Aftershave is a lotion, gel, or liquid applied to the face after shaving. Many men use it. This article discusses the harmful effects from swallowing aftershave products.
This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call the local emergency number (such as 911), or the local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
The harmful ingredients in aftershave are:
- Ethyl alcohol
- Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol)
Aftershave may contain other harmful substances.
Aftershaves are sold under various brand names.
Symptoms of aftershave poisoning may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Change in alertness level (may become unconscious)
- Coma (decreased level of consciousness and lack of responsiveness)
- Eye irritation (burning, redness, tears)
- Low body temperature
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar
- Nausea and vomiting (may contain blood)
- Rapid heart rate
- Slowed breathing
- Slurred speech
- Throat pain
- Unable to walk normally
- Urination difficulties (too much or too little urine output)
Isopropanol may cause these other symptoms:
- Unresponsive reflexes
- Uncoordinated movement
Children are especially prone to developing low blood sugar, which may cause these symptoms:
Seek medical help right away. DO NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.
If the person can swallow normally, give them water or milk, unless a provider tells you not to. DO NOT give water or milk if they have symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include:
- A decreased level of alertness
Before Calling Emergency
Have this information ready:
- Person's age, weight, and condition
- Name of the product (ingredients, if known)
- Time it was swallowed
- Amount swallowed
Your local poison control center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.
The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.
The person may receive:
- Blood and urine tests
- Breathing support, including tube through the mouth into the lungs and breathing machine (ventilator)
- Chest x-ray
- ECG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
- Dialysis (kidney machine)
- Fluids through a vein (by IV)
- Medicine to treat the effects of the poison
- Tube from the mouth into the stomach if vomiting blood
Aftershave poisoning is more common in small children than in older children or adults. Alcoholics may drink aftershave when other alcohol runs out.
The outcome depends on how much the person swallows. The range of illness may vary from a condition similar to being drunk to coma, seizures, and severe lung problems. A product with more isopropyl alcohol could cause a more serious illness. Complications, such as pneumonia, muscle damage from lying on a hard surface for a prolonged period of time, or brain damage from lack of oxygen, may cause permanent disability.
Aftershave poisoning is not deadly in most cases.
Nelson ME. Toxic alcohols. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 141.
Olives TD, Ling LJ. The alcohols: ethylene glycol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, and alcohol-related complications. In: Bakes KM, Buchanan JA, Moreira ME, Byyny R, Pons PT, eds. Emergency Medicine Secrets. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 71.
Review Date: 11/13/2021
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.