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  1. #1

    Default The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    For decades I have used aftershave balms, starting out with Proraso when that was the only one I could find in Australia. For me, wet or electric shaving would have been unimaginable without using a balm or a really rich splash lotion afterwards.

    However, three months ago I started using an Alum block after wet shaving. And I didn't like it at all - my face seemed tight for hours afterwards. I even posted about my dislike at B&B. But I persevered, mainly because of all the nicks I was getting in my experiments with different razors, and how effective it was treating them. And now I'm hardly using any balms at all, instead just using the Alum block, and a few people have commented on how my skin is looking better.

    The Block is applied to the wet face after shaving. Or, if you have dried your face, you can wet the block and then apply it to your face. At B&B, many rinse off the Alum after applying it, while others just leave it there like I do.

    Main advantages of using a Block of Alum are,
    1. It stops blood flowing from nicks, and
    2. It gives little stings on the invisible nicks - where no blood is present - telling you how smooth your razor, blade and soap combination have been. A lot of stings tell you that all is not well, either with your equipment or your technique, and
    3. On me, it doubles as a balm - I don't get flaky skin after shaving, the way I used to, and
    4. It doubles as an effective, fragrance neutral, antiperspirant, when applied under armpits, and
    5. A block lasts lasts for ages - after three months usage, I don't seem to have made an impression on my block, and
    6. It can be bought dirt cheap if one looks around on Ebay.


    Main disadvantages of using a Block of Alum are,
    1. You have to leave it out to dry after usage, and
    2. I have seen a suggestion that as it dries it may give off tiny amounts of sulphuric acid which tarnish metals in the vicinity (how true this is, I do not know), and
    3. It has to be stored either in it's plastic container, or zip lock plastic bag when not in use.
    4. It won't completely replace balms - I'd often put balm or moisturiser on my forehead - and it wouldn't be wise to do that with the Alum Block in summer, unless you like stingy eyes.
    5. It is often ridiculously expensive when bought locally.

    I bought six Ali Biyikli Alum blocks that weighed 70 grams each from a chap in Turkey on Ebay, for the grand total of $15, including registered mail postage. On the other hand, in a local shaving shop they were selling a tiny name brand Alum block for $18.

    There are two types of Alum, the regular potassium one, and the cheaper ammonium one. The ammonium one stings a tiny bit more, but otherwise seems as effective to me.

    As an aside, I gave one of my blocks to a female friend who religiously shaves under her arms, her legs, and other trickier parts of the anatomy. She reported back that the Alum was fabulous, stopping blood from cuts instantly, and making everything far more comfortable afterwards.

    If one wet shaves, I'd think an Alum block is pretty much an essential accessory, if for no other reason than to be able to finely gauge how well one's equipment and technique are working.

    What have your experiences been like?
    Regards,
    Renato

  2. #2

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I use an alum block as a deodorant. I do have another if I've had a particularly ambitious or aggressive shave but, day to day, I go straight to witch hazel and/or aftershave balm. I do like alum but I have to rinse it off ASAP or else my face falls out with me for it.

  3. #3

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I have used alum for three decades, both as a odourless deodorant and as an odourless "aftershave". Odourless being the major advantage, as it can be combined with any fragrance - or none. By the way, I never rinse my skin afterwards. I want it to sit there.

    While I second your list of advantages, I don't see the disadvantages. The crystal is dry in an instant, and I never wrap it, not even for travelling. The idea that sulfate ions could sublimate out of the crystal seem highly unlikely to me, and I never have seen any damage on glass or porcelain where I put it to dry, nor on metal in the surrounding. I would, however, not let I touch natural stone surfaces like marble, especially not when wet.

    The price is obviously very variable, but even the most overpriced versions are ridiculously cheap when you take into account how long they last. If I spend 2$ or 20$ per year doesn't matter too much compared to other costs in grooming.

  4. #4

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by lessthanthree View Post
    I use an alum block as a deodorant. I do have another if I've had a particularly ambitious or aggressive shave but, day to day, I go straight to witch hazel and/or aftershave balm. I do like alum but I have to rinse it off ASAP or else my face falls out with me for it.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "face falls out". On me it was a decidedy weird feeling for a while, every time I spoke or smiled I'd be aware of really tight skin - it was annoying as hell initially - but as I said, that went away eventually.

