June 8, 2023
“What do you employ after a shave? Do you employ something in any respect? A lot to the shock of some conventional wet-shavers armed with brush and bowl, the reply to that query for a lot of younger folks is “no”. Shaving itself has advanced from the times of when it was a luxurious for the higher lessons, when solely barbers having attended particular colleges and licensed to take away hair had been able to safely shaving the face for a charge past the realms of essentially the most peasant-like.

Some adventurous males within the center lessons (then working lessons) took up studying the straight-razor themselves in the event that they did not desire a common expenditure for visiting the barber, and alongside such self-shaving got here a necessity for take-home grooming merchandise, which included some kind of “after-shave” tonic, lotion, cream, or powder.

Today nonetheless, with straight razors and security razors giving method to disposable, typically pre-lubricated ones, then ultimately electrical razors, the necessity to put together for a shave have for some been nearly eradicated. Subsequently, why ought to anybody have a preparation for after the shave both? It is not unusual for people these days to only butcher themselves with an inexpensive Bic disposable or pre-lubed multi-bladed cartridge like Gillette’s Mach 3, or simply use a Norelco or Remington you may get for a music from an area big-box retailer, with the very act of shaving itself being seen much less as a calming zen second, and extra of a chore to barrel by way of rapidly and conveniently as potential.

As such, that ultimate contact many older gents know because the after-shave will get utterly handed up, even when functionless fragrance like a bottle of Dior Sauvage nonetheless will get doused on earlier than heading out the door for some folks.

From Make-Do to Marketed Product​


Nonetheless, aftershaves should not be thought of down and out, even if you happen to’re not a dyed-in-the-wool moist shaver that’s prepared to spend a half-and-hour or extra getting ready, then shaving your face as a part of ritualistic self-care. The earliest ones had been technically not purpose-built as aftershaves anyway, as guys typically simply used colognes that they had mendacity round corresponding to 4711, alcohol-based hair tonics like Eau de Quinine, or bottles of bay rum if you happen to had been from the Americas. Hell, there have been even individuals who simply used a plain ol’ witch hazel preparation they might purchase for a pittance from an area apothecary, though that clearly does not scent as good. Lilac Vegetal by Edouard Pinaud was additionally a well-liked selection, because it was promoted as a “Hygiene et Toilette” that had sanitary functions. Talc was additionally utilized in some capability to seal nicks and cuts as effectively, plus might or might not have been scented. 

The earliest purpose-made aftershaves got here from barbers, who typically doubled as chemists or perfumers if you happen to had been visiting fancier ones like William Penhaligon, E.D. Pinaud, or Geo F. Trumper again within the day. Not lengthy after that, with the recognition of self-shaving exploding because of the introduction of the protection razor in 1874 (then 1903 for the double-edge selection), barbers noticed a pointy decline in enterprise for folks simply wanting a shave, in order that they started packaging and promoting their preparations for residence use. Except for the soaps and lotions we use to do the deed itself, that meant aftershave lotions typically taking the types of their pre-existing colognes plus added emollient or astringent elements to make them more-functional to seal pores in opposition to bumps or an infection. Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet acquired an aftershave variant, as did Geo F. Trumper’s Marlborough Cologne. 

Apothecaries and perfumers like D.H. Harris and Caswell-Massey additionally added aftershave variants of their most-popular colognes, however most of those merchandise had been nonetheless comparatively costly and bought solely within the cities the place these outlets had been stored. Enter: J.B Williams and the well-known Aqua Velva in 1917. Launched in the USA however ultimately making its means the world over, Aqua Velva was among the many first notable mass-marketed aftershave preparations that had emollients to easy pores and skin, and menthol to numb the burning results of the alcohol within the method itself, a intelligent trick disguised as a method to soothe pores and skin after the face has been ravaged by the blade. 

Aqua Velva and the Rise of Mass-Marketed Aftershaves​

ventually, the scent and blue colour we all know Aqua Velva itself to have at this time was added post-Prohibition within the US to maintain guys determined for a swig of booze from chugging the stuff, though today it is not even made with potable alcohol (nor are many toiletries anymore). That leather-meets-mint-and-lemon scent of Aqua Velva grew to become so interesting at one level that Williams simply really useful utilizing their product as cologne too, including a cloth they marketed as “Humectin” to increase the longevity of the scent. The recognition of Aqua Velva opened the door for different purpose-made aftershaves like Mennen’s Pores and skin Bracer in 1932, itself a shameless rip off of Houbigant’s Fougère Royale with mint changing a lot of the citrus prime, and being a a lot easier “fougère” construction total. 



