The best shaving cream is the very foundation of your shave and accounts for a number of important roles: cleansing, lubricating, nourishing and a scent that defines the whole shaving experience.
While traditional shaving soap was previously the default base for shaving, today there is a wealth of options to choose from.
This can lead to some confusion as although shaving cream is the popular term it only really came into use with the invention of Barbasol in 1919, which was designed for use without a shaving brush.
As such there are some great quality shaving soaps with a very creamy consistency which don’t necessarily need a brush, although we highly recommend it.
For this guide we’re going to be looking specifically at shaving cream as shaving soap is a world of its own we’ve covered in this guide, although we’ll consider some shaving creams that fit into both camps.
I mean, Proraso is a wonderful shaving cream in a tube but is also one of the best classic shaving soaps in a tub. Equally a modern shaving brand like The Art of Shaving offers a very traditional shaving cream but can hardly be relegated to the past.
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Shaving Soap Vs Shaving Cream
While a shaving brush will upgrade most shaving creams it’s fair to say it shouldn’t be essential for a cream as opposed to a soap. We also consider more modern latherless shave creams that help you see where you’re shaving.
In general shaving cream does contain soap but this is diluted with much more plant oils and butters to create a softer texture.
A shaving cream also won’t go through the milling process of shaving soap pucks whereby the water and air content is reduced by reprocessing the soap multiple times.
Types of Shaving Cream
Traditional shaving creams tend to be much like shaving soap but softer in consistency.
Shaving Gel Vs Cream
Popular for about 30 – 40 years now, shaving gels don’t lather up like traditional shaving cream and nor do they require a shaving brush. Instead they offer a thick liquid that makes a slippery surface for shaving. The perk is quick and easy application, plus many shavers find them the ultimate friction-free surface to avoid irritation.
However, the fact they can’t be applied with a shaving brush means the hairs don’t get lifted and instead are flattened by the massaging fingertips. They also tend to contain additives like alcohol which can dry out the skin.
However, there are some good quality shave gels around if you prefer this speed and convenience.
Shaving foam involved using propellent in shaving cream to turn it into a lightweight foam. Today shaving foam from a can seems to the most popular type of shaving cream and yet it is the least satisfying. While shaving foam is cheap, quick and easy you miss out on many of the qualities that make proper shaving creams so good.
Latherless Shaving Cream & Shave Butter
Is latherless cream just a fancy new word for shaving gel? In a way, yes. But we still think there’s a difference. Shave gel often sounds like something blue from the drug store. Latherless shaving cream is much more like a traditional shaving cream in terms of quality ingredients like Jojoba oil that nourish the skin while improving glide. The theory is that concentrated liquid is more slippery than lots of air bubbles. We would probably class shave butter as another reinvention like this.
What Makes The Best Shaving Cream?
One of the challenges with finding shaving lathers is you can spend $3 at a drug store or $50 at a high-end grooming brand. What’s the difference? Unlike many things in life, shaving cream does have a fairly strong correlation between price and quality, although there are still bargains to be had as well as designer brands that overcharge you for a flashy label.
The biggest feature in shaving cream is what exactly the it is made of. The biggest ingredient is soap at about 30% while the rest is made up of oils, water and emulsifiers.
That 70% can contain a huge variety of ingredients so its worth paying attention to.
Most traditional creams use vegetable oil (glycerine) or animal fat (often lanolin or tallow). That’s hardly suprising given the main use of shaving cream is as a lubricant.
Even if you don’t want to use a shaving brush you still want a thick layer of lubricating cream to make your razor glide perfectly.
High quality shaving creams nourish the skin and include essential oils that smell great as well as providing additional benefits. Many shavers choose shaving creams with high quality natural ingredients.
On the other hand, if you find a shaving cream listing “fragrance” or “parfum” as an ingredient then that could be any number of thousands of possible ingredients.
If you have sensitive skin then you may want to consider fragrance-free shaving creams like The Art of Shaving and Proraso.
Parabens are essentially preservatives that have been found in lots of cosmetic products. There have been concerns about toxicity which have seen a lot of parabens phased out.
Overall the evidence is unclear on this and you have to question if a product is better off without preservatives in which case it might grow bacteria. In general though you can expect paraben-free shaving cream to be of a higher quality like Taylor of Old Bond Street.
Lots of shaving products contain silicone – even high end ones. It might seem strange to be nourishing your skin with the synthetic rubbery material used in your cookware.
Lots of us are still shocked about the environmental impact of microbeads in lots of cosmetics that release lots of ingestable plastic into the ocean.
However safe varieties of silicone are actually very common in cosmetics including hair conditioner, as well as other “personal” lubricants for areas besides the face.
One of the most popular is Dimethicone (or its harder to pronounce name Polydimethylsiloxane). It’s derived from natural silicon and offers an array of properties beneficial to shaving cream.
There are some concerns about Dimethicone blocking pores and causing irritation but these are largely disputed by dermatologists who say that the whole point of Dimethicone is that it’s inert and will not combine with skin oils – unlike natural plant oils which can include all sorts of allergens.
Best Shaving Cream
Jack Black has earned a reputation of superior natural ingredients. Like many shaving creams on this list they offer both a tube and a tub variety. The soft cream doesn’t require a shaving brush, although it would improve the experience. The Jack Black shaving cream is available is either a jar or a squeezable bottle to suit both shaving styles.
Professional dermatologists have endorsed this shaving cream while Jack Black is also certified colorant-free, animal cruelty-free, paraben-free, and fragrance-free. That makes it the best shaving cream for sensitive skin unless you are allergic to any of the natural oils.
