Can Aftershave Be Used as Cologne? (Pros, Cons, and Differences)

Sometimes after grooming or between shaving a man may like to smell like he has just shaved. Or maybe you don’t want to be too heavily encumbered by a strong smell. Can aftershave be used in place of a cologne, especially as a lighter fragrance?

It is possible to use your scented aftershave as cologne, especially if you prefer a splash or lotion. However, the scent of your aftershave will not have the longevity or throw of cologne. It is worth noting that the two are not interchangeable as cologne cannot be used in place of aftershave as it lacks antiseptic and healing properties.

Read on to see the pros and cons of substituting cologne with aftershave.

What’s the difference between aftershave and cologne?

Aftershave is like a first aid kit while cologne is more like advertising. One treats while the other attracts.

The biggest difference is that aftershave is designed to treat the conditions following shaving while cologne is almost purely aesthetic.  

Aftershave is an umbrella term for products intended to treat trauma as a result of shaving.  Most think aftershave to be a heavy alcohol-based splash. Lotions and tonics also contain alcohol in lower concentrations for more sensitive skin. Aftershave balms do not frequently contain alcohol or strong fragrance. When shopping for post-shave products the second word, i.e. aftershave balm or aftershave tonic, is often an indicator of what type of care it provides.

Cologne, on the other hand, is a category of fragrance that is designed exclusively to lend a pleasing scent to the wearer. Cologne is available in a much wider array of options than aftershave and contains a greater amount of concentrated perfume oil.

Ingredients

Is the primary difference between aftershave and cologne the concentration of the scent? Are there any other major differences between the ingredients?

Aftershave includes a variety of ingredients to aid in skin care. Aftershave, especially splashes or tonic, typically contains alcohol but may also include menthol, aloe, or witch hazel to help skin recovery. Cologne, on the other hand, contains more fragrance, but the amount of alcohol is not significant enough to function as an antiseptic.

The alcohol in an alcohol-based aftershave serves as a cleanser, disinfectant, and antiseptic. If the aftershave is alcohol-free, it is likely to use witch hazel for the same purpose as alcohol but helps tighten pores and remove blemishes without drying the skin. Some fragrances associated with aftershave are purely aesthetic but others such as menthol, chamomile, and lavender provide calming benefits that help rejuvenate skin quickly.

Fragrance

All scents are not created equal and should not be confused with one another.

Though not always the case, many perfumes may use synthetic fragrances which are known to cause irritation. Aftershaves, ideally, will contain more natural oils and fragrances to prevent further irritation after shaving.

Pure parfum is a high concentration of fragrances ranging up to 40% perfume oil.  A drop of pure parfum may last for an entire day as it is the strongest and most concentrated form.

As pure parfum is diluted the more quickly the scents dissipate:

  • Parfum 25-40%
  • Eau De Parfum 15-17%
  • Eau De Toilette 10%
  • Eau De Cologne 5-7% concentrated
  • Eau Fraiche 5-8%
  • Body Spray less than 5%
  • Aftershave less than 5%

The lesser concentration of parfum in aftershave means it would have to be applied several times daily to do the same work as a single drop of eau de toilette or cologne.  

Cologne, simply, is perfume oil concentrate suspended in a liquid such as alcohol that serves as a carrier. When applied to the skin the alcohol evaporates quickly leaving behind only the fragrance. The alcohol serves no other purpose than providing a vehicle for scent. The quick evaporation of the vehicle allows its application to clothes without staining them.

Is cologne stronger than aftershave?

Cologne is certainly more fragrantly potent than many aftershaves but would do nothing to prevent infection.

In terms of staying power, cologne fragrance will last longer than most aftershaves while aftershaves are more effective in treating cuts and preventing infection. Most of the fragrances contained in aftershave do nothing to promote healthy skin but are merely there to satisfy the shaver.

Aftershaves contain more potent alcohol than cologne but cologne provides a higher concentration of scent that lasts for at least a couple of hours. Aftershave can clean a face but will not have a fragrance that lingers much longer than a daily commute.

Is it okay to use aftershave as a cologne?

Since now we know what aftershave and cologne both are, can you use aftershave in place of cologne?

It is possible to use aftershave as a light cologne, the but scent won’t last as long. Additionally, thanks to its nourishing additives, aftershave probably shouldn’t be sprayed on clothes or other things besides skin at risk of stains.

What is most important to understand is that an aftershave can make a respectable substitution for cologne or eau de fraiche but is far too light to substitute for eau de toilette.

There are subsequent pros and cons to consider when considering this substitute. It is perfectly fine to apply a splash of aftershave to freshen up without a long-term result, however, you may want to consider whether or not your scents are the same or will be competing with each other.

Pros of using aftershave as cologne

Since now we know you can use aftershave as a cologne, should you?

Pros of using aftershave as cologne include:

  • Aftershave has a lighter fragrance and may be more suitable for more casual affairs.
  • Different forms of aftershave may help provide some nourishment after a deep cleansing.  Balms, splashes, and toners may provide the face with a healthier appearance depending on your skin type.
  • The gentle aroma of aftershave may not trigger perfume sensitivity in those around you.
  • Aftershaves are a bit cheaper than colognes. And with various craft aftershaves on the market it may be easier to discover signature scents or fragrance combinations that work for your individual body chemistry.
  • Aftershave is difficult to over do. Applying aftershave with a heavy hand will not cause long term consequences.

Cons of using aftershave as cologne

Aftershave may not be an ideal choice to use a permanent substitute for cologne, at least for daily use.

Cons of using aftershave as a cologne include:

  • Aftershave can dry out the skin, especially if it alcohol-based and used daily. Some ingredients of aftershave may cause acne or pimples if used too frequently and not following a shaving ritual.
  • More product is required than cologne in order to generate the desired fragrance. About a teaspoon of aftershave is needed to treat the face while perfumes and colognes are dabbed onto key locations.
  • Aftershave may stain clothes depending on the formula.  

Can you use aftershave and cologne together?

If you want to use aftershave and cologne together, it is important to avoid an olfactory clash.

While you can use both aftershave and cologne at the same time, you must be mindful that the two products agree with each other. There are unscented aftershave treatments that prevent clashing aromas. There are also manufacturers of fragrances that also produce aftershaves to compliment their cologne, or you can find options that feature similar scents.

PHL offers an unscented witch hazel formula. It is designed for sensitive skin and contains no alcohol, parabens, or artificial fragrances that could lead to irritation.

If you enjoy the slight bite of an alcohol-based aftershave splash then you might consider Proraso. While Proraso is not unscented, it is not burdened with fragrance. Eucalyptus and menthol are there to cool and calm the skin and their fragrance is light.

Using unscented aftershave has a number of benefits but being able to freely use favorite fragrances is no small thing.

If the unscented aftershave path is the one you choose then a stop should be made at the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab who is a purveyor of fine perfume oils. From their inventory, you can more than a few Pour Homme based on subjects such as seasons, literary characters, and holidays. These are usually highly potent oils with fragrances formulated last the entire day.

In many cases, such as Stetson, a fragrance is available in aftershave splash and in cologne to prevent any aromatic conflict. Be warned that some may be harsher on those who are sensitive to perfumes but they have proven to be reliable products for years.