Alum Block vs Styptic Pencil (How to Use & Buying Guide 2022)
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In this piece, we will take a look at these 2 little-known gems and also give you a quick buyers guide to which ones to get -and where.
Whether you are a pro or a beginner wet shaver, you are bound to nick or cut yourself occasionally; a little more if you are a beginner. You should take steps to minimize the accidents during your shaving sessions. It could be you have bad form, that your d-e safety razor, classic straight-edged razor, or Shavette is too aggressive for your skin, or that the safety razor blades are too sharp. But even as you seek to minimize the cuts and nicks, you need to be prepared for when they happen. This is where an alum block and a styptic pencil come in handy.
Before the wet shaving industry blew up, alum blocks were an essential part of any man’s straight razor shaving kit. Today, they seem to have been replaced by aftershave balms, classic shaving cream for men, lotions, and splashes. And while the best of these products have a place in your shaving kit and routine, the benefits of alum blocks and styptic pencils cannot be ignored. What’s even better, they cost a fraction of the price of the best shaving creams.
What Is an Alum Block Made Of?
Being your first time hearing of it, you are probably wondering what in the world it is. Without confusing you with scientific jargon, it is simply a natural astringent made from alum. Alum is a chemical compound known as aluminum potassium sulfate (potash alum).
As a natural antiseptic and astringent, it helps in cleansing and tightening as well as closing the pores. Overall, it is great in alleviating skin irritations and preventing a razor burn. As it tightens the skin, the alum block will close up any minor cuts and nicks. Moreover, it is a coagulant that accelerates the blood clotting process, which helps to stop the bleeding fast.
But aside from this, using it can help you determine if your shaving session was great or needs some improvement. How? Well, when you use the alum block on your face, you’ll feel some stinging or tingling sensation depending on the quality of your shave. If it was a great shave, it will feel tingly, and if it was terrible, it will sting. The sting can mean you need a new blade.
The block is also odorless, which means that anyone can use it with cologne. Moreover, you can use it along with the best aftershave. You just need to allow some time between the applications of the two products.
How to Use an Alum Block
Although these blocks are perfect for a wet shave, they are useful in other types of shaving as well. And the best thing is that using them is a walk in the park. All you need to do is wet your face, run the block under cold water and rub it on your face. The tiny crystals left on your skin will dry fast, and you can either wash them off or proceed to apply your aftershave.
But according to some experts, you might reap more benefits if you let it dry on your skin and leave it on after shaving. However, your skin will feel tighter, and it might take a while to adjust to this. After using the alum block, you should let it dry before you store it. And since it takes a while to dry, you might have to leave it in the open until you get back from work. If you can’t wait that long, rinse the block under running water to prevent grime build-up, and then use a dry towel to pat it dry. Do not rub it dry as it will wear out faster.
Also, don’t leave it on your natural stone countertop since the chemicals might discolor or stain the surface.
The Differences between an Alum Block and a Styptic Pencil
A styptic pencil (also known as a styptic stick) works in the same way that an alum block does. However, while alum blocks are made from aluminum potassium sulfate, styptic pencils are made from plain aluminum sulfate. Because of this, the pencils are stronger in comparison to alum blocks.
Given its strength, most people prefer using it on cuts and nicks only. Yes, you can use it on your face too, but be prepared for the sting that follows. Styptic pencils are ideally used on cuts and nicks after shaving that alum blocks prove ineffective against. For best results, run the tip of the pencil under some cold water and then roll the tip over your cut for it to stop bleeding. After application, don’t be quick to rinse off the white residue because you might reopen the cut.
At this point, you understand each product and what it offers and is used for. Heck, you’ve probably picked up on a couple of differences between alum blocks and styptic pencils. But in this section, we’d like to lay it all bare. Below are the two major differences.
- Alum blocks are used after every shave. They should play an important part in your post-shave routine. They are large and are easy to apply to the face and neck. And aside from treating minor nicks and cuts, they also kill bacteria and soothe razor burns. On the other hand, styptic pencils are used for spot treatments that alum blocks can handle. They are stronger and more concentrated meaning they can handle deeper cuts perfectly.
- Alum blocks are odorless and don’t leave a visible residue. As such, you can opt not to wash off the alum block, and no one will notice. But on the flip side, styptic pencils leave a white residue. You should rinse this off after the cut has clotted.
What Is the Best Alum Block and Styptic Pencil/ Stick
After going through alum block vs. styptic pencil, the next question lingering in your mind is, which is the best alum block and styptic pencil respectively?
Now the thing about these products is that though there are different brands, you’ll notice that they feature the same basic ingredients. As such, they aren’t worlds apart. With that said, you should ensure you purchase quality alum and not the knock-off versions that contain low-quality compressed alum. The latter doesn’t work as well and won’t last long.
We found the Gentleman Jon 3.7 Ounce Alum Block in Plastic Case to be one of the best options. It is made from high-quality ingredients, and it will not fall apart after a couple of uses. However, you need to keep it clean and dry it after shaving to preserve it. Also, Gentleman Jon comes with a plastic case that’s thicker than what most companies offer.
As for the best styptic pencil, we found the Clubman Pinaud Styptic Pencil to be the best. The brand is renowned and makes a travel-size styptic pencil that weighs less than 10 grams. But aside from the small form factor, it lasts long and is of high quality.
Alum Block Health Risks
Given its chemical composition, is it safe for your skin? Yes, it is. Overall, the best alum block will improve your shaving experience. But on the flip side, bear in mind that its astringent properties may not be gentle on sensitive skin. Therefore, you should always experiment with a small portion before going all out on it. The best way is to try using it at a local barbershop.
Generally, alum blocks are safe, but the salts along with excessive use can dry the skin, cause cracks, and irritate the skin further. Also, your skin might try to counter the dryness by overproducing oils. This will leave you with greasy skin after using the block.
Where to Buy Alum Block and Styptic Pencils
The main reason most men haven’t used alum blocks or styptic pencils is that they haven’t heard of them. Also, they can be hard to find. With that said, you can purchase from a drug store or pharmacy. Alternatively, you can purchase online from various sites.
Alum Block vs Styptic Pencils – Which Is the Winner?
With alum block vs styptic pencil, it’s not an either-or comparison. As this buying guide shows, instead, since they are ideal for different situations, you need to purchase both. After all, you’d rather be over-prepared than need it and not have it to stop bleeding.