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Post-shave routine: should you use an alum block?

Muhle Alum Block
Muhle Natural Alum Stone
You’ve set down your razor, dried out your brush, and refreshed your skin with a warm water rinse followed by a cool water rinse; what’s next? While you can move straight to the aftershave, we’d like you to consider adding one step in between: using an alum block. An alum block looks like a big crystal slab (which is, indeed, what it is) and could be your savior if your skin veers on the oily side. Consider the following Alum Block 101.

What is an alum block?

An alum block is the world’s oldest aftershave – 4,000 years old, to be exact. Used by the ancient Egyptians for its healing properties, alum is a mineral that is both an astringent and an antiseptic. You can rub an alum block over your skin after a shave to stop nicks and cuts from bleeding. Alum feels cool and refreshing, but be warned that it can also cause a stinging sensation as it kills bacteria. Using an alum block regularly can actually lesson the severity of acne and other skin maladies, since it cleans your skin and then closes the pores. In addition, an alum block can give you feedback on your shaving technique, since a better shave will cause less sting. Because alum is such a dense mineral, a soap-sized block like Muhle Natural Alum Stone can last you a year, sometimes even a few years. Beyond shaving, you can use alum as a natural, fragrance-free deodorant. If you have oily skin, you can apply alum even on days when you're not shaving to dry out grease and pimples.

Are there different types of alum blocks?

Alum blocks are either made of potassium alum or ammonium alum. While both types work well, ammonium alum tends to sting less.

How often do I use an alum block?

It depends entirely on what your skin can tolerate. While many men can use alum after each shave, some men apply the block every other day, or weekly. Alternatively, if you have sensitive skin you may want to avoid alum altogether. The salts in alum may be too drying, causing irritation and redness.

How do I use an alum block?

After rinsing your face with cold water, run the alum block over your still-damp face. Be careful to glide the block rather than rub, since the pressure may cause abrasion. It’s best to rinse the alum off after you shave, but you can let it sit on your skin for a few minutes first to enhance the toning effect. Then apply your favorite aftershave. Voila! You’re done.

How do I care for my alum block?

Let the block air dry and store it away from water. You can also place it in a plastic container or Ziploc bag when not in use.

What’s the difference between a styptic pencil and an alum block, and can I substitute one for the other?

Alum blocks and styptic pencils are two entirely different beings. A styptic pencil is made of either titanium dioxide or aluminum sulfate anhydrous, and is a tool strategically designed to stop bleeding from nicks. Alum blocks can also stop bleeding, but they are primarily a skincare treatment.
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