Aftershave vs Cologne

Updated: December 21,

It should be obvious, but for many men understanding the difference between Aftershave vs Cologne isn’t always so straightforward. I blame this issue on the fact that most men are never really informed on how to properly groom themselves and use the tools at their disposal. Personally I am still waiting for my dad to show me how to shave, let alone explain when I should use aftershave and when I should use cologne.

Women have it a bit different when it comes to grooming; bombarded by ads, discussing different products and techniques with friends, and it seems that mom’s tend to pay a bit more attention to their daughters compared to father’s and their sons. So if your dad let you down, or if your friends just didn’t want to discuss male grooming products when you were in high school, we can clear things up now.

Quite simply Aftershave is used…after you shave. Cologne typically is used when you want to smell good – a date, heading to work, etc.


Aftershave, like Pinaud Clubman or Proraso Aftershave, generally has a lower alcohol content compared to that of Cologne, and they tend to include other ingredients that provide healing and some form of moisturizing (Aloe Vera for example). The astringent in the aftershave helps tighten the skin and close the pores, while the other ingredients leave you with healthy skin. The scent of the aftershave is really a secondary element, it is added to provide a more pleasing experience. You will find that compared to cologne, the aftershave fragrance won’t last nearly as long. The percentage of perfume in aftershave vs cologne is lower.

When Should You Use Aftershave?

  • immediately after you shave
  • if you just had an aggressive shave or cuts
  • use it to help heal and sooth your skin

How to Apply Aftershave

The best way to apply aftershave is by leaving your face slightly wet after washing it with cold water following your shave. Using about a tablespoon or so of aftershave, pour some in your hands, give is a quick rub, then apply it to your face using downward strokes.  Of course you can apply it however you wish but using the downward motion, and the slight dampness should alleviate some burning.


Cologne on the other hand doesn’t really contain any healing elements to it. In fact using cologne after a shave could cause some men to react to it with a rash or blotchiness. Cologne does have a higher percentage of perfume oil which giving its scent a longer life.

When Should You Use Cologne?

  • When you want to have a fragrance attached to you, or simply want to smell ‘better’ throughout the day – something for people to recognize you by
  • you are looking for a longer lasting scent than your aftershave can provide

When To Not Use Cologne

  • Some work environments have rules against scents so that is something to consider
  • When you are trying to make a professional impression – some may agree with this, but at an interview for example you may want to avoid cologne. The interviewer may not like it, have negative association with it, be sensitive to it, etc.
  • Right after you shave.  Cologne for the most part doesn’t have the same healing ingredients as an aftershave.

 Can I Use Both Aftershave and Cologne?

Short answer. Sure. The longer answer is it depends on what aftershave you are using.

  • If the scents are conflicting you may not want to combine them; unless you wait for the scent of the aftershave to wear off, which may not be the most convenient option.
  • You could use a non scented aftershave, perhaps even consider using a non scented witch hazel, then you could follow that up straight away with whatever cologne you wish.
  • Finally you could use something like Fine L’Orange Aftershave / Cologne that combine the healing of the aftershave and the longer lasting scent of a cologne.

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