    I was a fan of witch hazel for two or three weeks too, but haven't been using it much since I became accustomed to the Alum.
    Regards,
    Renato

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyujin View Post
    I have used alum for three decades, both as a odourless deodorant and as an odourless "aftershave". Odourless being the major advantage, as it can be combined with any fragrance - or none. By the way, I never rinse my skin afterwards. I want it to sit there.

    While I second your list of advantages, I don't see the disadvantages. The crystal is dry in an instant, and I never wrap it, not even for travelling. The idea that sulfate ions could sublimate out of the crystal seem highly unlikely to me, and I never have seen any damage on glass or porcelain where I put it to dry, nor on metal in the surrounding. I would, however, not let I touch natural stone surfaces like marble, especially not when wet.

    The price is obviously very variable, but even the most overpriced versions are ridiculously cheap when you take into account how long they last. If I spend 2$ or 20$ per year doesn't matter too much compared to other costs in grooming.
    In addition to what you say, I think I've noticed somewhat less stinging when I put aftershave splash on, after I've applied the Alum and let it dry, compared to putting it on without the Alum. Would you agree?

    As for drying, we're in the middle of a humid winter here and it takes an hour or so to dry, which means it stays out till I remember to put it away. I agree though, the disadvantages I mention are relatively minuscule.

    Thanks for your input on the supposed sulphuric acid issue - it seemed unlikely to me too, but I thought I'd better mention it, as it is occasionally mentioned at B&B.

    The main reason I posted this thread, however, is to alert people who live in countries where Alum blocks aren't a common sight in stores.
    Cheers,
    Renato
    Last edited by Renato; 19th July 2012 at 07:23 PM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Renato View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean by "face falls out". On me it was a decidedy weird feeling for a while, every time I spoke or smiled I'd be aware of really tight skin - it was annoying as hell initially - but as I said, that went away eventually.

    I was a fan of witch hazel for two or three weeks too, but haven't been using it much since I became accustomed to the Alum.
    Regards,
    Renato
    As in 'to fall out with someone/something'. Maybe its a British figure of speech! You have definitely convinced me to break it out more often though.

  6. #6

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by lessthanthree View Post
    As in 'to fall out with someone/something'. Maybe its a British figure of speech! You have definitely convinced me to break it out more often though.
    No, I'm not familiar with that figure of speech. Anyhow, Alum tightens the face so much, it sort of feels stuck on.
    Try it exclusively for a week and a bit, and see how you go.
    Regards,
    Renato

  7. #7

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I tell you what, I had such a dreadful shave this morning that I had no choice but to use the alum. Cheap blades from Wilkinson's were to blame - a brand called Laser that cost 40p (about 60 Aussie cents). Alum, witch hazel and a soothing balm (Proraso blue) came into play. Binned the blade straight away and the rest of the pack will follow suit unless I can think of another (non-shaving) use for them.

  8. #8

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I'm a recent convert to alum as a deodorant. At first I was kind of sceptical, mainly because, I suppose, I was used to seeing or at least feeling my deodorant go on, whereas with alum I just rubbed it about a bit and trusted I'd not missed any bits. It is amazingly effective though and I can't imagine ever going back to roll-ons (or pinching my wife's spray-on stuff).

    I use it occasionally as a post-shave treatment but only really if I've nicked myself or if I'm feeling a bit sore. (I should stress, of course, that I've got separate bars for armpits and face!)

  9. #9

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I've just recently tried breaking up an alum block and putting it into a large atomizer with hot water to dissolve and applying it as a spray (under arms and after shaving)... then I do my usual Thayers and ASB. Works good for me!

    Every once in a while I spray the armpits and all shaving (brush, razor, blade) and mouth (brush, tongue scraper, etc) equipment with rubbing alcohol.


    is a styptic (sp?) pencil like alum? I once tried rubbing that all over my face and wholy moley it stung
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  10. #10

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by lessthanthree View Post
    I tell you what, I had such a dreadful shave this morning that I had no choice but to use the alum. Cheap blades from Wilkinson's were to blame - a brand called Laser that cost 40p (about 60 Aussie cents). Alum, witch hazel and a soothing balm (Proraso blue) came into play. Binned the blade straight away and the rest of the pack will follow suit unless I can think of another (non-shaving) use for them.
    Sometimes, as I mentioned in another thread, using olive oil as a preshave stops nicks from lousy soap or cream - and possibly from lousy blades too
    Regards,
    Renato

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by yorkio View Post
    I'm a recent convert to alum as a deodorant. At first I was kind of sceptical, mainly because, I suppose, I was used to seeing or at least feeling my deodorant go on, whereas with alum I just rubbed it about a bit and trusted I'd not missed any bits. It is amazingly effective though and I can't imagine ever going back to roll-ons (or pinching my wife's spray-on stuff).

