- Don’t let your aftershave be an afterthought. Lucky Tiger’s post-shave tonic is our top pick because it soothes your face, tones your skin, and prevents irritation. Its gentle alcohol-free formula works beautifully for all skin types so you don’t feel the burn.
Your choice of aftershave is one of the most important parts of building your wet shaving kit, but it’s also easily the most subjective. Quality is very cut and dry when it comes to safety razors and shaving brushes, and while there is certainly a standard when it comes to grading a particular aftershave, what you put on your face after a shave largely boils down to preference and skin type.
The basic purpose of your aftershave is three-fold: To soothe your skin and ward off irritation after dragging a sharp razor across your face, to kill bacteria and prevent infections if you nicked yourself while shaving, and to make you smell nice — all without leaving your skin dry or oily. The choice of fragrance is, admittedly, the least important consideration, although it’s perhaps the most enjoyable. A good aftershave should also help to prevent the dreaded post-shave breakout by closing up your exfoliated pores.
Aftershaves generally come in either liquid or cream form. Creams, or balms, are designed to moisturize your skin and prevent or relieve irritation, so they’re ideal for men with sensitive and/or dry complexions. Liquid aftershave tonics are typically made to tone skin and close up pores and are a good choice for guys with naturally oily skin. Of course, any good aftershave, whether a balm or tonic, will do all of this to some degree, but which kind you want comes down to your preferences and how your skin behaves.
As with shaving soaps, it’s a great idea to try a few post-shave tonics and balms to see what you like and what feels best on your face. We’ve picked out five of the best ones to suit a variety of preferences and skin types. Our recommendations offer something for everyone, from post-shave balms that soothe sensitive skin to old-school barbershop aftershaves that’ll have you smelling just like grandpa did when he was wooing grandma.
Here are the best aftershaves you can buy:
- Best overall aftershave: Lucky Tiger Post-Shave Tonic
- Best aftershave balm: Nivea Shave Balm
- Best natural aftershave: Thayers Toner
- Best old-school aftershave: Clubman Aftershave
- Best aftershave to pair with soap: Proraso Tonic and Proraso Balm
Updated on 10/28/2019 by Amir Ismael: Updated links, prices, and formatting.
The best aftershave overall
Lucky Tiger’s aftershave uses natural anti-inflammatory agents to make a gentle formula that’s free of alcohol and parabens, smells of citrus, and calms your skin.
If you want to shoot straight for “the best,” then a good alcohol-free post-shave tonic hits the sweet spot between traditional aftershaves and balms. An alcohol-free tonic will prevent irritation and razor burn, making it suitable for those with sensitive skin, while the liquid formula is more ideal than creamy balms for guys with naturally oily complexions.
Lucky Tiger was our top pick for the best aftershave in our shaving kit guide, owing to its great soothing properties and fresh but not overbearing citrus fragrance. The gentle formula contains witch hazel and aloe vera for natural, skin-friendly relief from irritation and inflammation, putting it above traditional alcohol-based tonics which often have a tendency to burn and dry you out.
Other natural ingredients that Lucky Tiger uses to cool and calm down skin include chamomile, calendula, and borage oil, which all work together to relieve inflammation and lock in moisture without leaving your face feeling greasy. The formula is not 100% natural, but the natural ingredients it does contain are very effective and the aftershave is completely free of alcohol and parabens.
As a brand, Lucky Tiger is well-established, having been around since the 1920s. It was among the first alcohol-free liquid formulas available, setting it apart from other alcohol-based barbershop staples like Pinaud Clubman. The mild citrus fragrance is refreshing and pleasant, but don’t expect it to stick around for a while.
The Lucky Tiger aftershave comes in a generous 8-ounce bottle which, while plastic instead of glass, boasts a cool vintage aesthetic that hasn’t changed much since the formula hit the shelves in 1935.
At $13, this tonic is a great value, too, and should last you a long while. Whether you’re looking for “the one” or just want to pick a good first tonic to try before sampling some other, Lucky Tiger is easily the best aftershave to start with.
