Shaving Cream vs Soap, Gel & Foam (Pros & Cons) 2022 Update
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What is the difference between shaving cream, shaving soap, shaving gel, and shaving foam in a canister, and does it matter what you choose? We explain the pros and cons of each type.
- Cream that foams up with a shaving brush
- Comes either in a tube or a bowl
- The most popular option for men’s razors
- Much more economical than shaving foam in a canister or shaving gel
- Easy to create a lather
- Easy to take on a trip
- Second cheapest per shave
- More difficult to use on edges around beard
With shaving cream, you whip in air and water with a shaving brush to make lather. This makes the cream go a long way compared to shaving foam – in fact, a 150 ml tube lasts at least 300 shaves in our testing! The best shaving creams also do not contain propellants or other petrochemicals.
Shaving cream in a bowl lasts the longest since you can spread a thin layer of cream on the shaving brush by swiping it over the bowl. Do not whip up a lather in the bowl with the cream, as the brush will then only bring out more and more cream. Cream in a tube, on the other hand, is the easiest to take on a trip. If the tube is less than 100 ml, you can take it with you as hand luggage on the plane (an example: Pacific Shaving Company Natural Shaving Cream).
Since the shaving cream is already liquid, it can be lathered quickly. With a moisturized shaving brush, you whip in water and air to get an airy lather, which keeps the skin smooth and sterile during shaving. It is easy to vary the consistency of the lather by adding more water or cream to the brush. In case of emergency, shaving cream can be applied by hand. Some creams are also made to be used without a brush.
Tip: Save time by applying cream directly on moisturized skin with your hands, and then lather up with a moisturized shaving brush. With a tube squeezer key, you are guaranteed to get the last residue out of the tube.
- A bar of soap that is foamed up with a shaving brush
- Comes in a bowl or as a refill
- The cleanest and most “most mileage for your buck” option
- Contains soap only
- Cheapest per shave
- Requires more water in the brush
- Takes a little longer to lather
- Higher demand for quality the shaving brush
This is soap in a solid form that is boiled from oil and lye. They do not need synthetic, surfactants, emulsifiers, or preservatives to work. The best shaving soaps are triple-milled to get rid of all the water and air so that there is only soap left. Shaving soaps are therefore the most economical and cheapest alternative – it is not uncommon for one bar of soap to last up to two years of regular use.
Since shaving soaps do not contain moisture, you need to use a little more water on your brush to make a good lather. In addition, it often takes a little longer to foam it up. As with shaving cream in a bowl, do not whip up a lather on the soap itself; just rotate it a little until the brush gets a film of bubbles. Then whip up the lather in a separate cup, in your hand, or directly on your face. The lather is the same as with shaving cream.
Wipe the soap before putting it in the toiletry bag and feel free to put a rubber band over the lid. Since the soap is not liquid, all sizes can be taken as hand luggage on planes. Shaving soaps are usually recommended with safety razors, and straight razors and are often included in a good straight razor kit.
Tip: Rotate the shaving brush around its axis to avoid spills. We recommend a brush with a bit of elasticity such as Parker Silvertip Badger Shaving Brush or VIKINGS BLADE White Knight Shaving Brush since it must be pressed slightly against the soap.
- Transparent gel applied by hand
- Does not lather
- Particularly suitable for drawing edges around beards and hair
- Does not hide edges and details
- Kinder to the skin than foam
- Does not require a shaving brush
- Less “mileage” vs cream and soap
- Second most expensive per shave solution
- Easy to bring on travels
This is a moisture-binding lotion that is applied with the hands. It settles as a smooth coating that protects the skin and gives the razor blade a good glide. Shaving gel does not bubble and should therefore not be lathered. Most shaving gels are transparent, which is convenient for seeing exactly where to shave if you have to maneuver around a beard or mustache. On the other hand, the product lasts shorter than shaving cream and shaving soap.
While the skin is naturally acidic, pretty much all soaps are alkaline (basic). Therefore, they must be followed up with aftershave cream/face cream and therefore can in rare cases offer challenges for those with sensitive skin. However, shaving gel is not basic and may therefore be a better choice for you if you have sensitive skin prone to inflammation.
Tip: Shaving gel is not soap and does not cleanse the skin. Therefore, be thorough with your face wash if you use gel.
- Canister with shaving cream and propellant
- Apply by hand
- The most expensive and least environment-friendly option
- Fastest to apply
- Very little “mileage”
- Dries quickly on the skin
- Most expensive per shave
- Difficult to bring on travels
These are canisters where shaving cream and propellants are mixed in liquid form under pressure. When the nozzle is opened, the propellants expand rapidly and fill the shaving cream with air so that it becomes foam. This means of course a quick shave since you do not have to lather up the cream yourself.
The disadvantage of the canisters is the propellants. These make up a large part of the canister’s volume, so it is only good for 20-50 shaves before it is empty. This makes even a cheap canister one of the most expensive options per shave. The canister also needs a large number of synthetic chemicals and hydrocarbon gases to function. Such canisters are demanding to recycle since residual gas must be drained from the container before the aluminum it is made of can be recycled.
Since the shaving foam does not bind as much water as a shaving brush can whip in, it dries out faster on the skin. Be prepared to apply more during shaving. Many manufacturers of canned shaving foam also make various cartridge razors with a water-soluble plastic slip strip to compensate for the lack of lubrication in the foam.
Tip: The bubbles in shaving foam canisters are fragile. Avoid squeezing the foam on the skin, but apply it very lightly with your fingertips.
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