    I use it occasionally as a post-shave treatment but only really if I've nicked myself or if I'm feeling a bit sore. (I should stress, of course, that I've got separate bars for armpits and face!)
    I don't think it would be as effective as the 24 hour and 48 hour antisperpirants, especially in hot weather. But I use Alum deodorant stick in colder weather, or when I don't want to use the more expensive stuff - like for a few hours before going to the beach.
    Regards,
    Renato

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Master-Classter View Post
    I've just recently tried breaking up an alum block and putting it into a large atomizer with hot water to dissolve and applying it as a spray (under arms and after shaving)... then I do my usual Thayers and ASB. Works good for me!

    Every once in a while I spray the armpits and all shaving (brush, razor, blade) and mouth (brush, tongue scraper, etc) equipment with rubbing alcohol.


    is a styptic (sp?) pencil like alum? I once tried rubbing that all over my face and wholy moley it stung
    They actually sell alum dissolved in water in a spray bottle down here, in a brand called Deonat. It worked pretty well, except the pump sprayer occasionally blocked up and I'd have to hold it under hot water to unclog it.

    My barber would occasionally nick my neck and apply the styptic whatever it was, and it stung like hell. Next time he nicked me, I refused the styptic thing and said I'd have a tissue, thank you. The Alum certainly doesn't sting like whatever he was using.
    Regards,
    Renato

  11. #11

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Renato View Post
    In addition to what you say, I think I've noticed somewhat less stinging when I put aftershave splash on, after I've applied the Alum and let it dry, compared to putting it on without the Alum. Would you agree?
    I wouldn't know, I haven't used aftershave for decades. Alum appealed to me exactly because it is a multipurpose deodorant/styptic/"aftershave" and I can add whatever scent i choose. But it sounds probable: When microscopic wounds are sealed by alum, alcohol shouldn't sting as much.

  12. #12

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyujin View Post
    I wouldn't know, I haven't used aftershave for decades. Alum appealed to me exactly because it is a multipurpose deodorant/styptic/"aftershave" and I can add whatever scent i choose. But it sounds probable: When microscopic wounds are sealed by alum, alcohol shouldn't sting as much.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I should have tested it out yesterday - when I shave with an Astra SP in anything other than the Weber DLC razor - I get heaps of stinging little nicks that show up with the Alum (and a few real ones as well). That's what I had yesterday, but today I shaved with the Weber, and there zero stings via the Alum - as usual.
    Regards,
    Renato

  13. #13

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Thanks for sharing. Do they also ship to the EU? Cause I'd be interested in purchasing some.

  14. #14

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken_Russell View Post
    Thanks for sharing. Do they also ship to the EU? Cause I'd be interested in purchasing some.
    He seems to ship anywhere. Here is the link to the 6 Alum blocks.
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/ALI-BIYIK...item2c66f6b5d4

    Just remember - if you wind up not liking them on your face, you've just bought a decade's worth of underarm anti-perspirant.
    Regards,
    Renato
    Last edited by Renato; 29th July 2012 at 07:54 AM.

  15. #15

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Thanks again for the suggestion! Definitely worth looking up.

  16. #16

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I do not use alum as an after-shave but use it on my fingers to help stretch the skin (so you can get a hold of the skin even on the soap/cream) and versus nicks and weepers. By the way, here (Holland) they are really cheap but I've seen them being sold for a lot more in other countries, it pays off to shop around a little looking for the best deal. They last forever though if you dry them off after each use.
    My current top 3:
    1. Fahrenheit - Christian Dior
    2. ROMA Uomo - Laura Biagiotti
    3. Polo Blue - Ralph Lauren

  17. #17

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Raynor View Post
    I do not use alum as an after-shave but use it on my fingers to help stretch the skin (so you can get a hold of the skin even on the soap/cream) and versus nicks and weepers. By the way, here (Holland) they are really cheap but I've seen them being sold for a lot more in other countries, it pays off to shop around a little looking for the best deal. They last forever though if you dry them off after each use.
    Pretty versatile stuff these Alum blocks - that's one use I hadn't thought for it, thanks.

