Difference between Aftershave and Cologne

By: | Updated: Dec-6, 2017

As the top grooming products for men and women, aftershave and cologne are mistakenly used interchangeably. While they may bear similarities, they are far from being alike. This article will explain the differences between the two.

Summary Table

A liquid product applied after shavingA liquid product formulated to give off a unique scent
Acts as an astringent, soothing agent, skin moisturizer, and protection against infectionMasks natural body odor
Suitable for men and women with oily skin and clogged pores, sensitive or dry skin, or those who are prone to shaving cuts and nicksSuitable for men and women who are after a distinct, long-lasting scent
Has a concentration of 1% to 3% essential oilHas a concentration of 2% to 5% essential oil
Scent usually lasts 2 to 3 hoursScent usually lasts 6 to 8 hours
Usually less expensiveUsually more expensive
Applied to the skin after shavingApplied to pulse points


man applying aftershave
A man applying aftershave

Aftershave, as the name implies, is a commercially-produced liquid product applied after shaving. While several variants are on the market, most aftershave products are made of witch hazel, stearate citrate, and denatured alcohol. With these combined ingredients, aftershave creams successfully act as an astringent while preventing infection due to shaving cuts and nicks.

Additional ingredients like essential oils and fragrances are added to enhance the scent, making the product more appealing to men and women. Since the alcohol content in aftershave causes a quick burning sensation, some variants do not contain alcohol.

man applying cologne
A man applying cologne

Cologne, on the other hand, is a liquid product specially formulated to give off a unique scent. Also known as Eau de Cologne, it is a perfume originally made by Johann Farina in Cologne, Germany in the year 1709. Since then, Eau de Cologne has been the term used to describe an aromatic formulation that contains around 2% to 5% essential oils.

Cologne is usually made up of alcohol, water, and essential oil. In America, the term “cologne” is typically used to describe a type of perfume made for men. However, contrary to popular belief, this product was formulated for either gender.

Aftershave vs Cologne

So what’s the difference between aftershave and cologne? Since these grooming products have notable similarities, they are often used interchangeably. However, they greatly vary in a number of ways.

Firstly, these products were designed for different purposes. Basically, colognes have one main purpose: to emit a distinct, pleasant scent. Meanwhile, aftershave is multifunctional since it not only has soothing effects, but it also acts as a skin softening agent and an astringent for men and women with sensitive skin. It efficiently closes the pores after shaving while providing an extra barrier of protection for the skin against infection from shaving cuts and nicks.

It follows, therefore, that aftershave and cologne are used by people with differing needs. Aftershave is ideal for those who have oily skin, clogged pores, sensitive or dry skin, or those who are prone to shaving cuts and nicks. Cologne, on the other hand, is perfect for those who are after a distinct, long-lasting scent.

These two products also differ in chemical composition. Aftershave products contain about 1% to 3% essential oil, while colognes are typically more concentrated. They are made up of 2% to 5% essential oil, depending on the brand. This explains why colognes have a longer-lasting scent. Usually, the scent from an aftershave only lasts for 2 to 3 hours, while colognes can give off a scent that lasts 6 to 8 hours.

Sold at the market at a wide price range, the price of cologne and aftershave products also vary. Since colognes are more concentrated, they are typically more expensive than aftershave.

Lastly, in terms of application, aftershave is applied to the skin after shaving. Meanwhile, the scent of cologne is activated by body heat, so it is best applied to pulse points. Spraying cologne on clothes is not ideal since its chemical composition can stain fabrics.

Did this article help you?
Thank you!
Thank you!
What was wrong?