If you have been around wet shaving, or have watched some videos on YouTube, you have no doubt heard mention of alum, or an alum block. In this post we are going to discuss what an alum block is and how to use one.
An alum block is a naturally occurring crystal-like stone of potassium alum. It has been used by barbers and the shaving community for hundreds of years as an antiseptic. In fact, the ancient Egyptians used alum more than 4,000 years ago for its antiseptic and healing properties and to cool and refresh the skin. It can also be used to stop minor nicks and cuts.
An alum block is used by moistening the bock and rubbing it on the skin post-shave to help reduce redness, razor bumps, and razor burn. Alum generally comes in a block, or a stick. Generally speaking, the block is easier to use for larger areas and the stick is easier to control, easier for travel, and for precise application.
Now that we’ve discussed what an alum block/stick is, let’s look at how to use one. The first step is to wet the shaved area with cold water to remove any shaving soap or cream. The cold water also helps close pores in the skin, which also helps sooth the skin.
Next, you will want to get the alum wet. This will help the alum glide across the skin. We recommend paying attention to areas that might be irritated as the alum will help sooth the irritation. It is normal to feel a burning, or stinging sensation while applying alum. The amount of sting can be an indication of areas where the pressure or angle needs to be adjusted for a more comfortable shave.
After the alum has been applied, let it sit on the shaved area for at least 20 seconds. That time will allow the alum to be absorbed into the skin and start healing the irritation (if needed). Alum can also be applied between passes if there are small cuts or nicks to reduce irritation if you are new to wet shaving.
The last step is to wash it off the shaved area to remove any residue. After you have rinsed off the alum, pat the area dry with a soft towel, do not rub the skin with the towel. After you have rinsed off the alum, apply witch hazel, a post shave balm or splash to finish off the shave. It is important to note that alum is water soluble, so always dry off the stick/block after use and allow it to completely dry before placing it back in the case.
Alum has uses outside of a post shave product. It can be applied to fingertips before the shave to increase grip of the razor, which can be very helpful on razors with a slippery handle. It can also be used as a natural deodorant/antiperspirant. Since it is fragrance free, it can be paired with a scented deodorant. If you have areas of your body waxed, it can be used to sooth the skin, post waxing.
An alum block/stick is something that every traditional shaver should have in their den and part of their post shave routine (I know I could be better about using my alum block). Do you have an alum block? Do you use it regularly? Let us know in the comments below.