We as men often choose to be one of three things; cleanly shaven, messy stubble or merlin-like beard. There doesn’t seem to be much of an in between. Regardless of whether you are clean shaven or resemble a sasquatch, all men need a shaving cream in the grooming arsenal.
Whether you are tidying up the neck portion of your beard or merely having a fresh shave before your date later. The history of the humble shaving cream dates all the way back to 3000 BC, where animal fat and tree alkali was used to prepare the beard for a good trimming.
While the technology behind the cosmetics we use to prepare the face for an attack on its fuzz have advanced considerably in the last 5000 years, it is only since the early twentieth century we have been using creams. Before that soap bars and sticks were commonplace among our shaving kits.
"...all men need is a shaving cream in the grooming arsenal..."
But since we do now use the shaving cream as the de-bearder of choice, I shall go over just why you should use a cream. Shaving the face can cause some serious skin irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin. Shaving aggravates the skin surrounding the hair follicles, which can sometimes lead to a rash. Using a shaving cream actually works to not only reduce this irritation by providing a smooth cutting surface for your razor of choice, but the ingredients in most good shaving creams works to simultaneously soothe and calm the recently deflowered skin.
There are other grooming options out there for what to slather on your face; oils, serums, foams, soaps etc, but they deserve their own articles. For the sake of accuracy and brevity I will address only creams here.
"...Using a shaving cream actually works to reduce irritation by providing a smooth cutting surface for your razor of choice..."
The question now is; how do I choose a cream to shave with?
There are myriad factors to consider, here are the most important.
4 Important Factors to Consider in Choosing the Right Shaving Cream
The Viscosity of the Cream
This is an important factor because how gloopy and thick a cream is, decides how well the blade/s will move across the skin. You don’t want a cream which is too thick as the blade will struggle to make contact with the skin.
Yet, having a shaving cream which is less viscous means the razor will slide about and provide no cushion or protection from potential cuts. Use a cream that can control the smoothness and the movement of the razor.
Similar to the point above, the lather is key in aiding the ease of your shave. If it lathers too much it will fail to act as a cream and just create a barrier between your razor and the skin.
If it lathers too little it will lubricate the skin too much, increasing the chances of hurting yourself. Make sure that the cream can leather consistently with both hard and soft water.
If you don’t like the smell you aren’t going to want to put it on your face. A bad smelling shaving cream will seep into your skin, like any facial grooming product, meaning your skin will end up smelling like the shaving cream.
Either find a shaving cream with a smell you like or find an unscented cream. One more point; if it smells, you will smell it all day on your skin, make sure you can tolerate it all day.
If you shave a lot for work or just because you like it, then consider getting a higher quality, high-end cream which will reduce the irritation from your frequent shaving.
However, if you shave once a week or less, you don’t need to go for the big brands with bigger price tags. Instead choose one which fulfils the criteria above but lends itself to infrequent use.
A few more tips to guide your decision; if you want to add moisture to your face, pick a shaving cream which has shea butter within its ingredients. If you have irritable and sensitive skin, choosing a cream with aloe vera in it will help cool the skin post shave. Finally, if you want a shaving cream which is going to reduce the nicks associated with shaving; pick one with a thicker and more creamy texture.
With all this in mind let us examine the best shaving cream for both high-end and high-street consumers. Below are the best in each category.
The Best Shaving Creams for Men
High-End Shaving Creams
This is the cream of the crop (pun intended), the best of the best, the creams where your skin will not only be irritation-free, but it will feel soothed and invigorated.
The creams under this segment may have a higher price tag, but the quality behind each one is multitudes greater than any big-box store cream.
Jack Black-Supreme Triple Cushion Shave Lather ($65)
It may sound like a weird skate-board move, but Jack Black’s (not the actor) shaving cream is levels above most of the others.
The combination of a three layer oil system, consisting of; Macadamia Nut oil, Glycerin and Soybean oil, give unrivalled protection and smoothness of shave.
The triple cushioned oils work to keep the blade from nicking at your skin whist providing you with one of the closest shaves you can have.
Pros: Extremely high quality and does a wonderful job and prevents irritation. Cons: Expensive.
LAB Series- Maximum Comfort Shave Cream ($27)
Lab series is a more affordable high-end product. It maintains the expensive ingredients whilst keeping the price low.
This is their best selling product, and with reduced irritation, smooth shaving and a good lather you can see why. The iconic brand oozes quality with a clinical and somewhat scientific edge.
Good Bits: Affordable high-end.
Cons: the moisturiser contained in it can make your face a little oily.
Floris London No 89 Shave Cream ($35)
One of London’s best, a true English product, from presentation to contents. This wonderful cream gives you 100 ml of aloe vera infused shaving cream, giving you the cooling and calming attributes aloe provides for the skin.
The aloe vera combined with camomile joins together for the ultimate post shave smoothness, as well as the intoxicating smell it leaves on your skin.
Pros: it leaves your skin soft and irritation free.
Cons: The smell can be a little overpowering.
