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Shaving Cream vs Soap, Gel or Foam – Pros and Cons of Each

Last Updated on March 3, 2024
tub of Taylor of bond street sandlewood shaving cream with razor and brush

Shaving is a very personal thing, as personal as choosing what cologne you want to wear each day or outfit. That being said, the days of only having one option when it comes to shaving are gone, and there are now more shaving creams, soaps, and gels than ever before. Each has its own merits, and knowing just what it is that you want from your shave can help you choose what is right for you.

What is Shaving Cream?

You might think that shaving cream, shaving gel, and shaving foam are all the same thing, but this is not the case. Shaving cream is often thick, feels a bit like lotion or conditioner that you might use on your hair, and often has moisturizing properties. Shaving cream is made without harsh chemicals like alcohol and is designed to help condition the skin, soften the hair to make cutting easier, and help to ease the path of the razor over the skin.

vintage Barbasol shaving cream in a tube
Barbasol, the first shaving cream on the market

Shaving cream is thick in texture and is moisturizing; this means that it is not only going to help soften the hair so that it can be shaved easier, but it is also going to condition the skin, make the skin softer and more hydrated, and it is also going to make shaving closer and more comfortable. Most shaving cream has the same basic list of ingredients; stearic acid, lanolin, glycerin, triethanolamine, and water, with a few other ingredients added in.

Shaving cream is thick in texture and is moisturizing, this means that it is not only going to help soften the hair so that it can be shaved easier, it is also going to condition the skin, make the skin softer and more hydrated……

Stearic acid works like soap, and triethanolamine works to help draw out oils and dirt from the skin. Lanolin is an emulsifier that helps to keep water on the skin and makes the cream emollient so that it can help condition the skin while also lubricating the shaving process and helping the razor glide effortlessly across the face.

There may also be natural fragrances, aloe, oils, and other ingredients that help to soften the skin further and leave the areas you shave feeling great.

Pros of Shaving Cream

If you are thinking about using shaving cream, it is helpful to learn what some pros are. The first is that it will be very moisturizing to the skin, it will help keep the skin feeling great, and it will help soften the hairs before you shave them.

There are many shaving creams on the market, a heck of a lot of choices with various fragrances, and you’ll find many guys that use creams rather than foams or gels have a couple of their favorite creams to use.

The whole experience of shaving with cream is fun, from lathering up to the finish, and they do feel very luxurious and it will leave your skin feeling great.

While some creams are more pricey than other types of shaving lubricant, a tub goes a long way. A user only needs a small amount for lathering up.

Cons of Shaving Cream

There are also some cons to keep in mind. The first is that shaving cream is not something you can slap on and go. It may also take more time and effort to remove when you are done shaving, and you may need to wash and rinse your face more fully than you might with foam and gel.

Creams can be too hydrating if you have oily skin, and it can be time-consuming to create lather, something you may not have time to deal with if you are shaving in a hurry.

Cream does not come in cans; it can come in a tube, and it can also come in a tub, so it may take a bit more effort to get it on your face to shave. Another con is that shaving cream is thick, so it can clog your razor and make it harder to clean your razor while you are shaving.

More pricier than other types of shaving lubricants.

Most guys experienced in wet shaving who started using shaving creams and ditched the foams have never looked back. You really get into the stuff!

What is Shaving Foam?

Shaving foam is a bit different from shaving cream; though it may look the same at first glance, it does often come in an aerosol can, and it is going to be much thinner and much airier than a shaving cream. Foams are designed to be quick and convenient; they are not necessarily designed to add tons of moisture to the skin or make the shaving experience feel like you are at a traditional barber.

Gillette foamy regular
Gillette regular foam

Shaving foam is meant to be something that is easy to use and that is going to help you shave and get out the door. They do often have ingredients like alcohol that can be drying to the skin, and they do not lather up like a traditional shaving cream or a shaving soap would do. They create a thin layer to help reduce surface friction between your face and the razor to help you get a closer shave and avoid things like razor burn, ingrown hairs and other skin irritation.

If you are looking for something that is easy to use and that is not going to make your skin feel greasy or weighed down, a foam might be just what you are looking for. Foams are a fantastic way to get your face ready to shave without having to worry about things like washing your face thoroughly afterward or lathering up your shaving cream or soap.

Pros of Shaving Foam

One of the biggest pros of a shaving foam is that they are easily accessible, they are often inexpensive, and they are fast. You can squirt what you need directly into your hand, put it on your face, and you are ready to go. You do not have to worry about creating a lather, with washing your face after, and you are going to get a close enough shave with minimal effort.

Cons of Shaving Foam

There are also some cons to keep in mind. The first is that shaving foams are not going to be very hydrating. They are not going to leave your face feeling smooth and supple. Since they do contain alcohol, they may even leave your face feeling tight or dry. They are also not going to create a rich lather, and you may be more likely to deal with irritation from fragrance and from the alcohol that is in it.

Shaving foam unlike cream or soap does not get into thicker hair to soften things up before shaving as good.

Guys that use cartridge and throw away razors use shaving foam more than other types of lubricant and usually have no idea how good a great shaving cream is to use.

