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Take Your Aftershave To The Next Level

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Grooming Dept makes a wonderful series of ultra-premium soaps (in three formulae: Nai, Kairos, and Mallard — and once they had a Donkey Milk formula, which I hope will return). I have bought a few of these and love them. (I have set a calendar pop-up reminder to order a tub from the new Mallard batch that will become available on 12 August). 

Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel

I also like other Grooming Dept products. His Moisturizing Pre-Shave finally knocked my old stand-by MR GLO (Musgo Real Glycé Lime Oil soap) off its pedestal. I’ve used (and recommended) MR GLO for years (although the lime oil content means that some men find they cannot use it), but I’ve found that MPS works better. It provides more glide and protection and also leaves my skin feeling better post-shave.

I recently received a bottle of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel. Beyond the obvious use — as a skincare lotion, which works for both men and women — he suggested that after I load my shaving brush, I add a squirt or two of Hydrating Gel to the knot to make the lather richer and more nourishing to the skin.

I tried that, but for an ultra-premium soap — like Grooming Dept, or Ariana & Evans, or Declaration Grooming Milksteak formula, or Phoenix Artisan CK-6 formula — it’s very much coals to Newcastle, and the effect is not really noticeable. It’s like giving a $50 gift certificate to a millionaire: a nice thought, but it really makes no detectable difference. 

OTOH, with a marginal soap — say, Martin de Candre, which I find to be quite drying to my skin — it does make a noticeable difference. I did a test shave, described at the link, and because I wanted specifically to see whether the Hydrating Gel  would improve the skincare properties of the lather, I skipped both my usual pre-shave (Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave, which does improve post-shave skin feel) and any aftershave, since an aftershave might affect the end result. (In fact, in the past I have used an aftershave balm when I shave with MdC expressly to counteract the dryness.)

After I loaded the brush from my tub of MdC, squirted into the brush a couple of drops of Hydrating Gel, worked up the lather on my stubble, and did my usual three-pass shave, using a splash of cold water as an aftershave. And indeed my skin did not feel dry, following the shave. So Hydrating Gel can help with the lather of soaps that lack skincare ingredients.

The directions for Hydrating Gel say:

Squirt one pump and mix with other post-shave products. Apply to damp or wet face. Can also be used at night.

I tried it with an aftershave splash — pour a little of the splash into my palm, add a squirt of Hydrating Gel, rub palms together, and apply to my freshly shaven (and rinsed and dried) face. 

Oh, my! It’s wonderful! — and, I imagine, a particularly good idea for those who (like me) favor alcohol-based aftershave splashes. However, I think even with witch-hazel based aftershave splashes it would take skin nourishment to a new level.

It is a gel, not a liquid, so it applies nicely. The ingredients are:

Water, Sodium PCA, Hyaluronic Acid, N-Acetyl Glucosamine, Saccharide Isomerate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.

Using the analysis function at, I find:

The table entries are explained on this page, but as you can see, none of the ingredients carry any significant risk.

Highly recommended if you use an aftershave splash. Some splashes — Krampert’s Finest, when that was still available, or Van Yulay’s splash, or some of Southern Witchcraft’s splashes — do attend to skincare, but most focus more on a brisk feel and a good fragrance and leave skincare to the balms. With Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, you can “balmify” your aftershave splash. I don’t think Hydrating Gel would add much to a good aftershave balm or milk, though — but for splashes, it’s quite good.

[Ed. note: Grooming Dept products are also available at West Coast Shaving (affiliate link) and other vendors. ]


Michael Ham, author of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way, is retired and follows his interests in shaving and shaving products, cooking and creating recipes, reading books and watching movies. His blog,, reflects those interests. He can be found on Mastodon at [email protected].View Author posts