The Alum shave blocks in my store always catch people’s eye. Yet, very few have any idea what they are or why they would love using them. Either people pick them up to look at, only to just sit them right back down or they ask: “Just what is an Alum Block?”. It really is crazy that the once necessity for every man’s shave kit is now a forgotten tool lost to time.
First, let’s answer that question I get asked so much. “Just what is an Alum Block?” Now the quick answer is that it’s an aluminum potassium sulfate crystal. The same thing that you can find in the seasoning aisle at the grocery store. Although the Alum you see there is ground into a powder.
Not to be confused with aluminum which has a bad name in antiperspirants, alum is an all-natural element that does not absorb into the skin. Whereas the Aluminium Chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex found in commercial antiperspirants are man-made synthetics. Specifically made to absorb into the pores to block a person’s sweat.
Reasons to Choose an Alum Block
For a longer answer to what alum actually is, these crystals are a natural mineral. A mineral that has been used for thousands of years. One with many health benefits and is known as an antiseptic, astringent, detoxifying agent, and styptic (stops bleeding). Alum blocks have been used since ancient times to heal wounds, and prevent infection. While also speeding up the healing process.
For many years it was a well-known after-shave treatment for razor burns. Alum blocks are great for people with sensitive skin since they are a natural antiseptic and astringent. They can also be used to treat acne and other blemishes on the face.
Why or how it lost popularity isn’t completely clear. However, it could have been due to its skin-drying effect if used improperly. Or possibly it could have been due to the introduction of aftershave lotions which became popular in the 1950s. Which uses alcohol to provide an antiseptic after shaving.
Benefits & Concerns of Alum Shave Blocks
As with anything, there are pros and cons to the alum block. Where improper use can hinder more than help. Still, with proper use, this mineral can be a game changer for men that shave daily with thick beards. Especially if they experience razor bumps or ingrown hairs often.
This natural antiseptic can also be a guide to how rough you are with your razor. With many men either not preparing their faces well before the shave. Or using too much pressure on the blade as they shave. The shave leaves their skin with micro knicks and abrasions. In either case, the alum block will quickly let you know you were too aggressive with a tell-tell sting. Next time don’t be so rough.
For the most part, using alum shave blocks is a great advantage. However, there are some concerns you should realize. First of all, the very property that makes the mineral such an advantage for acne-prone skin, can also be a disadvantage. Alum is very drying and should be washed off after use. In fact, using a moisturizing splash afterward is advisable.
Another thing to understand is that alum is effective for all skin types. Yet, there is always the possibility that someone’s skin may not tolerate the mineral. If you have a reaction to the block you should discontinue its use.
How to use Alum Shave Blocks
Alum shave blocks are useful as an antiseptic that can be used to cleanse and close the skin after shaving. The first time you use a block you will notice the skin start to tighten. Making you feel more awake. First, you should run cold water over the block. Fully soaking the block to give the skin a cooling sensation.
Once you have fully wet the alum block gently rub across the areas of your neck and face that you shaved. If your shave has not been too aggressive, without nicks or cuts. You should feel a refreshing, cooling sensation. However, If you were too abrasive or have a nick the astringent traits of the alum block will cause some mild expected sting as the mineral disinfects the skin and starts the healing process. Just like any antiseptic you use on a cut.
Once you have completely covered the shaven area let the mineral dry on your skin for about 15 to 20 seconds. As you thoroughly dry your block off for storage. Then rinse off any residue of the crystal, and moisturize your skin. Applying an aftershave product with a high-quality moisturizer or aftershave balm.
With regular use over time, you may notice your skin looking more even and toned.
Other benefits that may interest you about this classic shave kit item is its use to fight acne and odor as well. Being a strong astringent alum helps to tighten pores and dry excess oil on the skin. While its antiseptic properties help to fight the bacteria that cause both acne and body odor. Once you begin using an Alum block you are sure to love the benefits this classic shave tool brings you.