What is Shaving Gel?

Another option for shaving that is incredibly popular is shaving gel. These are the gels that come out in bright colors generally and that have fragrance and are meant to create a thick layer between your skin and the razor. Gels are made to replace the need for a foam or a cream, and they are fast and easy to use as well. Gels also often come in aerosol cans that are easy to get and relatively inexpensive.

Anthony Shave Gel for Men with Sensitive Skin

Shaving gels are designed to penetrate the skin better, so if you are getting a gel that specifically states that it hydrates the skin, this gel is going to be able to penetrate the skin and hydrate better. Shaving gels create a much thicker layer of protection between your skin and the razor and are actually much better at protecting the skin from irritation than even creams are. Shaving gels do not need to be lathered, you can simply place them on the skin in a thin, clear layer that you can then see through.

Some gels can be lathered up, and some are designed to lather up as they are put on the skin, although they are not like the lather a man gets from shaving cream. Gels are going to be great for creating a protective layer on the skin while hydrating and softening the hair for a closer and easier shave overall.

Note: If you want pure gel and not foam then look out for non-foaming and transparent gels otherwise you may purchase gel that turns into foam when massaged on the skin.

Pros of Shaving Gel

The first pro of shaving gel is that it is very protective for the skin. They are going to create a barrier between your skin and the razor so that it glides over effortlessly and so that you do not have to deal with razor burn, cuts or other irritation. They are also quicker than traditional shaving cream, so they can be used when you have to move quickly or when you do not have a ton of time to shave.

They are also easy to use, come in a ton of different formulations from hydrating to sensitive skin, and they are wonderful if you want a somewhat luxurious feel but might not want to use a traditional shaving cream.

Shaving gel is also easy to rinse off your face and rinse off your razor while you shave. Gels are also great if you are looking to go waterless with your shave. You can use them without having to have water, so they are wonderful on the go or in a pinch.

You can buy gel quite cheap, although you can also buy better quality expensive gels.

Cons of Shaving Gel

There are some cons as well that you do need to consider. Shaving gel is very thick, if you have skin that is very oily or if you have skin that gets irritated easily, something like a shaving gel does have the potential to irritate the skin.

Gel can feel a bit more gooey or sticky when beginning to dry on the face.

Even the better quality shaving gels that cost a bit more won’t go as far in use as a shaving cream will.

Just like shaving foams in a can–it tends to be guys that use disposable and cartridge razors that use shaving gels rather than guys that wet shave with safety razors or straight razors.

What is Shaving Soap?

There is one more option that you may want to consider that is a bit less popular than it used to be and that might take a bit more effort to use. Shaving soap is a type of shaving product that is made of soap and fatty acids. These are often soap bars or pots that have solid soap in them. The user then takes a shaving brush and warm water and uses them to create a rich lather that is then applied to the face.

Proraso shaving soap in a bowl
Proraso shaving soap in a bowl – It’s a classic

Shaving soaps are great if you want something that is very classic and if you do have the extra time to shave. Shaving soaps are often infused with ingredients that help to deeply condition the skin and help to soften and lift the beard hair for a very close shave. They are also often great for those who have trouble with the ingredients in popular canned shaving products. They can help add extra lubrication to prevent razor burn, and they can leave the skin feeling soft and well-conditioned.

Shaving soaps are great if you want something that is very classic and if you do have the extra time to shave.

Pros of Shaving Soap

The first pro is that they are often made with very high-quality ingredients that are going to help you get a close shave and get skin that feels fantastic. They are also going to be a good investment for the money. Shaving soaps do last a very long time, so you are not going to have to buy a new soap every few weeks.

Cons of Shaving Soap

The most obvious con is that they take longer to use, and they take some time and effort to use correctly. While it might seem like a simple process, there is a technique that you need to learn in order to be able to use them correctly. They do take time, they are not something that you can use every morning for ten minutes, and they do take a bit of effort.

While shaving creams have definitely taken over the market share for guys that wet shave with safety razors and/or straight blades, some guys still love the traditional soaps and favor them.

What Type of Shaving Lubricant is Best for You?

When choosing what is going to work best for you, there are three things to keep in mind. The first is how much time you have. If you have more time to devote to shaving -a cream or a soap may be what you want. If you have less time, a gel or a foam may be your best bet. The next thing to consider is your skin type. If you have skin that is very dry you want to opt for something more hydrating like a cream or a gel. If you have drier skin, a foam may be better.

Lastly, you need to consider your hair type. Very coarse hair is going to be easier to shave with a soap or a cream or even a gel as they will help soften the hair. A foam is going to be better for hair that is less coarse and easier to shave. No matter what you choose, knowing what options are out there is the best method for choosing what is going to work for you.

– On a side note, and just my personal preference. Traditional tube cream wins hands down for me all day long!

  • Jason Jones

    I'm the chief shaverer over here at ShavingAdvisor and when I am not shaving off any hair I have left, or writing about what I have shaved off - I do a load of other life stuff and enjoy a good cup of tea between doing stuff!

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