Is Aftershave Supposed To Burn or Sting? (With Pain-Free Options)

If you have ever shaved, I’m sure you’ve heard of the aftershave sting if not experienced it for yourself. Even famous movies like Home Alone have made fun of the terrible sting that aftershave can have. Is this stereotype true for all products and is it supposed to burn or sting?

Aftershave stings because it is an antiseptic product. Traditionally, most aftershaves are made with alcohol which will sting on sensitive freshly shaved skin. Having an antiseptic aftershave is helpful for reducing razor bumps and skin infections from any nicks or cuts. Aftershaves that include witch hazel instead of alcohol do not sting.

Read on to find out why aftershave burns and if that is really necessary after a shave. We’ll also discuss how to use aftershave, the common ingredients you’ll find in them, which ones to avoid, and what to use if you don’t enjoy the sting.

Why does aftershave burn or sting after shaving?

Aftershaves are an antiseptic product used to protect the skin from rashes, irritations, and infections.

Aftershaves are most commonly made with alcohol or witch hazel as the main ingredients. Antiseptics such as these activate the same nerve endings that are triggered when you feel the heat. This is why you commonly feel the burning or stinging sensation when you apply an aftershave with these ingredients.

In the process of shaving the hair off the face, you are also shaving off the first thinnest layer of skin. In doing this, you are exposing a more sensitive layer of fresh skin. This also leaves your pores open, making them more susceptible to build up which can cause acne, in-grown hairs, or even slight skin infection if you happen to knick yourself. Antiseptic products are very helpful in avoiding these types of issues.

Hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol, both antiseptics, are most commonly used to clean wounds. These both trigger the same nerves that get triggered when you are exposed to intense heat, hence the intense burning or stinging sensation.

By the beginning of the 1800s, aftershave had become an offered product to those who shaved. Most have relied on alcohol as the main antiseptic ingredient, which explains the negative stereotype. In addition to the pain it causes, alcohol is also a very drying product that tends to be a bit harsh on most skin types.

How long does aftershave burn normally?

If you’ve never used an aftershave, think about a time you used alcohol or peroxide on a scrape or a cut. The feeling of aftershave is a subdued version of that.

Aftershave can burn anywhere from just a few seconds to as long as a minute depending on how sensitive your skin is. If you happened to cut yourself, the aftershave may burn a bit longer since it’s a small open wound.

Is aftershave supposed to be washed off?

Will washing off aftershave help to ease the sting? It may but it is not going to stop the pain immediately. It is best to let the product stay on your face and do its intended job.

Aftershave is not intended to be washed off. It is very common for them to have other oils or perfumes that are intended to be soaked into the skin and left on for the rest of the day.

Balms and creams tend to be very moisturizing for the skin making them a leave-on product as well.

Do all aftershaves contain alcohol?

With all this talk of a terrible burning, you may be asking: do all aftershaves contain alcohol?

Alcohol is the most common antiseptic used in aftershaves however it is not the only option on the market. 

Especially with the growing market for good shaving products, there are more options today than there ever have been. You don’t even have to feel limited to a splash. We’ll be recommending two balms and lotions as well.

Do all aftershaves contain witch hazel?

As the second most common ingredient in aftershaves, your question may be: do all aftershaves contain witch hazel?

While aftershave is still the most common alternative to alcohol in aftershaves, it is not in every aftershave product – it’s not even in all the ones that don’t contain alcohol.

The shaving industry has been making gentle alternatives that do not include alcohol or witch hazel. There are mixed reviews on whether or not witch hazel actually burns less. Some folks do prefer it for its astringent properties.

How to find an alcohol-free aftershave that doesn’t burn or sting

There are a couple of factors to consider for the type of aftershave you want, consistency plays a large part in this. There is one very important thing to do when looking for an aftershave that will not burn.

You are going to need to look on labels for ‘alcohol-free’ and read the ingredient lists for any type of alcohol. The higher up that alcohol is on the ingredient list, the more of it there is. Finding an aftershave without alcohol is essential for pain-free aftershave.

Some aftershaves come in the form of a balm or a lotion, these typically don’t burn and are moisturizing on the skin. We’re going to give you a headstart with two alcohol-free recommendations for each: splash, balm, and lotion.

Aftershave Splashes

Dollar Shave Club’s Post Shave Dew

Dollar Shave Club’s Post Shave Dew is an aftershave splash that comes in a convenient spray bottle to make the application easier. It has a light herbal fragrance and has an array of cooling and moisturizing extracts.

This is the only alcohol-free aftershave that DSC offers, but they have a subscription service that saves you money on each order.

Imperial Barber Grade Products Bergamot After-Shave

Imperial Barber Grade Products Bergamot After-Shave is a moisturizing aftershave that uses witch hazel as its antiseptic ingredient, however, plenty of reviewers mention the lack of a sting when using it.

One person said of its scent, “A masculine scent, with a base of citrus and nuts, hints of musk.” It is often low on stock so grab a bottle or two when you can.

Aftershave balms

Bevel Shave Restoring Balm

Bevel Shave Restoring Balm is an alcohol-based shaving balm that uses tea tree oil and witch hazel to cleanse and moisturize the face after shaving. There is no sting to it and it has restorative ingredients for your fresh skin layer.

A lot of customers also mention that it’s super helpful for reducing ingrown hairs and razor bumps as well. 

Proraso Aftershave Balm

Proraso Aftershave Balm is a luxury Italian brand that also happens to be very affordable. It is well known for being refreshing for the skin and moisturizing without feeling greasy after soaking into your face. They also have a formula for sensitive skin. Both of these products are alcohol-free and feel nice on the face after use.

Aftershave Lotions

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer is a restorative lotion that also has an SPF 30 to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. While not specifically marketed as an aftershave, this product has several glycerides that help aid the skin in healing after shaving.

This is an unscented product so it is a good choice if you have sensitive skin. They also offer this at Ulta Beauty where they have a loyalty rewards card.

Face of Danger Organic After Shave Lotion

Face of Danger Organic After Shave Lotion is made from all-natural ingredients so if you have a sensitivity or any kind of allergy to common ingredients, this may be the option for you.

It is a light formula that isn’t greasy. It contains witch hazel as it’s antiseptic but will not burn your skin like alcohol. The bentonite clay in this product is also very helpful for fending off acne.