Pros: Comes in a generous 8-ounce bottle, contains witch hazel and aloe for excellent relief from inflammation and irritation, a gentle formula that’s free of alcohol and parabens, works well with virtually all skin types, and has a pleasant fresh citrus scent that isn’t overbearing
Cons: The scent is mild and doesn’t last very long
The best aftershave balm for sensitive skin
Say goodbye to redness and irritation with Nivea Men’s post-shave balm, which soothes, refreshes, and moisturizes your skin to leave a pleasant, tingly, cooling sensation.
Unless you’re rocking a full beard, shaving is a necessity that most men have to deal with. It’s not a problem for a lot of guys, but plenty of others quickly discover once they start shaving that their skin is sensitive and prone to redness, bumps, and general irritation that can sully what should be an enjoyable manly ritual. This is particularly common for guys with fair complexions.
And while wet shaving with a good safety or straight razor is itself a great step towards getting a smoother, more precise shave with less irritation, you’re still using a sharp blade on your skin which will at some point cause some problems. Shavers who struggle with this should consider ditching liquid aftershaves (especially alcohol-based formulas) and opt instead for a good creamy cooling balm like this excellent example from Nivea Men.
The Nivea Men balm has been our favorite aftershave for sensitive skin for a while, and it remains popular among the many men who have suffered from frequent razor burn. The aftershave cream is completely alcohol-free and contains natural ingredients like chamomile, seaweed extracts, and vitamin E that help to soothe and moisturize skin.
Nivea Men offers its balm in two formulas, and this particular one features additional agents that deliver a very pleasant and tingly cooling sensation. It feels great and offers a bit of extra protection against the inflammation that often accompanies your shaving routine, although it is noticeably milder than menthol-based aftershaves like those from Proraso, which may or may not be a good thing depending on what you like. It’s a good value, too, at $16 for a three-pack of 3.5-ounce bottles.
Pros: Gentle alcohol-free formula that soothes and moisturizes, doesn’t make your face dry or oily, and provides a pleasant and refreshing cooling sensation on the skin
Cons: The creamy formula is less ideal for guys with naturally oily skin, and the cooling sensation is somewhat mild compared to menthol-based balms like Proraso’s
The best natural aftershave
If you want to go au naturale, then you can’t beat the soothing and antiseptic properties of witch hazel, the main ingredient in Thayers renowned face toner.
If you’re at all familiar with skin care, then you’re likely no stranger to witch hazel. This North American herbal extract has been a staple of organic cosmetic products for centuries, prized for its natural ability to treat skin inflammation while featuring additional anti-bacterial properties, and it still remains a hugely popular natural alternative to synthetic topical solutions and antiseptics.
Although witch hazel is cheap and undeniably effective, it doesn’t smell particularly nice. The Thayers face tonic is a great alternative to plain witch hazel, as it contains some additional ingredients that give it a pleasant fragrance while making it even more suited for use as an aftershave. Thayers is a historic 19th-century American brand that offers a number of all-natural facial tonics and skin toners, but with the additions of natural ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E that work in conjunction with the witch hazel to refresh and soothe inflamed skin.
We named Thayers our favorite natural face toner before, and although it’s not explicitly advertised as an “aftershave,” many men have nonetheless added this great formula to their wet shaving shelf. This is due to its all-natural ingredients and its undeniable effectiveness. After all, the purpose of a face toner is to clean the skin, close up pores, and soothe irritation, which is exactly what an aftershave should do, and Thayers checks all the boxes.
Thayers offers its face toner in four different formulas. Our favorite of these contains additional rose water, which provides a nice fragrance while offering some additional skin-soothing effects along with the witch hazel. Thayers is completely free of alcohol, humectants, and parabens as well, and at $9 for a big 12-ounce bottle, it’s arguably the best value of all of our top picks.
Pros: All-natural ingredients (with no alcohol, humectants, or parabens), witch hazel and aloe vera provide excellent anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, the rose water offers a pleasant fragrance, and it’s an incredible value for a large 12-ounce bottle
Cons: Lacks the traditional masculine fragrances generally found in other aftershaves
The best old-school, barbershop-style aftershave
A classic and unrivaled barbershop-style fragrance makes Pinaud Clubman aftershave as unique as it is timeless.
