Alum Block vs Septic Pencil?

Discussion in 'General Shaving Discussion' started by MetroNome, Apr 23, 2010.

  1. What is the difference b/w these? I thought they were the same thing.
  2. In practice, I have found that using an alum block on freshly-shaved skin will feel anywhere from nothing at all to a VERY slight burning, depending on the quality of my technique (usually just a slight tingle). If I were to try that with a STYPTIC (as I assume you meant, since septic has other...more earthy... connotations) pencil, my whole head would probably explode from the burning pain.

    Alum blocks are made from potassium alum and are a mild astringent and antiseptic, usually used over the whole face during your post-shave ritual, before applying your aftershave or balm. Styptic pencils are made of some other (unknown to me) substance - they're opaque white as opposed to alum's semi-transparency - and are used for sealing up any larger-than-weeper-sized cut that's still bleeding post-shave. Styptics are effective at that, but at the cost of a major burning sensation.

    I have and use both, but I use my alum block after every shave, and I can't remember the last time I took out my styptic pencil. Since I have been using an alum block I have noticed that overall my skin looks better, but this may be coincidence, since I also switched over to DE's from my M3 at the same time.

    Bottom line: I would use an alum block after every shave to seal and disinfect your face, but use a styptic pencil only to stop bleeding from a shaving cut that otherwise won't close up.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2010
  3. jlindy

    jlindy Contributor

    Believe it or not the pencil is made of the same stuff (potassium alum)!:w00t:
  4. Huh! Go figure...:blushing: I wonder, then, why they feel so different on my skin when I apply them and why they look differently? Just curious...
  5. IMHO, styptic pencil is better for stopping small bleeders while the alum is better for a general calming of the entire shaved area. I use alum after every shave, styptic only to stop a small cut.
  6. Concentration is the difference, right? I wet the styptic and apply to cuts or nicks if the bleeding doesn't stop on its own. I use the alum regardless, as an astringent/antiseptic/toner. The styptic stings quite a bit, but the alum, hardly any (unless I scraped off a bunch o skin).
  7. I think you are right about concentration. Alum block on the whole face, styptic pencil only on bleeders.
  8. The difference between the two is that an alum block is pure alum while the styptic pencil is an alum base but contains other chemicals to specifically stop bleeding.
  9. Is the function of the Alum Block the same as using Witch Hazel post shave?
    I usually put a little Witch Hazel on my brush then apply to my face after the shave...if I use Alum Block would that be overkill?
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2010
  10. Basically, yes. They both serve as astringents - to tighten up your skin - but alum is also an antiseptic as well. Some folks use one or the other, some (myself included) use both. My routine is:

    1) Warm water rinse; pat dry
    2) Cold water rinse
    3) Alum block
    4) Cold water rinse; pat dry
    5) Witch hazel; let dry in place
    6) Aftershave/cologne

    I've never heard of anyone using their brush to apply WH after the shave, but I would think twice before doing that if I were you: WH might shorten the life of the bristles, but that's just conjecture on my part - if it's working for you, have at it.
  11. luvmysuper

    luvmysuper Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    Whenever possible, I try to avoid using a septic pencil.
    I find a styptic pencil works better, and there is a smaller chance of getting an infection.

  12. Alum block is much better at healing the skin. I use it daily, heck my skin looks better because of it. I look younger.
  13. I like the styptic. Call me a masochist but I like that sting?!
  14. not as masochist as the septic pencil at least!

  15. Speaking of Masochistic...I wonder if Phil could make Lilac Veg scented Styptic pencils?
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2010
  16. If i remember correctly Styptic pencils contain titanium dioxide that contracts blood vessels and helps to stop the flow of blood. An alum block (and most deodorants and antiperspirants) normally has some in it too but the concentration is higher in the pencil. I've also noticed if I use the styptic it can leave a little white powdery residue on my skin. So I wouldn't use it on my whole face. This is the same as the astringent effect of alum, while alum alone is needed in higher concentrations to get the same effect. But a hypotheses would be that alum in powder form could work it's contraction much better.

    So my conclusion is that either the Styptic has a more powder form alum in it that helps it dissolve or some titanium dioxide added for the effect of constricting the blood vessels.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
  17. luvmysuper

    luvmysuper Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    Now you've got me thinking.........

  18. I knew you would! Just imagine the sting of Alum Veg!

    I am pumped I am getting my first bottle of the Veg tonight at our Edmonton B&B meet-up.
  19. It's the fact the stypic pencil is a powdered form of alum that makes it sting more; it's not concentrated any more than the block. Once you apply it to your bleeding site with water, it will dissolve in the water and perform it's function. That's why you'll see that fine power around the wound at times. The alum block is solid and is not prone to dissolve away. For example, imagine a big block of salt and put it into a pot of water. It won't dissolve as quickly as adding the same volume of salt crystals.
  20. The Styptic is Aluminum Sulfate. Not the same as Potassium Alum at all.

    Use alum as an all-over face astringent. Styptic for spotting nicks and to stop minor bleeding. I wouldn't use the Styptic as you would an Alum block.

    -- John Gehman

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