From aftershave lotion to aftershave balm, eau de toilette to eau de parfum, cologne to deodorant, we gents are bombarded with a lot of terms for men’s fragrances, and it can be difficult to know the difference between them all. Like many of us, you may have been using these names interchangeably, but these products are not one and the same. So, what is the difference between aftershave and cologne? Which one is best for your skin after shaving and which one is best as a daily fragrance? What other fragrances and post-shave products are there? Find out the answers to these questions and more with expert advice from The English Shaving Company. Read our guide breaking down the different post-shave products and get brand recommendations to help you kit out your bathroom cupboard with only the finest fragrances.
Aftershave, as the name suggests, is designed to be applied after you have finished your shave. It has the lowest concentration of aromatic compounds of any product on this list (usually only 1–3%) and therefore has a very mild and fleeting aroma compared to cologne. That is because the primary function of aftershave is not to make you smell nice, it is to disinfect and protect your freshly shaven skin.
While you may think of aftershave as a liquid spray, authentic aftershaves are not perfumes; they are usually balms or lotions. Gently massaged into the face, aftershave lotions and balms will soothe and nourish your sensitive skin, reducing redness and irritation. Proraso, Geo F Trumper and Phoenix & Beau are all brands that offer exquisite aftershaves suitable for virtually all skin types. But for those with particularly sensitive skin we recommend the Edwin Jagger Aloe Vera Aftershave Lotion or Muhle Organic Aftershave Balm. Both products are full of natural plant extracts and are designed to effectively moisturise and regenerate the skin to prevent damage and dryness. Other aftershave balms and lotions may be fragranced with popular scents such as sandalwood or citrus, but this aroma is not strong enough to linger or cause severe irritation.
Aftershave is an essential last step if you want to finish your daily shave with healthy and radiant skin. However, if you’re looking for a rich fragrance to linger and repeat throughout the day, you will have to complement the aftershave with one of these other gentleman’s products.
Eau de Cologne, more commonly referred to as cologne for short, has a slightly higher aromatic concentration than aftershave at 2–4%, although some colognes may be as high as 7%. This means the fragrance is more pronounced and should linger for a short amount of time but will need to be topped up at regular intervals.
Unlike aftershave, cologne does not offer any skincare benefits and functions solely as a fragrance. Some of the world’s most esteemed brands such as Floris, D R Harris and Taylor of Old Bond Street produce unique and sophisticated colognes that are popular with men all over the world. However, if you are looking for something a little different, why not try this solid cologne from Phoenix & Beau. Perfect for taking abroad, these beeswax-based colognes contain no water and come in a handy portable tin. Just collect a small amount using your finger and apply it to the parts of your body where you would normally wear cologne. The warmth of your skin unlocks the scent profile, emitting an incredible fresh fragrance for up to two hours. Of course, if you want a traditional atomiser spray, you can count on the world’s most celebrated perfumer, Geo F Trumper. Ranging from travel-friendly 50ml bottles to economical 200ml bottles, Trumper’s colognes are famous around the world for their rich and unique fragrances and unrivalled quality.
Eau de toilette—sometimes called EDT for short—is much more potent, with the level of concentration ranging from 5% to 15%. Again, it is not intended to soothe or repair the skin, but the rich aroma can last up to 8 hours when applied to your pulse points
Popular producers of cologne, such as Trumper’s and Floris, also make eau de toilette but you may find fewer lines and fragrances available as it is harder to produce fragrances with such a high concentration of aromatic compounds. This is also why EDTs are usually more expensive than colognes and aftershaves. However, that does not mean every eau de toilette has a premium price tag attached: Scottish Fine Soaps offers two incredible eau de toilettes for under £30. Inspired by the stunning Scottish landscape, both the Thistle & Black Pepper and Vetiver & Sandalwood EDTs have a rich, masculine fragrance that will repeat on the wearer for hours. For a premium choice, we recommend Floris No. 89 Eau de Toilette — this refined fragrance is quintessentially English, with citrus notes erupting from a heart of spicy nutmeg and verdant aromas. It’s perfect for the esteemed gent with discerning taste.
Eau de parfum has taken on more feminine connotations over time but these rich fragrances are just as suitable for men. Perfume refers to any liquid fragrance applied to the body, whereas the similar-sounding eau de parfum and pure parfum are specifically those with the highest potency. With an aromatic concentration ranging from 15–30%, parfums provide the strongest and longest lasting fragrances. Eau de parfum is traditionally made of pure essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances, which allow your skin to effectively unlock the full scent profile with minimal skin irritation.
If you have a favourite cologne or eau de toilette that you buy time and time again, it is worth researching whether this fragrance is also available as an eau de parfum so you can enjoy the purest version of that incredible scent for longer. If you are looking for a top-range eau de parfum that is sure to make you stand out, we recommend Castle Forbes 1445 Eau de Parfum. This light and timeless fragrance blends lavender and tarragon with notes of citrus to leave you smelling like a fresh and discerning gentleman for upwards of 8 hours.
The post-shave process is not just about making yourself smell nice, it’s also time to evaluate your work. We all cut ourselves when shaving from time to time, especially when we are first starting out, so it’s important to have the right tools to hand. Edwin Jagger offers a Styptic Pencil and an Alum Block, both of which can be used to arrest bleeding, disinfect cuts and accelerate healing. These products can be used in conjunction with aftershaves and colognes and should reduce the stinging sensation you get when applying fragrances onto freshly shaven skin. For a budget-friendly alternative, try Proraso Shave Cut Healing Gel. Perfect for if you only have a shaving mishap once in a blue moon, the formulation of natural extracts and eucalyptus oil effectively heals minor nicks and stems any bleeding.