What do you do when your face is on fire just after you have finished shaving? If you are like my college roommate, Charles, you would put pieces of toilet paper on your cuts, which would get soaked in blood instantaneously.
Just like him, you would also wait for nicks to stop bleeding and then splash on his face Skin Bracer (Amazon) - the aptly named after shave he used to pick up from the Dollar Store for $1.99. The pain was unreal. It hurt me watching him massacre his face and then curing his wounds.
Ultra-sensitive skin is real and many of us have it. Fortunately, there are ways to put out the fire and look our best irritation-free.
The way you shave matters but what you put on your face after you've done the damage is equally crucial. Using the right aftershave balm makes all the difference. To help you pick the right aftershave, we've put together a list of the best aftershave balms for sensitive skin. While the guys with normal skin can finish off their routine with pretty much anything, those of us who are prone to irritation and redness need the right product to get the best results.
Types of Aftershaves
Mark from Sharpologist.com says that there two types of aftershaves: balms and splashes. Balms are thicker and provide more relief after shaving.
The aftershave splashes are liquid - usually a combination of a toner, water and alcohol with some astringents added to the mix. If you think of the traditional aftershaves, you'd think of splashes. The Skin Bracer my roommate, Charles, used was a splash and just like many other alcohol-based aftershaves, gave him the same sting Kevin from Home Alone experienced.
Not all splashes, however, are alcohol-based. There are many that use water and other ingredients (e.g. lavender essential oils) to calm the skin.
As Mark elaborates in a great article on the topic, what aftershave you pick depends on your skin type and where you live. If you have an oily skin and live in a warm climate, the splash option might work best for you. The drying effect of the alcohol will make your face less greasy and the won't clog up your pores (as a balm would) if you sweat in the hot weather.
If you have a sensitive skin and live in a dry climate, you would want something that helps you retain the moisture in your skin and soothes the burn after a shave. An aftershave balm for sensitive skin will be your best friend in this case.
In short, if you have a sensitive skin, stick with an aftershave balm - preferably one formulated for sensitive skin.
What to Look out for in an Aftershave Balm for Sensitive Skin
Not all balms are made equal. Despite their classification as a balm (hence, more appropriate for sensitive skin) many of them contain ingredients that can cause skin sensitivity and irritation.
If you want to pick something that works and doesn't feel like it is skinning you alive, pick any aftershave balm labeled "for sensitive skin". More often than not, you'll get something decent.
If you truly care about your skin and shaving routine, however, you'd want to dig a little deeper. The best aftershave balms for sensitive skin contain good amounts of one or more of the following ingredients:
- Aloe Vera - calms down irritated skin and cools down the burn;
- Chamomile Extract - helps the healing of skin burns and inflammation;
- Witch Hazel - reduces inflammation, cellular damage and heals wounds;
- Calendula - heals, soothes and softens the skin;
- Tea Tree Oil - it is an antiseptic that helps against infections;
- Vitamin E - an antioxidant that helps your skin look young and blemish-free;
- Avocado, Grapeseed, Jojoba, Apricot kernel, or Olive oil.
Knowing what to look for, however, is only half of the picture. Here are some of the ingredients you don't want to see in your aftershave balm:
- Parabens - they are preservatives used in cosmetics and skin care products, which in some cases may cause skin sensitivity, affect the endocrine system, and contribute to aging and skin damage when exposed to sun light. Research on the negative impact of parabens is not 100% conclusive but it is best to avoid them.
- lemon or citrus oils - these oils are phototoxic and may cause skin sensitivity and irritation when exposed to sunlight.
- alcohol - it dries out your skin and, therefore, aftershaves with heavy concentration of alcohol are not great, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- camphor - it can do miracles opening up your nose and sinuses but it can also be poisonous if it enters your blood stream. You can rub Vick's VapoRub all you want on your skin, just don't put it on your face after shaving.
What Makes a Great Aftershave Balm for Sensitive Skin?
The best aftershaves are more than the sum of their ingredients. They make your skin soft and smooth, and give you the confidence to take on the world.
The best aftershave balms check off the majority of the following boxes:
- absorb quickly and easily;
- heal and soothe your skin;
- moisturize your skin by keeping the moisture inside your skin, where it belongs;
- have secret superpowers: fight free radicals, wrinkles and heal irritation;
- smell great and make strangers want to snuggle with you.
