Getting a close shave can be a pain. Between nicks, razor burn and ingrown hairs, I can see why beards are so popular. The good news is there's a range of new shaving creams on the market that go far beyond your dad's drugstore shaving cream and can help you get a smoother, better shave. While these creams might seem pricy, keep in mind, you usually only need a dime or quarter-sized amount. So they often last much longer than a drugstore foam you have to slather on to get any effect — unfortunately the old saying “you get what you pay for” apply to shaving creams as well.
Why You Should Use a Shaving Cream
1. Soften your beard. First of all for hydration. The cream keeps moisture in your beard hair during your shave which in turn keeps your beard much softer and easier to cut.
2. Lubricate the razor. You want that razor gliding over your face, not gouging into it. The smoother the razor goes, the less cuts and razor burn you end up with.
3. Soothing your skin. Some creams have ingredients to desensitize the skin, many have antiseptics or moisturizers. Your skin is pretty raw after shaving so pick one that works with your skin type.
4. Aesthetics. This is a little harder to define but some guys like to track where they've shaved and foam can make that visible. Others enjoy the morning ritual of mixing up the lather or the scent of their shave. Anything that makes your morning shave a little more enjoyable, I'm all for.
How to Pick a Shaving Cream
First off it's important customize to your own beard hair and skin-type. For instance, if you have thick beard hair, you'll want to find a shaving cream that helps soften your hair. If you have sensitive skin you should try to avoid shaving creams with heavy fragrances and alcohol content. There are a plethora of high quality choices which you can use to personalize your shave. In any case, you'll definitely want to avoid shaving creams with parabens, SLS, and SLES — these are all additives used in shaving creams that you'd be better off without.
There are three main types of shaving aids — shaving foam, gel and cream. Foams are generally the cheapest of the three and what you'll find in your typical drugstore. The main advantage of these is that they're convenient and inexpensive. Unfortunately they also tend to dry out the skin and leave it more prone to razor burn, irritation and ingrown hairs.
Gels are great for lubrication so if you have issues with razor burn, they're a good place to look. They're also transparent so if you have facial hair and want to shave around it, they give you good visibility.
Finally there's shaving cream. Good shaving creams give you a "cushion" to your shave which means you have more of a buffer between your razor and your delicate face skin. Plus many of them have moisturizing ingredients that are good for both your skin and making your beard softer. If you have thick, hard to shave beard hair a good shaving cream is worth its weight in gold.
How to Apply Shaving Cream
1. How to Use a Brush to Apply Shaving Cream
Most barbers and shaving-pros agree that using a shaving brush is the best way to go. That means mixing your cream in a shaving bowl where you can create a rich cream. Then applying it with the brush lifts your beard hair, making it easier for the razor to do its job. Since you're not having to press down heavily with the razor, you get less irritation and fewer cuts.
While using a shaving brush and bowl can feel a little intimidating the first time, ultimately it allows to control the thickness and texture of your shaving cream much more than applying it directly on your face. You can gradually add water to the cream, swirling it with your shaving brush until it is creamy.
To apply it to your face, start small. Use a dime-sized amount on each cheek and brush it lightly around the area you want to shave. It may be tempting to cover your face in a heavy layer of foam but keeping the foam relatively light can give you a smoother shave.
Finally, use your brush to spread the cream. Put a dime-sized dollop of cream on each cheek, and then swirl it into a larger circle until it encompasses the entire shaving area. Be thorough, because the end goal is to a smooth shave on every part of your face, but applying too much can flatten your facial hair against your skin.
2. How to Use Your Hands to Apply Shaving Cream
Okay, so using a brush and bowl is great but sometimes you're travelling or just in a hurry and don't have the time to go through all that. It's not the end of the world. Many shaving creams work just fine without the extra rigamarole. Just rub the cream in your hands, gradually adding water to get the right consistency and smooth on your shaving area.
When to Use Shaving Cream
For either shaving method, the best time to shave is after a warm shower when your skin is relaxed from the steam and your beard hair is softened. An alternative is the hot towel technique used at barbershops where the barber presses a warm, damp towel against your face. You can do the latter at home but it never seems be quite as relaxing and blissful as at the barber.
Best Barbershop Shave Cream
I love pretty much everything about the Proraso shaving line — from old-school packaging to the classic barbershop scents. It's hard to choose a favorite but this one uses a combination of eucalyptus oil that tones and purifies with menthol that helps cool the skin. It creates a nice close shave and the scent disappears within an hour or so. Great one to use in the shower when you're in a hurry.
Best Shaving Cream System
It seems like everyone is raving about The Art of Shaving these days — and after I finally bowed to peer-pressure and tried their products, I am too. The cream gives a foamy, thick lather with or without a brush and is perfect for guys who like that extra cushioning in their shave. I tried Sandalwood and enjoyed the scent, however if you have sensitive skin you might be better off with their unscented version. In either case, it gives you a great, smooth shave without irritation.
5 fl. oz.
Best For Thick Hair
This is a great option for men with thicker facial hair as it works to soften beard hairs. Ingredients include eucalyptus and rosemary for natural antiseptics, squalene to lubricate, and hops to relax the skin. It doesn't clog your blade and as an interesting side note, it's a benzocaine free formula which helps prevents skin numbness so you can't over-shave.
Best For Thick Lather
The ultimate rich lather shave cream. Supreme Cream's rich, luxurious lather provides three protective hydrating layers for a close, irritation-free shave. Perfect for use with or without a shaving brush. Good for sensitive skin.
Best Fragrance-Free Shaving Cream
This might take a little getting used to if you're used to a heavy lather. This is a foamless shaving cream, ideal for sensitive skin or guys who are prone to ingrown hairs. You spread a layer on your shavable area — wait a minute or two, then shave. Nice hydration and clear so if you have a beard and just want to trim the edges, this lets you see what you're doing. Definitely different from the norm but worth checking out.
Most Moisturizing Shaving Cream
This shaving cream is perfect for winter or travel when you're face is feeling weary, dried out and you want something extra gentle and moisturizing. Between cade essential oil, shea butter and vegetable-based glycerin, this shaving cream offers great moisture in a thick lathering foam.
5.2 fl. oz.
Best Smelling Shaving Cream
First of all, this is a great shaving cream with a very hydrating lather that let's you have a smooth shave. That's all wonderful — however the smell is what gets me every time. It combines the vaguely exotic scent of myrrh with notes of bergamot, cardamom and warm amber for a great, fragrant shave.
Critically Acclaimed Shaving Cream
This shaving cream won the coveted Allure Best of Beauty Award and it's easy to see why. Unlike a lot of other creams, this one gets almost no lather so I'd recommend just applying with your hand. Let it sit for 30 seconds and then shave away. It's got a unique blend of tea oil, witch hazel, peppermint, menthol and marine botanicals that ensure a close, irritation less shave.
Best Natural Shaving Cream
AHAVA has a unique alcohol-free and foamless shaving cream that gives a close, even shave while also moisturizing the skin. Dead Sea minerals soften the hair and smooth the skin. If you're looking for a product that's got natural ingredients in a luxury cream, try this. Good for sensitive skins too.
6.8 fl. oz.
Best Overall Shaving Cream
It's really hard to choose but I'd have to say Hydroplane Shave Cream is my personal favorite. It's a rich but foamless version (wrap your brain around that for a second) and the razor seems to just glide through. Plus while I don't have very sensitive skin, this doesn't contain alcohol or menthol and my skin feels smooth and clean afterwards. This is one that I usually don't use a brush with, just apply directly to my face in the shower.