What’s the Difference Between Aftershave and Cologne?

It’s still a common joke that women’s toiletries are too numerous and varying while men’s toiletries are just a soap and a shampoo. If you’re shaving regularly, however, or even if you’re just maintaining a good hygiene, you know that hasn’t been true for decades. In fact, there are so many men’s skincare products nowadays that a lot of people tend to get them confused. For example, what is the difference between aftershave and cologne? Let’s tackle some of the misconceptions that surround this comparison.

What is aftershave?

The benefits of aftershave products are quite important for anyone who shaves regularly yet they are often misunderstood. The fact that so many alcohol-based aftershave products even exist despite them being antithetical to the whole point of an aftershave is all the proof you’ll need that literal millions of aftershave users don’t really understand what aftershaves are meant to do.

To put it as simply as possible, aftershave is a moisturizing and nourishing product with an astringent agent that works to close up your pores, thus minimizing the risk of bacterial infections. The hydrating effect of a good aftershave is also vital as it helps your skin remain in good health and recover quickly from razor burns or the potential razor cuts it may have suffered while shaving.

Typically, there are 3 different types of aftershaves:

  1. Aftershave splashes: This is the worst kind of aftershave product you can get and solid proof that the industry and a lot of its customers don’t understand what aftershave is for. Splashes are almost always alcohol-based which irritates cuts and razor burns and dehydrates the skin – the exact opposite of what you’d want from an aftershave product. Using a splash should always go hand-in-hand with using a powerful skin moisturizer.
  2. Aftershave lotions: Also frequently alcohol-based, most aftershave lotions have the same drawbacks as aftershave splashes. There are a few non-alcohol lotions out there, so we’d advise you to gravitate toward those.
  3. Aftershave balms: This is the best type of aftershave you can gift your skin with. Balms are thicker and easier to apply. They also include much stronger moisturizing agents, making them great for your skin’s health. Most importantly, aftershave balms are the ones that include astringent. Most aftershave balms use witch hazel instead of alcohol which is also great as which hazel is excellent at naturally cleaning and protecting your skin without causing any burns or irritations.

What is cologne?

There are a lot of questions people ask about cologne – is it a substitute for aftershave, how long does cologne last, and so on. To answer them, let’s take a look at what cologne actually is.

Cologne, or its stronger alternative, Eau de Toilette, has one purpose and one purpose only – to give your face a nice and long-lasting fragrance. How long-lasting? That depends on the particular product as well as how you’ve applied it, but a good cologne will typically last you throughout the whole workday while an aftershave’s fragrance (if there is one) will last no more than a couple of hours.

And that’s just about all that really needs to be said about colognes. They don’t aim to help heal or preserve your skin’s health, they don’t treat cuts and burns, and they are by no means a necessary type of product when it comes to skincare.

Now, if you are a fan of colognes, don’t take that as a critique of this product group – it isn’t! Using a nice cologne is something great that we wish more men did. It gives a very nice feel which is a fantastic way to start your day, and their fragrances are usually something everyone around you will appreciate.

A lot of what we don’t like about aftershave splashes stems from the fact that a lot of people opt for the alcohol-based aftershave splashes in an effort to save from not using a cologne. By doing so, people typically get the worst of both worlds – an ineffective aftershave and a short-lasting “cologne”.

Instead, the far better option is to use a non-scented aftershave balm to take proper care of your skin, and then just use a nice cologne after it to give your face a nice scent that will last throughout the whole day.

Aftershave vs Cologne

As you can see from all that, there really isn’t any “aftershave vs cologne” question that needs to be posed – these are just different products with different purposes.

One is meant to keep your skin healthy, moisturized, and well-nourished, as well as to treat and prevent any burns or pain from razor cuts and razor burns.

The other, instead, aims to give your face a nice fragrance that will last you throughout the day, and make you feel much better and more confident – simply a great way to start your day.

It’s by trying to combine the two that we ended up with nonsense like alcohol-based aftershave splashes that don’t do their job as aftershaves properly and are not comparable to cologne in terms of the potency and long-lasting effects of their scents.

All this isn’t to say that an aftershave can’t be scented – there are aftershave balms with mild and natural fragrances. However, this isn’t the goal of an aftershave and should never come at the expense of making it less effective (or completely ineffective) at healing and protecting your skin.

So, instead of using an aftershave splash for its fragrance and then using a skin moisturizer to negate the negative drying effects of the aftershave, we’d instead advise you to use a quality aftershave balm to take a good care of your skin, and then just use a nice cologne to give yourself the fragrance you want. It’s two products, either way, only the latter combination is healthy and effective while the former is neither.

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