What's the Purpose of Aftershave?
Shaving with a sharp razor can easily cause damage (abrasions, cuts or friction) to the top layer of skin. Because it's not a natural function, shaving can often be quite brutal on your face as its skin is extremely sensitive.
Aftershave is a lotion, balm or cologne that is applied after shaving. It works by sterilizing, tightening and moisturizing the skin. Men's aftershave and cologne were created to prevent infection from the damage that shaving causes. It's important to always use some type of aftershave, regardless of how you shave. Infected cuts and ingrown hairs can make your skin appear uneven, dry and dull.
The History of Aftershave
While today aftershave lotions are a part of our daily lives, this wasn't always the case. As the clean-shaven look became more and more fashionable, barbers realized they needed to tend to cuts and abrasions if they wanted to keep men coming back to their shops. Let's take a look back at the colorful history of aftershave and cologne for men.
The Egyptians Improve the Mummification Process
Do you rely on cologne and aftershave to smell your very best? Thank the Egyptians! Four thousand years ago, ancient Egyptians were the first to pioneer the use of essential oils and other fragrances to cover up body odor.
Mummifying dead bodies was an extremely unpleasant chore due to the putrid and inescapable odors. Essential oils were used to make the task a little easier to endure. Later on, it was discovered that the fragrance worked on living humans as well. Women
became quite fond of the scents and started using what would later become known as perfumes.
The Romans Find an Edge in Battle
It wasn't until the Romans created a division of labor that everyone began to have a trade they could call their own. In fact, we still recognize this same division of labor today. One of the trades that was created was that of the professional barber. Those in this position were responsible for shaving customers, including soldiers and legionnaires (elite soldiers).
The Roman military was the first in the world to actually require troops to be both short-haired and clean-shaven. This was based on the sound theory that in battle, beards and long hair (like those worn by Greek soldiers) were extremely easy to grab and twist. This could make men more vulnerable to being disarmed and potentially even killed. So, the Roman army relied on barbers to keep their soldiers free of any extraneous hair.
But razors back then were not nearly as sharp as today's blades. Shaving was much more laborious, heavy-handed and unsanitary. Roman barbers quickly discovered that many of their customers were developing infections, some fatal. To help heal these infections, they created a plaster using herbal components, as well as therapeutic ingredients derived from spider webs soaked in oil and vinegar. The herbal components soothed the skin, while the acidity of the vinegar helped to burn the bacteria away and the oil worked as a moisturizer. While little was known about germ theory at this time, it was a significant first step toward what we now know as aftershave lotions.
A French Chemist Discovers Germs
Aftershave and cologne for men evolved slowly over the years. By the Victorian Era, scented waters, like rose and orange water, were relied upon to soothe the skin and cover up body odor. But alas, infections from shaving remained a near-constant problem.
But in 1822, French biologist, chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur discovered what we now know as "germs." He found that infections were caused by these microscopic lifeforms and that alcohol, when used in tandem with other compounds,
had the ability to kill off germs. Today, Pasteur is regarded as one of the fathers of germ theory and its application in modern clinical medicine.
The Hungarian Cavalry Requests a Little Relief
The Hungarian Cavalry required its men to be clean-shaven, much like the Romans did. But in 1830, they were spending long months in the field, far away from professional barbers. And thus, as you might expect, skin infections were becoming a very real problem.
They reached out to Édouard Pinaud, a renowned perfume and cologne maker from Paris, for a solution to ease the suffering of their soldiers. Pinaud developed a cologne for men that could be used as both a moisturizing aftershave and a body splash between baths.
The men's aftershave and cologne became wildly successful, and soon after, Pinaud was granted the title of Royale Parfumer by Napoleon III. Once Pinaud discovered how to make aftershave, men's aftershave and cologne became incredibly popular with those from all walks of life around the world.
Today, aftershave lotions and colognes are made using antiseptic to prevent infection and inflammation, moisturizing oil to keep the skin smooth and hydrated, and a touch of fragrance to keep you smelling your best.
Elevate Your Skincare Routine with St Johns Aftershave Cologne
Our classic St Johns Bay Rum Aftershave combines the distinguished aromas of bay leaves, cinnamon, citrus and light rum to create one of the most beloved aftershave colognes available. Discover for yourself why St Johns aftershave cologne for men is the smart choice for any grooming routine — because your skin should feel as great as it looks.