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What Is The Difference Between Aftershave And Cologne?

June 11, 2018 4 min read

What Is The Difference Between Aftershave And Cologne?

Naked Armor

When it comes to men’s fragrances, it is easy to confuse cologne and aftershave because they both smell good and masculine.

But the fact is, both have different purposes.

Published by Naked Armor

Some men believe that if they use an aftershave, it isn’t necessary to use a cologne after that. However, this is not actually true. So what is the difference between both? Let’s find out.

What is an Aftershave?

As the name implies, the aftershave is a product that is applied to men’s skin after shaving. It cleans and closes the skin pores.

Think about shaving as an act of dragging a sharp metal across one of the thinnest and most sensitive areas of your body: the skin.

What Does It Do?

As the blade shaves through the base of the hair, it comes into close contact with the skin pores, opening them up and exposing them to the bacteria that might accumulate on the blade.

An aftershave cleans and closes these pores so that no bacteria can enter the skin. It also closes the accidental nicks and cuts that occur during shaving so that no infection can occur.

Aftershaves also contain fewer scented oils since the odor is not designed to linger on the skin the whole day.

What Are The Main Ingredients In Aftershaves?

There are two main ingredients used in aftershaves. These are alcohol and witch hazel.


As a powerful astringent, alcohol tightens and seals the skin so that no bacteria can enter the bloodstream. It’s also the reason for the slight sting that one feels when applying the aftershave.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel extract is a natural astringent that has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

Unlike alcohol, which dries out the skin, witch hazel is also a moisturizer. It improves hydration, elasticity and softness in the outer skin layer making it a perfect antidote for razor burn or irritation caused by shaving.

Its medical properties include anti-acne applications. This will help prevent acne blow-outs caused by too much pressure when shaving.

When And How To Apply Aftershaves

Always apply one after every shave, most especially if you’ve accidentally cut or nicked yourself on the razor.

In particular, men with dry and oily skins, with clogged pores, should use this product to relieve the dryness and kill the skin bacteria in the pores.

The type of aftershave you use will depend on your skin type.

  • If you have a normal skin, a gel or liquid aftershave can be a good option.
  • If your skin is oily, it is better to choose a lotion, gel, or liquid with moisturizer.
  • If the air is dry and cold or your skin is really dry, look for a balm which has a moisturizer.

You need to use an aftershave because it's a hygienic way to end your shaving experience.

— Derek, Naked Armor Founder

What is Cologne?

A cologne is a light scented fragrance, usually marketed to men, that only lasts for a few hours.

The original cologne was in fact made by an Italian perfume maker in Cologne, Germany in 1709. Marketed as Eau de Cologne or Water of Cologne, it was believed to have the power to ward off bubonic plague which was prevalent during those times.

Today, the term cologne is used to designate any scent formulation that has 2-5% perfume oil. In contrast, the parfum or perfume contains anywhere between 20-40% scent oil. This is why perfume fragrances tend to last eight hours longer because it has more oils than water.

Colognes are meant to be applied on the skin so that the essential oils are absorbed and melded with the skin’s natural oil, resulting in a unique scent. It’s best to apply them on pulse points where the constant body temperature can heat the oils and release their scent to the air.

Since colognes are used primarily for fragrance, they can’t serve as replacement for an aftershave. They don’t have anti-bacterial and astringent properties that can be of use after shaving.

What Are The Main Ingredients In Cologne?

Essential Oils Or Fragrance

These essential oils come from flowering plants but nowadays, essential oils can also be synthetically produced. The most expensive and exclusive colognes are made from rare essential oils that perfume houses secretly guard from competition.


It may surprise you but colognes do have alcohol in their formulations. But unlike in an astringent, the alcohol content is minimal. This is because it is only used to distill the aromatic compounds that produce the fragrance. Therefore, a cologne cannot disinfect the way alcohol can.


Water plays an important role in that it is the solvent used to carry the essential oil in the distilling process during the formulation of the cologne. In other words, it will capture and transport the fragrance when the heat and alcohol break down the essential oils in order to release the scent.

When And How To Use Cologne

The best time to apply cologne is just right after a shower when you are drying off.

Hold the bottle about 3 to 5 inches from the skin for an even distribution.

A helpful rule of thumb when applying colognes is to start with a single drop or spray on your bare chest. As you find your comfort level with the scent, you can move on to spray to other parts of the body.

Remember to apply to warm areas, including behind the ear, shoulder, inner elbow, forearm, wrist, neck, and cheek, as heat can activate the scent during the day.

Final Thoughts

Always remember that while you can do away with a cologne during your shaving experience, you can’t do the same thing with an aftershave.

You need to use an aftershave because it’s a hygienic way to end your shaving experience.

As for the cologne, it’s all a matter of preference. If you want to have a fragrance that lasts more than the time it takes you out of the bathroom, dress into your work clothes and go out into the world, then use a cologne.

Otherwise, stick with an aftershave. Your mug will thank you for it.

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