Can You Use Hand Sanitizer as Aftershave? (Explained)

Are you out of aftershave? Or do you have a hand sanitizer that you love and wonder can you use it as an aftershave?

Aftershave literally helps soothe the skin after shaving. It’s usually made with a high alcohol content, which also helps sanitize the area that’s been shaved. Hand sanitizers also have alcohol as the primary ingredient, but at an even higher concentration. Because of this, they can technically be used as an alternative to aftershave but using them this way might not be the best choice.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Keep reading so that I can explain further.

Can You Use Hand Sanitizer as Aftershave

What’s the Difference Between Hand Sanitizer and Aftershave?

When thinking about these two products, at first glance they seem to have similar ingredients and in some cases, the same consistency. But are they one in the same? Can one be used for the other’s purpose?

It’s possible to use hand sanitizer in place of aftershave, but you might want to ask yourself why you would want to do so.

While it might seem as though products have overlapping purposes, each product is made for a specific reason to solve a specific problem.

Sometimes a dire situation can cause us to misuse an item when we’re in a pinch. For instance, if you can’t find a hammer, you might hit a nail with the side of a pair of pliers. It’ll work – to some degree – but a hammer would be much more effective.

What’s the Purpose of Hand Sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer is a cleansing agent that was created to reduce and/or prevent the spread of germs.

It can come in liquid, foam, or gel form and be alcohol-based or alcohol-free. But if you’re going to use hand sanitizer, health agencies suggest using the alcohol-based version as it’s more effective and its ingredients are less potentially harmful.

Most alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain between 60 and 95 percent of either ethanol, n-propanol, or isopropanol. At these concentration levels, the cleansing agent can almost immediately wipe out the germs on your hands.

Is Hand Sanitizer Effective?

While health agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prefer alcohol-based hand sanitizer above those made without alcohol, hand sanitizers should not be heavily relied upon.

According to the CDC, washing your hands contributes greatly to maintaining health and is preferred over hand sanitizer.

Their effectiveness (when used on the hands) varies because it depends on many different factors. In order for hand sanitizer to effectively reduce the presence of some viruses, bacteria and fungi, a substantial amount must be applied to your hands and fingers and remain there to fully dry for at least 30 seconds.

Hand sanitizers are least effective when applied to areas that aren’t already greasy or grimy.

Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds can be more effective than applying hand sanitizer to your skin.

Are Hand Sanitizers Safe to Use on Your Face?

Hand sanitizers can contain dyes, thickening agents, fragrances, and skin softening agents – not all of which you would want to apply to your face post-shaving.

Some of these ingredients can irritate your skin. Depending on the alcohol content of your hand sanitizer, it might be too low to kill any bacteria, or it might be so high that applying it to sensitive skin can be more harmful than helpful.

If you already have dry or sensitive skin, you don’t want to place a substance with 60-90 percent alcohol concentration on any area of your body that’s freshly shaven. Not only might the initial contact be painful, but your skin can also become itchy, experience redness, or simply become extremely dry.

In any case, applying hand sanitizer to your face doesn’t seem to have many benefits.

What’s the Purpose of Aftershave?

Aftershave is a substance that men apply to their face post-shaving. This substance can be a lotion, gel, oils, cream, or balms.

Shaven skin is more vulnerable to infection. Shaving can cause tiny cuts to form on the surface of the skin. These cuts can become an entry point for bacteria, causing hair follicles to become inflamed.

This is why aftershave is used; it serves more than one purpose. Firstly, aftershave is an antiseptic that prevents infection, but it also soothes the skin to reduce irritation. Many aftershaves also contain moisturizers to help replenish the skin post-shaving.

Is Aftershave Effective?

Even though it’s used as an astringent, aftershave is made with a lower concentration of alcohol than hand sanitizer. The lower alcohol concentration means that it’s less likely to dry out your skin. In this way, it not only disinfects your skin and hair follicles, but it also helps restore your skin as well.

As a more soothing substance, aftershave effectively helps heal and rejuvenate your skin post-shaving.

That said, not everyone needs to use aftershave. You have to get to know your skin and pay attention to how it responds to certain substances. You might be able to shave and simply wash your face with your favorite facial cleanser, and then apply a moisturizer to your face.

Is Aftershave Safe to Use on Your Face?

Due to the lower alcohol content, and presence of other ingredients like witch hazel, aloe vera, or other moisturizing agents, aftershave is safer to use on your face than hand sanitizer would be.

There are many natural options out in the market as well.

If you have sensitive skin, you will want to look for an aftershave made with less alcohol or ones made with witch hazel instead of alcohol. Also, if you have sensitive skin, and you prefer scented aftershave, you will want to look for ones scented with essential oils, not fragrance oils.

Aftershaves are created for use on your face, hand sanitizers are not – they’re made for your hands. When it comes to an area of your body that’s as sensitive as the face, I’d suggest that you avoid applying any product to your face that isn’t specifically formulated for use in that area.

Should You Use Hand Sanitizer as an Aftershave?

In short, you can use hand sanitizer as an aftershave, but you probably shouldn’t. It’s not created for that purpose.

Hand sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on your hands, but they don’t eliminate all germs and do not replace a thorough hand washing with soap and water.

More importantly, formulas used to create hand sanitizers can be too harsh for use on your face.

Please don’t go to the drug store to stock up on enough hand sanitizer to use after every shave, that would be a bad idea. If you’re in a bind after shaving and hand sanitizer is all that you have access to, pick up a gentle facial cleanser instead. Wash your face for 20 seconds, and then massage a gentle moisturizer into your skin.


Hello and welcome to Fragrance Advice! My name is Grace Young, and I’ve been drawn to fragrances since I was a little girl. There's just something about scent that brings me so much joy! 

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