How to Put It On
After you are done shaving, rinse your face with cold water. The cold will close your pores and also numb your skin.
Take a clean towel and tap your face dry. Don't wipe off your face with the towel. Wiping off will cause rubbing and irritate your skin even more.
Put a dime size of aftershave balm on the fingers of both hands.
Massage the balm into your face putting medium pressure and being more gentle with the areas that are especially painful or irritated. First, rub in the balm with the grain of the beard. If this motion feels okay, keep massaging the balm into your face making circular motions with and against the grain.
The 10 of the Best Aftershave Balms for Sensitive Skin
Now that we covered the basics, let's jump into the top 10 aftershave balms for sensitive skin. If you don't have time to sample a research, grab one of the aftershave balms on this list and you are set.
1. The Art of Shaving After-Shave Balm (Unscented)
The story has it The Art of Shaving came into existence as a result of the irritated skin of one of the founders. Eric Malka suffered from serious razor burns and skin irritation every time he shaved. To soothe his pain, Myriam Zaoui, Eric's then girlfriend and now wife, concocted a mix of oils for him to use prior to his shave. The results amazed Eric and soon the duo launched The Art of Shaving.
Even though Eric may not suffer from razor burns anymore, The Art of Shaving oils and aftershave balms continue to be formulated for guys with sensitive skin. The safest option from their line-up is the unscented version. It is formulated with shea butter and glycerin to replenish the natural moisture of the skin. Grape seed oil and essential oils help condition the skin and keep it vibrant and healthy.
The Art of Shaving aftershave balms come paraben-free and don't have any chemical additives.
2. Baxter of California After Shave Balm
Formulated with aloe vera, allantoin and tea tree oil, this aftershave balm does a great job at soothing any type of skin. A touch of menthol leaves your face breezy cool and ready to take on environmental assaults of the day.
The only down side of the Baxter of California After Shave Balm is that it contains parabens. If you want to steer clear of them, you're better off skipping this one.
This aftershave balm goes for just under $20, however, check Amazon for the latest prices.
3. Nivea Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm
In the case of this beast, going cheap doesn't mean compromising quality. Loaded with glycerin, chamomile, and vitamin E extract, the Nivea Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm is very effective at soothing razor burns and moisturizing your face. Apparently, it works so great as a moisturizer that some reviewers on Amazon recommend it as a primer before applying foundation.
I bet Nivea would have never dreamed of this unintended use. The smell of Nivea Men is subtle and the texture is light and easily absorbable. You can get a bottle for under $10 on Amazon or any drug store.
4. Proraso After Shave Balm for Sensitive Skin
When in doubt, go with Proraso. Celebrating its 90th anniversary, Proraso is anything but old. Its aftershave for sensitive skin is made with green tea and oatmeal extract. The green tea soothes irritations and acts as a natural antiseptic, while the oat extract moisturizes and leaves your skin soft. The light texture of this aftershave balm allows it to absorb quickly and does not clog your pores.
Proraso After Shave Balm for Sensitive Skin is formulated without parabens and goes for about $16 on Amazon. You can also find it most drug stores.
5. L'Occitane Cade After Shave Balm for Men
L'Occitane en Provance, or just L'Occitane, is a French skin care company whose products are built around herbs and botanical ingredients native to Provence, France. Their Cade aftershave balm is nothing short of luxurious. Built around shea butter, cade essential oil and rosemary, Cade soothes the skin and leaves on it a gentle herbal aroma scent.
Thanks to the shea butter, Cade's texture is thick. It works best on a dry skin and preferably in a cold weather. If you have oily skin, you may find Cade too thick, especially if you wear it in a warm and humid weather.
6. Castle Forbes Lavender After Shave Balm
If you are looking for high quality shaving products, Castle Forbes (Amazon) should be on your radar. Their Lavender After Shave Balm (Amazon) is one of the best on the market. The witch hazel in this bad boy closes your pores, while the aloe vera soothes any razor burns and irritation. The Lavender After Shave Balm is made with lavender essential oil, which gives it its great smell and also acts as an antiseptic.
The texture of the Castle Forbes aftershave balms is light and easily absorbable, which makes them appropriate for warm and humid weather.