    Makes me wonder if I shouldn't have one in the kitchen for when trying to cut slippery meat.
    Regards,
    Renato

  18. #18

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I use it after a wet shave then I wait for it to dry then rinse and apply my Proraso post cream for that methol buzz on the skin. The alum is a godsend especially if you are using the unforgiving feather blades.

  19. #19

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Hunter View Post
    I use it after a wet shave then I wait for it to dry then rinse and apply my Proraso post cream for that methol buzz on the skin. The alum is a godsend especially if you are using the unforgiving feather blades.
    Yes indeed. For me it's the godsend for Astra SP blades.
    I'm not convinced that just rinsing the alum removes it all - I think one would need soap to do that.
    Cheers,
    Renato

  20. #20

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I use alum (the Bloc Osma one). I do have to take care not to apply it when my face is too wet however, or I end up with that foppish powdered look.

  21. #21

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marais View Post
    I use alum (the Bloc Osma one). I do have to take care not to apply it when my face is too wet however, or I end up with that foppish powdered look.
    Interesting thanks, - I only get something that looks slightly powdery when I apply and keep reapplying the alum block to an area where I've cut myself and it won't stop bleeding (I did it the other day when I tested a Lord disposable straight razor, resulting in copious bllod flow). I imagine there may be variation among blocks as to how hard they are and how much of the soothing salts they then put out with each rub.

    Are you bothering with aftershave after using the Alum?
    Regards,
    Renato

  22. #22
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    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Great posts. I have an alum block because I occasionally wet shave using either a safety razor or a straight razor. But I never really liked the way it made my skin feel so tight. I will now use it as a non fragrant anti-perspirant. And yes, those Japanese made feather blades are no joke, but are very effective.

  23. #23

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by Renato View Post
    Are you bothering with aftershave after using the Alum?
    Regards,
    Renato

    No. The alum block does the cauterising (if needed) and sterilising, so I can't see the point of using an AS as well. Also the alum block is scentless so doesn't clash with my SOTD. Lots of AS's leave my skin feeling a little greasy, except the high alcohol ones but even there I prefer the feel of the residue from the alum block. I only get visible powder from alum if it is too wet; then I will wash it off with cold water. I could probably do this every shave without detriment but really I can't spend all morning at the sink, so I have to cut out unecessary steps (eg. pre-shave, and hot towels, as far as I'm concerned) wherever possible.

  24. #24

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    I had no idea of this stuff...Of course I had heard of it, but it's seems quite versatile I will buy some I am next at the Art of shaving store! THANKS everyone for the education!

  25. #25

    Default Re: The Joy of Alum - Or Who Needs Aftershave Balms?

    Quote Originally Posted by senore01 View Post
    Great posts. I have an alum block because I occasionally wet shave using either a safety razor or a straight razor. But I never really liked the way it made my skin feel so tight. I will now use it as a non fragrant anti-perspirant. And yes, those Japanese made feather blades are no joke, but are very effective.
    If you search the newbies section of Badger and Blade you'll see a post by me complaining about how tight Alum made my face feel. I was finding it strange to even grin, so tight was my face. Others responded that they'd gotten used to it, and I was frankly a bit skeptical. But much to my amazement I did get used to that tight feel. I just rinsed my face quickly for about a week - which removed about half the tightness - and then I stopped rinsing, and was used to it.
    Regards,
    Renato

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Marais View Post
    No. The alum block does the cauterising (if needed) and sterilising, so I can't see the point of using an AS as well. Also the alum block is scentless so doesn't clash with my SOTD. Lots of AS's leave my skin feeling a little greasy, except the high alcohol ones but even there I prefer the feel of the residue from the alum block. I only get visible powder from alum if it is too wet; then I will wash it off with cold water. I could probably do this every shave without detriment but really I can't spend all morning at the sink, so I have to cut out unecessary steps (eg. pre-shave, and hot towels, as far as I'm concerned) wherever possible.
    Thanks for that. Your point about unnecessary steps is spot-on, in my opinion - especially the hot towel. If you've ever read women's skin care guides, they are all unanimous about not applying hot water to face skin, as it leads to burst blood vessels and those permanent fine red lines across one's cheeks and nose.
    Regards,
    Renato
    Last edited by Renato; 5th October 2012 at 03:10 PM.

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