A Review of Dr. Jon’s Aftershave Tonics

Dr Jon's Aftershaves

The smell

I had really high hopes for Dr. Jon’s aftershaves after reading so many positive reviews. I couldn’t wait for the package to arrive. 

When it did, I ripped it open, screwed the cap off “1803,” inhaled deeply, and… I was immediately disappointed. I tried “Propaganda,” then “Anne Bonny,” then “Defiance,” and “Hydra,” and “Conquest,” and “Black label.” I didn’t care for any of them! 

Just to be sure my nose wasn’t off that day, I had my wife smell them. She had a more negative reaction than me.

Now, they’re some of my favorites, they’re in heavy rotation, and my wife often compliments me on my smell when I use them. I love the fragrances so much, after applying the aftershaves, I often apply the matching scent of Dr. Jon’s solid cologne.

The reason for my negative first impression, and the reason I appreciate them so much today, is one and the same. It’s due to the complexity, uniqueness, and boldness of Dr. Jon’s fragrances. When I unscrewed the cap and took those first few whiffs from the bottle, I was overwhelmed by a jarring mixture of powerful aromas. It wasn’t anything like the classic scents I was already familiar with — the barbershop smells, the riffs on old classic colognes, etc.. Straight from the bottle, they smelled like an overwhelming mishmash of too many different odors. It came off heavy-handed and clumsy. Not necessarily unpleasant, but completely betraying how wonderful they are out of the bottle.

The true character of these fragrances only reveals itself only after they’re applied to the skin and allowed to breathe. I know this is true of many fragrances, but I feel this is especially true of Dr. Jon’s fragrances due to their complexity. On the skin, each of these fragrances opens up into a harmonious, balanced medley. When you smell them as intended, they’re something truly beautiful. What comes off as jarring and inappropriate in the bottle becomes something masterful.

Dr. Jon’s fragrances are powerful. I don’t mean “powerful” in the sense that they’re too strong, I mean powerful in the sensual experience and emotions the fragrances evoke. Between the uniqueness and depth of these fragrances, “bold” may be the best word I have for them. Their cold war inspired series embodies this boldness the most. It’s a trio of three scents (“Conquest,” “Defiance,” and “Propaganda”) that perfectly capture that era… which is an impressive (and fascinating) feat for a line of aftershaves!

Each fragrance is daring in its own way. I haven’t smelled a line of fragrances that’s so original across the board. Most companies might offer one or two truly original scents. I feel like all of Dr. Jon’s fragrances fit into that category. Even their bay rum (Anne Bonny), a fragrance practically every artisan wet shaving shop takes a stab at, is unique enough to be considered something truly original. It’s a riff on a classic, but it has the same “Dr. Jon’s flair” that the others do, setting it apart. The same is true of their barbershop scent. It’s the work of a talented perfumer and artisan.

The fragrance of the aftershave lasts a solid 4-5 hours. Sometimes in the afternoon I’ll reapply it to give my skin a boost and recharge the smell.

The burn

I’m really glad I got past my first impression, because I discovered an aftershave product I absolutely love. Dr. Jon’s aftershaves are in a class of their own on face feel.

It starts with a burn. The burn is deep and strong. It lasts a solid 5-10 seconds depending on how irritated the skin is. If you like a great post-shave burn like I do, you’ll love Dr. Jon’s. I’d say the burn is mid-strong — not the strongest burn I’ve felt from an aftershave, but very strong.

As the burn subsides, the refreshing menthol kicks in creating a pleasant icy-hot sensation for another 5 seconds or so. When the burn fades away completely you’re left with an icy, cool sensation. You’ll feel refreshed for a couple minutes before the chill wears away. There’s certainly products that contain a lot more menthol, so if you’re after a chill that makes your neck hairs stand up, this probably isn’t the line of aftershaves for you. It’s definitely there, it’s noticeable, but I wouldn’t say “powerful menthol” is a defining quality of this aftershave. For reference, it’s the second to last ingredient in a list of seven ingredients.

After drying, your face feels smooth and natural. I don’t notice any lingering texture. The skin feels taunt, supple, and healthy.