Getting all this goodness in a bottle comes at a price. For $60 per 120ml bottle, Castle Forbes is one of the pricier aftershaves on the market. You can find it on Amazon or some high-end retailers catering to men.
7. Taylor of Old Bond Street After Shave Balm
Taylor of Old Bond Street is another classic brand that makes excellent quality products at a very reasonable price. Compared to its peers (Truefitt & Hill and Castle Forbes), Taylor of Old Bond Street is a true bargain. Their products are on par with the top luxury shaving brands but their prices are only a fraction.
The Taylor of Old Bond Street aftershave balm is no different. Fortified with witch hazel, chamomile extract and aloe vera, it is guaranteed to heal any signs of irritation and redness.
You can get it on Amazon for about $20. Taylor of Old Bond Street is also available at specialized men's grooming store and larger stores specializing in men's grooming.
8. Santa Maria Novella Emulsione Analcolica
If you think the name Santa Maria Novella is a long one, wait until you hear the full name of this centuries-old company: Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. The story has it that in 1221 Domenican friars arrived in Florence and built a monastery outside of the city gates. In between prayers, the brothers grew herbs and studied their healing properties. Originally intended for personal use, the balms and healing potions the monks created gained popularity and in 1612 Brother Antonio Marchisi opened the monastery's pharmacy to the public.
Subsequently, Santa Maria Novella gained popularity among the local aristocracy and eventually the royal courts across Europe. Nowadays, Santa Maria Novella produces traditional Italian colognes and splashes. In the recent years, Santa Maria Novella introduced a shaving cream and an aftershave balm.
The Santa Maria Novella aftershave balm is one of the mildest you can find on the market. Featuring witch hazel and various Mediterranean herbs and plant extracts, the balm soothes your skin and its aroma transports you in a classic Italian barbershop.
The Santa Maria Novella aftershave balm is on light side and absorbs quickly into the skin. I've had great experience wearing it in both cold and warm weather. Its citrussy-herbal aroma makes it a great choice for the spring/summer season but don't let this stop you from putting it on in the dead of winter for a quick pick-me-up.
The only downside of the Santa Maria Novella aftershave balm is that, just like any of the company's products, it is hard to find. The company has stand alone stores in New York and the major European cities. Residents of the US and Canada can also buy their products on the company's website: santamarianovellausa.com.
As of the time of this writing, the aftershave balm sells for $65.00 for 100ml bottle on the Santa Maria Novella's website.
9. Neutrogena Men Sensitive Skin Post Shave Balm
I've never been a big fan Neutrogena's skin care products. Their Sensitive Skin Post Shave Balm, however, reminded me that generalizing for a whole brand of products can make me overlook some hidden gems.
It is formulated with soybean extract, allantoin, and squalane - an ingredient derived from the liver of sharks, which has similar composition as the natural oils produced by the human skin. In other words, some cosmetologists argue that squalene is the most natural replacement of sebum (the oils produced by our skin), which is removed during shaving.
Regardless, the Neutrogena Men Sensitive Skin Post Shave Balm is a great choice for the budget conscious. It comes at approximately $17.00 on Amazon - a fraction of what some other aftershaves on this list cost.
10. Speick After Shave Balsam Sensitiv
Speick epitomizes the belief of quietly going about their way to make great products that speak for themselves. I first discovered Speick at MenEssentials in Toronto. Their shaving creams and aftershave balm were sitting nondescript on one of the lower shelves, looking almost forgotten.
You can't blame anyone for passing them by - Speick's packaging is good quality but is so low key that it resembles the generic brands you find at a grocery store.
What got me to buy the after shave balm was its price (around $20) and the fact that it smelled and felt amazing on my finger tips.
My initial impressions did not mislead me. Speick's After Shave Balsam Sensitiv (Amazon) is especially formulated for sensitive skin and has managed to soothe even my bloodiest shaves. Witch hazel, aloe vera and marygold extract join forces to calm your skin and erase any irritation. The texture of the balm is on the runny side and absorbs quickly into your skin. I especially liked its scent, which gave me images of what the efficient German workers at the BMW factory in Munich might smell like.
There you have it: the best aftershave balms for sensitive skin currently on the market. If you have used or are currently using one of them, let us know what you think in the comments below. We missed a good one? Let us know of your go-to aftershave balm.