Shaving

Styptic Pencil vs Alum Block: What to use, How and When

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Regardless of how good you are at wet shaving, you will still nick yourself once in a while. If you are nicking yourself every time, you should check on your technique. Either you have the razor at a wrong angle, or your razor is too sharp, or you are applying too much pressure. It could also be you are not using enough shaving soap or cream.

With that said, since you cannot avoid minor cuts completely when shaving, you should know how to treat them. In this piece, we’ll take you through the tools to use, how they compare, and when to use them.

Though many men are unaware of their existence, alum blocks and styptic pencils can be lifesavers.

Do You Need both a Styptic Pencil and an Alum Block?

Both styptic pencils and alum blocks are great for treating cuts and nicks. However, this doesn’t mean you use them interchangeably. They are designed for different uses but you should have both products in your shaving kit.

Below is a brief explanation of why it’s important.

Alum Blocks

Many men pay little to no attention to alum blocks. They are made from potassium alum and look like a crystalized bar of soap. They last a while and are affordable.

It should be part of every man’s shaving kit because of its antiseptic and astringent properties. As an astringent, it causes the skin to contract and close open wounds. However, its a very mild astringent and only works on minor cuts.

On the other hand, its antiseptic properties help to;

  • Can prevent ingrown hairs and razor burns
  • Reduce the risk of infection by killing bacteria
An example Alum Block from Gentleman Jon

When and how to use an Alum Block

We recommend using an alum block after your shaving sessions, even if you don’t nick or cut yourself. The alum block will kill off bacteria on your face and prevent an infection that messes with your smooth shave after a couple of days.

When you finish shaving, rinse your face with some cold water to close the skin pores. Also, run the alum block under cold water and rub it all over the shaved area. If the alum block or your face dries, make them wet again and continue rubbing the block on your face.

Like with any antiseptic, rubbing the alum block on your skin will sting, especially if you have a cut. Despite this, keep rubbing the block on your face until the cut stops bleeding or the stinging stops. Afterwards, rinse your face with cold water.

Pros

  • It has antiseptic and astringent properties
  • It’s easy to use on your neck and face
  • It’s economical and lasts for a long time

Cons

  • Can't handle deeper cuts
  • Another part of the routine, another product needed

The Styptic Pencil - Stop the Bleeding Quickly

Now, say you are done shaving. The natural process is to rinse off the lather and stray hair with cold water and then rub an alum block on your face to stop any bleeding. But what if the cut(s) continue bleeding? What do you do?

At this point, the styptic pencil swoops in to save the day. Styptic pencils are stronger and have more concentrated power than alum blocks. They are made from aluminum sulphate and could easily pass for pieces of chalk.

Like alum blocks, styptic pencils have astringent properties as well. However, this property is stronger, which gives them the power to treat deep nicks and cuts effectively and quickly.

When and how to use Styptic Pencils

You don’t have to use a styptic pencil after every shaving session. Instead, only reach for it when the alum block doesn’t stop a bleed. Hopefully, you will not need it often.

When using a styptic pencil, you should rinse your face first. Then, run the styptic pencil under cold water and apply the tip to the cut. If you thought the alum block stings, prepare for an even deeper sting for your deep cut.

Apply the styptic pencil by rolling its tip over the cut for about 15 seconds. When the cut closes, do not be quick to rinse it off. A white residue will remain, but by rinsing it off immediately, you risk re-opening the wound.  Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then rinse it off with some cold water.

Examples of Styptic Pencils

Styptic pencils come in all shapes and sizes. Including single use disposable styptic matches or a traditional styptic pencil (looks like a piece of chalk).

Which One Should You Buy?

Our general rule is ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best.’ More than 90% of the time, you will use an alum block to close up minor cuts. But for the few times that the alum block doesn’t work, the styptic pencil will come in handy.

In my opinion, you should have both in your shaving cabinet. Would rather end up not using the styptic pencil but need it and not have it? Still a naysayer? Maybe you like having little pieces of tissue or toilet paper on your face after shaving....

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