The ingredients

A good aftershave is more than a good smell; it’s medicinal. It helps the skin heal microscopic cuts invisible to the eye (and maybe a few very visible cuts on occasion!). It soothes the irritation and discomfort many men feel after a shave. It’s nourishing. For many men, shaving is the only skincare they do, so including ingredients that tone and care for the skin is important.

And this is why Dr. Jon’s aftershave splashes are aptly named “tonics.” They’re (much) more than just fragrance and alcohol (like some of the cheaper aftershaves made by big brands… I’m looking at you, Gillette). 

The complete ingredient list:

  • Alcohol – Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not necessarily bad for your skin. There are different types of alcohol. Certain types are actually quite healthy for the skin. The perfumer’s alcohol that Dr. Jon’s uses is one of the most skin-friendly alcohols available. 
  • Witch hazel – The tannins in witch hazel are a natural astringent. It’s also a skin toner and anti-irritant, so it helps your skin deal with the abrasion caused by shaving.
  • Rose water – Rose water has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the redness of irritated skin.
  • Natural fragrance – Dr. Jon’s doesn’t use any artificial fragrance chemicals — some of which are toxic and can cause allergic reactions on the sensitive tissue of the face.
  • Glycerin – Glycerin is a humectant which means it attracts moisture to your skin. It’s also an emollient, making skin not only moist, but soft and supple to the touch.
  • Aloe – Aloe vera contains two beneficial hormones: Auxin and Gibberellins. These hormones provide wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce skin inflammation. Paired with the witch hazel, this aftershave tonic is quite intentionally blended to soothe irritated skin.
  • Menthol – Besides being refreshing, menthol offers toning benefits for the facial skin.
  • Alum – Alum is a natural astringent and antihemorrhagic agent so it helps to seal any small wounds caused by shaving. 

Certainly, this is an aftershave that deserves the moniker of “tonic.” I apply it to my whole face and neck — regardless of whether that flesh was shaven — because it’s good for the facial skin. The skin just feels healthier after applying it. I don’t apply a separate moisturizer.

Maybe it’s my imagination, but I feel like my complexion has actually improved since I’ve started using Dr. Jon’s regularly. Looking at the list of ingredients, it’s probably not my imagination. Witch hazel, rose water, aloe, and glycerin all have known benefits for the skin and these are ingredients my skin wasn’t getting before using Dr. Jon’s aftershaves. 

The story

Dr. Jon’s is a husband and wife team out of Ohio. Their story is similar to many of the small wet shaving businesses that have sprung up over the last decade. They discovered traditional wet shaving and found that shaving went from a chore to be endured to a sensory experience they reveled in and looked forward to. That transformation is one that I can relate to and it’s why I love sharing traditional wet shaving with others.

The thriving boutique industry that has sprung up around wet shaving is what makes it so interesting and enjoyable. The products themselves are rewarding enough, but I think we all also enjoy the added “feel good” benefit of supporting small businesses.  

The price

Dr. Jon’s aftershave tonics come in a brown, 4 fl oz container with a black, aluminum screw top lid. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is $16 so this aftershave is about $4 per fluid ounce or $.14 a milliliter.

This pricing puts it in the mid-range relative to other aftershave products from other companies. You can find aftershaves that are cheaper and you can find aftershaves that are much, much more expensive. At $16 a bottle, I think it’s an excellent value. I don’t think you’ll find a higher quality aftershave for less than $4 an ounce. Generally, cheaper aftershaves will omit the nourishing botanicals and healing ingredients — like the rose water, aloe, witch hazel, and alum — that make this product so amazing.

The conclusion

I’d put this aftershave in the same class at the highly-regarded aftershave tonics by the artisan outfit Wet Shaving Products. 

Dr. Jon’s aftershaves include everything that make an aftershave product great — it smells great, it soothes the skin, it nourishes the skin, and it leaves you feeling like a million bucks. That’s what a great shave is all about.

Shaving is something most of us have to do regularly — it might as well be fun and enjoyable. It’s products like Dr. Jon’s aftershave tonic that make that possible. It’s a shaving product I look forward to using. I recommend it to you unconditionally.

You can buy Dr. Jon’s aftershaves here on my store. Use coupon code DRJONS to save 10%. The coupon actually applies to any Dr. Jon’s products, so you’ll save even more if you get the aftershave and matching shaving soap together.


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