershave lotions can have a constricting effect that temporarily tightens pores and reduces redness. 


  • Liquid aftershave lotions can be drying and irritating, and they’re not suitable for men with sensitive skin. 
  • Contrary to popular belief, liquid aftershave lotions don’t really offer any significant or lasting benefits to the skin. 
  • The word “lotion” isn’t used consistently across brands, so researching products can be confusing. 

What Is An Aftershave Balm?

Aftershave balms are starting to be popular, and I think it’s excellent news. These are creams formulated to moisturize, strengthen, and soothe the skin after shaving.

Aftershave balms could be considered a type of moisturizer. They’re made with ingredients that help the skin retain water, so they help prevent dryness after shaving. In many cases, they also contain ingredients that fortify the skin barrier or that have soothing effects, to prevent post-shave irritation. 

The word balm implies a product that’s thicker than a cream or lotion, but actual textures vary widely from brand to brand. You can find thick and greasy balms, light and fluid balms (basically the American definition of lotion), and even modern silicone-y balms that keep the skin looking matte. 

An aftershave balm can also include essential oils or fragrance compounds, to provide a clean or masculine scent after the shave. If you use an aftershave balm with menthol or peppermint oil, it’ll also have a cooling effect similar to an aftershave lotion, but a little gentler. Men with sensitive skin will probably get better results from a fragrance-free aftershave balm. 

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Aftershave Balms?

There’s a lot to love about aftershave balms, but there are also some drawbacks to keep in mind. 


  • Aftershave balms do an excellent job of soothing the skin and calming down irritation after shaving. 
  • Skin that’s been moisturized skin with a balm acts as a better barrier, to prevent irritation or skin infection post-shaving. 
  • There is a very large range of formulas out there to suit all skin types and personal preferences. 


  • Some men just don’t like the texture of creamy products like aftershave balms. 
  • Depending on the formula and your skin type, some aftershave balms can cause breakouts. You can avoid this by choosing a non-comedogenic formula, though. 

Aftershave Lotion vs Aftershave Balm: Final Verdict

If I haven’t managed to clue you in yet, I think aftershave balms are the clear winners in this aftershave lotion vs aftershave balm showdown. 

Not to be too anti-aftershave lotion or splash – they can be an awesome cologne alternative or part of your fragrance layering process. And I know that some men love that mentholated shock to their system after shaving. 

My issue is that the whole notion that liquid aftershave lotions are good for your skin after shaving is really dated. It’s not in line with what we know about the skin’s healing process. Even if you have really strong, oily skin, you’re not doing it any favors by loading it up with alcohol and fragrance when you’ve just finished quite literally scraping it. For men with sensitive skin, it can be downright disastrous. 

Aftershave balms (and cream-based aftershave lotions), on the other hand, can actually help repair the skin, which is what most men need after a shave. They restore the skin barrier, prevent moisture loss, and will usually include soothing ingredients that can tame razor burn

Don’t throw out your liquid aftershave lotion – just start thinking about it more like cologne, and pick up an aftershave balm for when you need something that’ll actually help your skin.

Miles is a professional men's grooming analyst who believes that to look good a man just needs to take good care of himself. He’s all about wet shaving, sustainability, and evidence-based grooming - an obsession he’s ready to share. Miles is known for his in-depth analysis of men's grooming products, brands, and best practices you can't find anywhere else.