Shaving Soap vs Shaving Cream: Choosing the Best Product For Your Face
When it comes to getting the closest, most comfortable shave possible, many men wrongly believe that using a sharp razor is all that matters when the truth is that the quality and type of shaving cream or soap you use is nearly just as important. However, knowing which of the myriad of shaving products to choose can be quite tricky, especially if you happen to have overly sensitive, dry or oily skin, as some products only serve to make these problems worse.
Of course, at the end of the day, the choice between shaving soap vs shaving cream is really a matter of personal preference. Still, by arming yourself with knowledge about the differences between shaving soap and shaving cream, you’ll be better prepared when it comes time to choose. For this reason, we’ve come up with this handy guide that will take you through the ins and outs of shaving soap vs shaving cream so that you can choose the right tools for the job and for your face.
Achieving a close, painless shave doesn’t have to be a dream, but it does require a bit of patience, practice and above all else, avoiding those cheap canned creams. While you should expect to pay a bit more for a high quality shaving soap or shaving cream, you’ll quickly find that the improved results are more than worth the extra cash. After all, can you really put a price on the perfect painless shave?
Shaving Soap vs Shaving Cream: Not All “Shaving Cream” is Shaving Cream
Before you can decide which is best for you, it’s important to understand the differences between shaving soap vs shaving cream. Still, even more important is to realize what we’re talking about when we say shaving cream or shaving gel. Be sure to learn all about shaving gels as well by reading our posts: shaving cream vs gel and the best shaving gels.
For the majority of men, the word shaving cream conjures up images of those cheap aerosol cans of cream or gel (think Barbasol, Gillette, etc.). However, stylish men in the know—those that truly understand the art of shaving—surely understand that these products really don’t deserve the name shaving cream and in truth should never, ever be used, except perhaps in an emergency situation.
While you may think those cheap creams can provide the same quality shave, the truth is that they often contain harsh chemical ingredients that can irritate the skin, while also not providing nearly as much lubricating properties as higher quality shaving creams or soaps. The more traditional shaving creams usually contain more natural ingredients, such as essential oils, shea butter and other things that can help nourish and protect the skin both during and after the shave.
True shaving cream should never come in an aerosol can, and as such, any true self-respecting man should stay away from them. When we talk about shaving cream, what we’re really referring to are typically thicker creams that come in a tube or jar and are ready to be whipped into a lather using a brush or your fingers. Most of these products will be manufactured by a respected name in men’s shaving products, such as Truefitt & Hill or Taylor of Old Bond Street (top shaving creams), and are designed to be used during a traditional wet shave (awesome wet shaving infographic), although many work equally as well even with disposable razors.
Shaving Soap vs Shaving Cream: What’s The Difference?
Shaving creams, soaps and gels are all meant to serve the same two purposes, that is, to soften up the facial hair so it’s easier to cut and to help lubricate the face to allow the razor to gently glide over the skin. As we mentioned earlier, we really wouldn’t consider aerosol creams and gels to be a proper “shaving cream,” as they perform these two functions quite poorly (if at all).
Still, while all these products are designed for the same purposes, there are actually quite major differences in shaving soap vs shaving cream, beginning with how they lather.
An Introduction to Shaving Soaps
Most shaving soaps are a hard puck or disc, which either comes in a container or is meant to be used with a shaving bowl. While high quality shaving creams contain more water and are immediately ready to lather, traditional shaving soaps typically need to have water added before they can begin to produce lather. Not only that, most shaving soaps also require the use of a shaving brush in order to build up the lather and apply it to the face. Check out our posts on how to use shaving soap and about shaving brushes and which ones are the best.
Although there are a huge variety of different shaving soaps on the market today, most traditional wet shavers tend to use triple-milled soaps, which are generally much harder, meaning that it takes quite a bit longer to work these soaps into a decent lather. However, after working the soap with your brush for a few minutes, you’ll be rewarded with an incredibly rich, luxurious lather that feels like nothing you can get with any other product.
The extra hardness of triple milled shaving soaps also means that they can typically last quite a bit longer, with most men getting at least two to four months of regular shaving out of one puck. That being said, many traditional shaving soaps also seem quite expensive at first glance, but most men quickly find them well worth the added cost. Still, you can also find many cheaper shaving soaps that may work just as well.
