What is an Alum Block?
Alum blocks are crystal like stones or bricks that act as a soothing antiseptic for men that shave. It’s a naturally occurring mineral, potassium aluminium which has been used for cosmetic purposes for centuries. When used after shaving, an alum block offers relief from razor burn and acts as an astringent to help to stop bleeding from small nicks and cuts.
History of the Alum Block
Going back in history, Alum has been used throughout the centuries for its purifying properties.
Egyptians used Alum as an agent for mummification, whereas Romans were key to bringing Alum to our shores in the United Kingdom. Firstly, used as medicine, then for deodorizing.
In 1436 a process was applied to rock bound alum in Tolfa, Italy transforming alum containing rock into the industrially produced alum. Pope Pius II claimed a monopoly on the alum market, desiring to raise funds from alum sales for another crusade.
Alum Piracy became rife during the reign of Henry II as he refused to support the papal alum project. Pirates seized ships known to be carrying alum and diverted them to England.
Traditional barbers have wielded large blocks of alum styptic to calm shaving rash & seal shaving cuts. Even famous shaving brands such as RazoRock formed their name off the back of the search for the elusive Italian Alum Rock!
Why use an Alum Block?
Traditional wet shaving is an art, which for many takes patience and skill to master. We are not perfect, even us agents endure the occasional shaving cut! Using an alum block is your secret weapon to pull out in times of need…you know those moments…we have a bleeder!!!!! Alum helps by constricting blood vessels and tightening pores, acting as a coagulant to stop the bleeding.
Not only is using an alum block cooling and refreshing for the skin, it also has antiseptic properties. If razor burn is an issue for you, the calming and soothing effect of alum on the skin can reduce the appearance of redness.
Oily, greasy and spotty skin can also be combatted as the alum block will dry the skin and spots leading to a better appearance. It is not recommended for use every day as the skin could over-compensate producing more oil. Likewise, if you suffer from sensitive skin the use of alum is not always recommended as the astringent properties can draw moisture out of the skin.
How to use an Alum Block when shaving
- Alum block is best used as an aftershave treatment. Rinse off all shaving cream or shaving soap, then prepare your skin by splashing your face with cold water. This helps to close pores and will allow the block to gently glide across the face.
- Wet the alum block by running under a cold tap, ensuring the surface is wet.
- Rub the block gently across your face on the areas where you have shaved.
- If you have a cut, apply the block with light pressure and hold for 20 – 30 seconds or until bleeding stops.
- Tingling or stinging is normal, if you are new to shaving this can help you to evaluate areas to improve your razor technique for next time.
- Leave alum to dry on the face, there is no need to further apply aftershave or moisturiser, however if you prefer to, rinse with cold water then pat your face dry with a towel.
- Dry your alum block completely before putting it away, this can take a few hours. Ensure you store it in a dry place, if the block becomes exposed to moisture it will dissolve.
Alum blocks available at Agent Shave
Agent Shave recommends:
Alternatively, for a smaller addition to your shaving kit we now stock the Taylor of Old Bond Street Styptic Pencil
The great news is this secret weapon will not break the bank and aside from razor blades likely to be the cheapest item in your shaving kit!
All in all, you will be asking yourself, why did I not know this before? Well agents, as always – helping you on your perfect shaving mission, for now…