Pores and skin Bracer would grow to be the “Pepsi” to Aqua Velva’s “Coke” as the 2 battled it out for aftershave supremacy. In the meantime, different toiletry makers like Shulton, MEM, Pinaud, Avon, Swank, Victor, Pfizer, Sir, Proraso, Revlon, Fabergé, Beecham, Leeming, Coty, Jovan and even razor-maker Gillette amongst others all take part with aftershave merchandise that had been a part of pre-existing perfume ranges, or stand-alone. By 1970’s there was a dizzying variety of selections and with the recognition of males’s fragrances, the crossover between aftershaves and colognes was unavoidable, with some merchandise advertized as both each, or “all-purpose lotions” as a catch-all. Some aftershaves grew to become more and more gimmicky to attempt to get an edge over the glut of rivals, just like the notorious Hai Karate, (which was just lately re-launched in 2021).

As you might need guessed, high-end designers wasted no time leaping into this enviornment too, with every little thing from Chanel Pour Monsieur in 1955 by way of to large hits like Calvin Klein’s Eternity for Males in 1989 getting aftershave variants, typically not even having any added enhancements like menthol or pores and skin conditioners. Most of this additionally coincided with males’s perfume changing into extra ubiquitous, and shaving habits getting more and more targeted on expediting the method with disposable or electrical merchandise, which means that sporting aftershave appeared like a superfluous step if you had been simply going to douse in your favourite designer perfume after a shave anyway, with matching the cologne to the aftershave feeling a bit like overkill except you had been “that man” who additionally wore the matching deodorant, used the matching bar cleaning soap and shave cream, and many others.

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The Decline of Conventional Aftershaves​

Today, with a lot of these corporations and their merchandise gone, designers typically not launching full grooming ranges of their males’s fragrances anymore, and a plethora of more-effective specialty merchandise corresponding to soothing after-shave balms or gels taking their place for folks smart sufficient to know that alcohol does not moisturize the pores and skin, conventional aftershave lotions have been hitting the ropes. Folks do not appear to need or want aftershave like they used to, and someday these bottles of Aqua Velva could also be gone for good, simply as Burma-Shave went the best way of the dodo as soon as aerosol shave foams got here into vogue. The countless oceans of latest outdated inventory unsold Avon aftershaves within the varied boat and car-shaped bottles is testomony to only how far the aftershave market has fallen in latest many years. Most of that stuff is many years outdated, unopened, untouched by air or Human fingers.

Do you have to use aftershave if you happen to by no means have earlier than? Effectively, it actually cannot harm except for that preliminary sting, and it does assist tone and seal your face from an infection, however you do not actually need it both, particularly if you happen to’ve been shaving for years with out it and have had no in poor health results. Williams as soon as known as Aqua Velva “the scientific after-shaving preparation” earlier than switching to the less-authoritative “there’s one thing about that Aqua Velva man”, nearly as in the event that they knew their viewers would sometime work out they did not actually need the stuff. Nonetheless, Williams was proper about aftershave being an opulent of completion, and it is one you do not want six figures to get pleasure from. In case you are delicate to the consequences of alcohol on pores and skin, loads of these additionally are available a creamier form of splash too, and designers have been providing them as effectively.

There’s nonetheless normally a legacy choice of the outdated favorites various by nation in your native drug retailer, from Outdated Spice and Pores and skin Bracer within the US, to Brut and Mandate within the UK, Proraso and Acqua di Selva in Italy, Sir Irisch Moos and Tabac in Germany, to the quirky Mandom by Gatsby in Japan (as soon as endorsed by the late American motion star Charles Bronson himself), and a few small-volume revival manufacturers besides like Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements, so there’s nonetheless a lot to probe for the person who needs to shave prefer it’s 1953 as a substitute of 2023.

Should you’d nonetheless slightly shave prefer it’s 2023, and even simply dispense with blades altogether and use that humorous magic shaving powder stuff (good luck), there can nonetheless be a spot for some aftershaves, significantly stuff like Gillette Cool Wave, which has the perfume efficiency of any customary eau de toilette simply, and feels higher on pores and skin than your $550 bottle of Creed Aventus.

So once more I ask, what do you employ after a shave? If the reply continues to be “nothing”, that is completely effective after all; however if you happen to’re prepared to go down the perfume hobbyist rabbit gap sufficient to learn an article on a web site like this one, aren’t you not less than a bit curious in regards to the expertise of a pleasant, bracing aftershave splash after time spent taking part in “Zamboni operator” in your face with a pointy piece of steel? Meals for thought.