Penhaligon’s Bayolea Conditioning Shave Cream ($70)
At $70 for 150ml the price alone might put you off, but before you scoff at the frankly crazy price consider the quality it has to go with it.
Penhaligon’s was founded all the way back in the Victorian era, being rewarded for their quality by being issued two royal warrants (effectively they were used by royalty).
If this isn’t enough to bring you back, consider the beautiful aroma and moisturising properties it contains.
Pros: very high quality and royalty used it.
Cons: For 150ml at $70 it simply isn’t affordable for anyone but royalty.
Atkinsons Deluxe Shaving Cream ($54)
This beauty of product is for those of you who like a thicker lather. Using a proper shaving brush this cream will whip up into a wonderfully lathered foam, which will coat and soften your hairs as you shave them.
The benefit of the cream softening your hair is that the razor tugs less at the hair.
Pros: softens the hair and provides clean shaving experience.
Cons: The lather can be quite mad and isn’t for everyone.
Pankhurst London Shaving Cream ($40)
Pankhurst work hard to give you the feeling of a professional shave from a barber.
To help with this they give you high-end, yet somewhat affordable shaving creams which cool your skin as you shave and have a lovely lime and bay rum scent. This product can be used with a brush or your hands, but it’s better with a brush.
Pros: It smells sensational.
Cons: This smell will probably overpower your aftershave and get on your nerves smelling it all day.
Truefitt & Hill 1805 Shave Cream ($45)
A fantastic shaving cream and a wonderful addition to any grooming regime. The company was founded in 1805, hence the name, and to this day remains a powerhouse of male grooming.
They have served the English royal family and people like you and me, they put the pride of 200 years of craftsmanship into each tub and work to be effortlessly classy. The understated brand leaves a fresh scent and cool sensation after you’ve washed your face.
Pros: true heritage and class.
Cons: The smell is an acquired taste.
St. James of London Shaving Cream ($26)
If you don’t want to shell out tons of money for a shaving cream, opt for this little beauty.
The silky smooth cream lathers to perfection, forming an effortlessly applied foam which gives you one of the closer shaves you’ll ever have. Not only this but St. James’ also holds multiple scents; from Mandarin & Patchouli to Black Pepper & Lime.
Pros: a well-rounded shaving cream with sensational smells.
Cons: Due to the aggressive lather shaving will probably take longer.
Taylor of Old Bond Street Rose Shaving Cream ($17)
I’ve left the most affordable high-end product till last. The quintessential English name; Taylor of Old Bond Street provides a cheaper alternative to some of the big names in men’s grooming.
Rather than ask you to fork out ridiculous amounts of money, Taylor’s ask merely $17 for their rose scented cream. The cream lathers well, provides decent protection from nicks and cuts and has a lovely rose smell.
Pros: affordable and smells nice
Cons: not for everyone and can be leave a bit of a film on your skin.
While these cheaper and more cost-effective creams will never be as good as the higher-priced options in high-end stores, they might do the job for you.
To be fair to the big-box store creams and your local supermarket brands, they will undoubtedly allow you to shave of your face fluff, which is really all they need to do.
Cremo Cream ($6)
Cremo Cream comes in a three distinct scents, male, female and peppermint. This is one of the more wider reaching budget shaving creams, often being stocked in the likes of Walgreens, Target and Walmart. If it’s a big box store, it is probably in there.
Pros: Cheap and pretty smooth.
Cons: It doesn’t work well with all waters, and can sometimes end up rather limp, which results in nicks and cuts.
Kiss My Face ($6)
This product isn’t as well known as the others, but it is still a great budget-friendly option for a shaving cream. Kiss my face is typically for women who shave their legs, but they have some men’s products which are just as good, although not as pungent as the women’s products.
The creams they make are less smooth than most of the products listed in this article, and feels more like a lotion, however it still does a reasonable job at fending off the cuts which can be a result of lotion-like shaving creams.
Pros: Cruelty free, natural and doesn’t smell too strong.
Cons: it’s simply a low quality product.
Pacific Shaving ($8)
This all natural wonder is the diamond in the rough when it comes to low-end shaving creams. With its organic ingredients specially formulated to produce a low-lather cream, intended for greater lubrication, Pacific have developed a brand you can stand behind.
The product’s quality is only one aspect of the brand’s appeal; the ethical aspect and value for money also play a big role in its popularity. It may look like another product jumping on the eco-badnwagon, but these guys are genuinely good people.
Pros: amazing value for money and eco-friendly
Cons: for what you’re paying there aren’t really any cons, but it can leave a sticky residue on your face.
There we have it men of the world, a list of all the best shaving creams you could ever want, from the top flights of 70 dollar creams made with all the best ingredients, to the affordability of big-box brands which won’t give you the same experience but will work.
The questions you have to answer are; how much do I want to spend? How often do I really shave? And do I want to improve my grooming routine?
My advice would be start at a mid-priced (about $30) good quality shaving cream (Floris London would be a good start), this will allow you to see the difference between a good shaving cream without breaking the bank, and a poor option which will just result in pain.