Many people ask me, “Mr Wedge, what IS the difference between a fragrance for men and an aftershave? Or, is there NO difference? Please shed a ray of light: I am so bewildered and get so confused in the shops.”
These enquirers have all my sympathy. The semantics & issues have become entangled and confused. Now let me try to explain. As ever at Les Senteurs we aim to give crystal clear advice and information on every olfactory theme.
Originally, classically, formally an aftershave was, and is, any gentleman’s fragrance in a very low concentration – around 1% – 2%. Ergo, a very small amount of perfume in a great deal of alcohol. It stung like mad when splashed or patted onto tender freshly-shaved faces and necks, but it disinfected nicks, cuts and grazes and it tightened the skin like an astringent. In the dreary old days when most men feared that their use of scent might be considered effeminate – not least, as Mr Crisp would say, by themselves – the sheer agony of aftershave and its starkly masculine, quasi-clinical name was reassuring to its users.
As we became more liberal and adventurous in the 1960’s and ’70’s, many men’s fragrances were sold in two formats: an aftershave concentration plus a stronger eau de toilette strength. The latter lingered on the skin for hours rather than minutes and was intended to be applied as required about the person. Today ( thank goodness ) men increasingly have scents available in eau de parfum, even parfum concentration: far richer and more full-blooded.
The trouble is, that many men and women still use the word “aftershave” when what they really mean is “scent/ fragrance/perfume”. In a similar way Americans often say “cologne” to denote the same products. No one loves a pedant; in some ways I’m with Humpty Dumpty on this – “When I say a word it means what I want it to mean” – but you’ll see how misunderstandings can and do occur.
I think today that by and large true aftershaves have gone the way of the lava lamp, knee breeches and rainbow-haired trolls. However, what has taken their place are the much more comfortable and beneficial aftershaves balms, moisturisers and emulsions; rich soothing creams and lotions to nourish and soothe tender skin. Creed is especially good at these products: they feel good, are kind to your face and are strongly scented to eau de parfum strength to wear alone or to enhance the effect of your matching Millesime.
For day to day I swear by Nivea or Astral, but for high days and holidays the luxury of a Creed balm is hard to beat.