In truth, with so many different varieties, scents and types of shaving soap on the market, the only way to know whether a particular type works for you is to test it out. Still, if this prospect seems daunting, you should definitely check out our post on the best shaving soaps to at least give yourself a good place to start.
- See the consensus of hundreds of user reviews of the best shaving soap: Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Soap
Shaving Cream vs Gel
While traditional shaving soaps, including the semi-hard versions, require soaking in water and can take a bit of time to work into a useable lather, most artisan shaving creams and gels can quickly be worked into a lather as soon as they’re opened, without needing to add water. This makes these products a good choice for any man who doesn’t want to spend any extra time on their daily shaving routine, as shaving creams and gels are definitely quicker and easier to use than shaving soaps. While this doesn’t necessarily mean they are better overall, the fact that it takes some time and practice to get used to creating a good lather with shaving soap makes many men shy away from these products.
- See what thousands of other think of unquestionably one, if not the best shaving cream: Taylor of Old Bond St Shaving Cream reviews on Amazon
If this sounds like you, you may be better off to choose a quality shaving cream or gel. Still, just like there are major differences between shaving soaps and creams, there are also quite big differences when looking at shaving cream vs gel.
As we’ve already stated, shaving creams tend to come in a tube or jar and are generally quite thick—often resembling a lotion more than the standard shaving creams you’re probably used to. However, they’ll quickly turn into a nice foamy lather as soon as you start working the cream with your fingers or a shaving brush, after which the cream can be evenly applied to the face just as you would any other. That being said, the amount of lather the shaving cream (or shaving soap for that matter) produces will differ from product to product, as some stay more like a slick lotion while others lather up almost as much as those cheap aerosol creams. Check out our post on how to create a great shaving cream lather with a brush.
High quality shaving gels on the other hand generally do not produce a lather and are meant to be used as-is. The majority of these gels are typically clear, allowing you to see exactly where you’re shaving, which makes them a good choice for use when touching up around a goatee or other facial hair style. As these products are quite thick and do not lather, they should only ever be applied with your fingers, as they will instantly ruin a shaving brush. In most cases, shaving gels are recommended for men with sensitive skin, but in truth, they are incredibly popular amongst men of all skin types.
Shaving Soap vs Shaving Cream vs Gel: The Final Verdict
Generally speaking, deciding which type of shaving product is best is a matter of trial and error, as all men’s skin and facial hair is different. Still, although it’s really a matter of personal preference, your skin type can still help you determine which product is right for your face.
As we said, shaving gels are usually the best choice for men with sensitive skin, as the thicker gel helps to better lubricate the face and prevent unwanted irritation following the shave, but we have also found some great shaving creams for sensitive skin as well. On the other hand, if you tend to have dry skin, you may also want to stick with either gels or creams, as some brands of shaving soap have been known to dry out the face more than these other products.
- Get the best shaving gel (Anthony Logistics Shave Gel) here on Amazon
- Get the best shaving cream for sensitive skin (Taylor of Old Bond St.) here on Amazon
When choosing between the three, you’ll also want to pay attention to scent. Most shaving soaps and many shaving creams are available in a wide range of different scents, from sandalwood to rose, almond, citrus, woody, spicy and much more. However, while the scent in most shaving soaps is quite mild and usually fades away rather quickly, shaving creams often have a stronger scent, which can either be a good or a bad thing depending on your personal preferences and whether or not you wear cologne. Still, the only way to know whether the scent will interfere with your cologne or other products is to try it out.
At the end of the day, traditional shaving creams, gels and soaps can all get the job done, providing you with a much higher quality shave than you could ever get from aerosol creams. Still, deciding which type is right for you comes down to testing them out and seeing which you like the best. We actually created an awesome infographic on this topic. Be sure to check it out here. Don’t forget that using a quality safety razor like these and the right razor blade is also important in obtaining that outstanding shave we all desire and deserve.
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Ben Rose is the founder and senior editor at Prim&Prep, the definitive guide to male grooming. He is a wet shaving expert and body grooming aficionado. His work has been featured on many other prominent publications including Good Men Project, Addicted to Success, Steven Aitchison, and Sharpologist.