Being scent-free is great for sensitive skin but can be a dealbreaker for anyone wanting a more fragrant shave, which brings us to a worthy alternative…
Fancy trying a shaving cream made by the Queen of England’s perfumier? Floris was founded in 1730 as the United Kingdom’s oldest fragrance retailer and is still run by the 9th generation of the same founding family.
They are based at No.89 Jermyn Street – just down from Taylor of Old Bond Street (that’s not a mistake – Taylor moved from Old Bond Street to Jermyn Street but kept the name) and as such reside in the home of the finest men’s grooming establishments.
However, their tube shaving cream is a thoroughly modern cream that can be lathered with or without a brush nice and smoothly. Keep in mind that this is a cream from a fragrance brand and so only buy this if you like very rich fragrances.
Many shavers find it a little overpowering and offputting, but a select few find walking into the bathroom in the morning an intense sensory experience.
The Art of Shaving has seen meteoric success from a small husband and wife team 20 years ago to a high street shop today. They’ve encountered some criticism from wet shavers for selling out to Proctor & Gamble, who own Gillette, but regardless of their attitude to razors many of their products are still of a high quality.
Their shaving cream is no exception. It’s a soft traditional shaving cream in a screw-top tub and a little bit whips up easily into a great lather.
What sets them apart however is the range of rare scents available. Our favourites are Bourbon, Oud and Bergamot and Neroli. They also offer a classic Sandalwood that competes with Taylor of Old Bond Street.
The obvious downside is the expense of this premium brand but a little cream does go a long way. The chances are if you switch to traditional shaving with a safety razor you’ll still save money in the long run.
A Kickstarter sensation, Supply are a shaving startup with a small line of high quality shaving acoutrements.
The same care and attention has been made to producing their shaving cream.
It is available in three scents, perhaps the best being juniper, bergamot and jasmine that is light and quite citrusy. We also like “Coastal” that combines the bergamot with deep cedar and oakmoss.
It is very moisturizing thanks to a generous amount of shea butter and jojoba oil which also make it very smooth and protective. It’s a much thinner shaving cream than most traditional types like Proraso and Taylor of Old Bond Street so this is well suited to anyone who prefers a simple modern cream that you can apply with your fingertips.
As mentioned above, Proraso goes back some generations. But this classic shaving cream is soft is its consistency – which among shaving forums would make it a cream-soap or “croap”. Hence it is also available in a tube.
Proraso comes in a number of varieties defined by colour. The red is the more traditional sandalwood while the green is most popular with a fresh menthol and eucalyptus scent. The white variety is one of the best shaving creams for sensitive skin.
Read our full Proraso review here.
Taylor of Old Bond Street goes back 200 years and is the classic traditional shaving brand. As such their shaving cream is very much a traditional soap but remains very soft and is available in a tube. In general the consistency does require the use of a brush, although Taylor themselves call this cream and not soap.
Brushless Latherless Shaving Cream and Shaving Gels
Awarded best shaving cream in 2011 by Men’s Health, Jack Black beard lube is a reinvention of shaving gel that offers superior skin care thanks to top quality ingredients that go beyond mere lubrication.
Macadamia nut oil is a high-quality oil that penetrates below the skin to hydrate and soften it while heather provides soothing, anti-irritant properties.
Even compared to our favourite traditional shaving creams, Jack Black’s beard lube is a top choice for anyone with facial hair because it is translucent. That means you can see where you shave without compromising on lubrication.
Billy Jealousy Hydroplane uses micro-silicone to improve razor glide and natural fruit oils to replenish the skin. No doubt the hydroplane name refers to the speedboats raised above the water to minimise resistance and this definitely feels the case with this very slick latherless shaving cream. A little goes a long way so apply just a small amount and add water to open it up. The other ingredients are all well-certified, cruelty free and with no artificial fragrance.
In terms of performance it is quite thick and was definitely not designed for safety razors. It’s no wonder they suggest shortening your strokes and washing the razor more regularly as it does tend to gunk it up more.
Billy Jealousy uses dimethicone – a water-soluble organic silicone. However, another ingrdeient listed is “polyparaben” which simply means unspecified parabens.
Rituals is a premium skincare brand and their Samurai line pays homage to the master swordsman of the past. Basil and ginseng and combined for a subtle and sophisticated scent while the cream itself is non-lathering for a quick and easy shave. The appearance is very white, silky and smooth.
While you shouldn’t be misled by fancy packaging, Rituals is certainly tempting with a solid jar and wooden lid. As part of their commitment to reducing waste packaging, you can place refills in this beautiful container.
Cremo shaving cream has had an impact that deserves its somewhat immodest title “Astonishingly Superior”. While it is a non-foaming shave cream it does actually respond well to a brush but can equally be applied by hand.
It is incredibly smooth and unusually effective with a safety razor unlike most modern creams. You only need a small amount, although be warned that you do need to keep wetting it as it does have a habit of drying up while you’re using it.
The citrusy scent is quite mild but may resemble cleaning products depending on how you perceive this kind of fragrance.
Overall Cremo is very protective and moisturizing for a great price. Our only complaint in this Cremo shaving cream review would be that it is very much a compromise between traditional shave creams and modern convient creams – as if they are trying to bridge the gap between very different types of shaving personality.
It’s not a tub of thick paste to whip up a thick lather with a shaving brush and nor is it a translucent blue gel and as such many shavers aren’t quite sure how to perceive it.
For instance, it is a little confusing they refer to “impossibly slick molecules” alongside all-natural ingredients like Macadamia seed oil, aloe and papaya extract. Of course these plant oils contain their own molecules while Cremo contains no silicones or parabens. And while its non-foaming you can totally use a shaving brush to lather up with it.