One axiom you’ll hear a lot regarding aftershaves is to avoid ones that are alcohol-based. I mostly agree — with one caveat. I admit, against all advice, I remain an avid fan of old-school aftershaves, alcohol be damned. My all-time favorite is Pinaud Clubman, and the reasons are simple: I love the classic barbershop fragrance and, when used in conjunction with a shave balm — that’s the caveat — it doesn’t burn too badly or dry out my face.
First, some history: Why, exactly, are many aftershaves made with alcohol despite the modern conventional wisdom that cautions against it? The answer is found in the barbershops of old. Aftershaves originally contained alcohol as a sterilizing agent, as these were used by barbers as post-shave antiseptics to clean the faces of patrons and prevent infections. It’s no surprise then that old-school aftershaves contain alcohol, although non-alcoholic formulas have become increasingly popular.
The alcohol in these tonics is what’s responsible for the popular notion that aftershave hurts (cue the famous scene from Home Alone). This isn’t without some truth, as putting alcohol on your skin after dragging a razor across it can indeed burn a bit. Plus, alcohol can dry out your skin and does little to ward off irritation.
Here’s what I do to solve this: After shaving, I apply Proraso’s menthol post-shave balm. Then I clean up my shaving gear and put everything away, giving the balm a few minutes to soothe and cool my face. After I’m finished, the last thing I do is apply a splash of Clubman. The Proraso balm soothes my face, prevents the Clubman from burning too much, and keeps the alcohol from drying out my skin, while the Clubman keeps the creamy balm from leaving my skin too oily (and it smells fantastic, of course).
Clubman offers many fragrances, including some new ones that I’ve yet to try. I have used four of these, however: The original formula, a masculine barbershop aroma with background floral and citrus notes; Special Reserve, a warm, musky scent that’s perfect for fall and winter; Musk, which strikes a balance between the original and Special Reserve; and Bay Rum, which, to my nose, smells like clove.
Pros: Available in a number of great-smelling masculine fragrances, timeless barbershop aroma (for the popular classic formula), great value for a large six-ounce bottle, tones and cleans the face, and can do double duty as a cologne
Cons: The formula contains alcohol and works best in conjunction with a soothing post-shave balm to avoid dryness and burning
The best aftershave to pair with soap
I’m a huge fan of Proraso soaps, and we’ve recommended them in our roundups before. Yet this historic Italian brand does more than whip up an excellent lather: Proraso also offers a great lineup of post-shave tonics and balms that pair beautifully with its shaving creams and soaps.
Proraso offers a few different hard and soft soaps, but its two most popular are by far the menthol and sandalwood formulas. I mentioned in our shaving soap guide that I’ve been using these as my workhorse soaps for years, putting a dollop of menthol cream on top of my Proraso soap for a super-rich, creamy lather. And, as I stated in the Clubman review, I follow up with a dab of Proraso menthol shave balm before applying a splash of aftershave.
I have sensitive skin, which is one of the main reasons I love Proraso products — especially the menthol and eucalyptus formulas, which cool my skin and feel amazing both during and after wet shaving. The menthol balm is great for this, but Proraso also offers liquid aftershaves that are equally as satisfying. These paraben-free formulas are made with witch hazel to relieve and prevent irritation and redness the natural way, while shea butter keeps your skin from drying out.
These splashes are available in both menthol and sandalwood fragrances, so you can pick whichever one matches your soaps. For my money, I’m sticking with the menthol, as the cooling sensation feels wonderful and wards off irritation on my sensitive complexion. It’s also noticeably more “punchy” than the Nivea Men cooling balm. The liquid tonics do contain alcohol (although users report that there is hardly any “burn” at all), but if you’ve got to go alcohol-free, the menthol balm is a great alternative.
Pros: Made in Italy, both formulas smell great, soothes and refreshes your skin, prevents razor burn extremely well (despite the alcohol content), paraben-free, comes in a nice glass bottle, and you can choose between balms or liquid tonics
Cons: The balm is unavailable in sandalwood, and it’s more expensive than our other picks
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