A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…well not so far away, but it was a long time ago.
When I first started using razor blades (and for many years after), I was pretty lazy when it came to what I threw on my face prior to shaving. On many occasions, I would soap up my hands with the nearest bar of soap, rub them over my unenthusiastic visage, then have a hurried, less-than-pleasant shave to start the day.
On other occasions, I found myself squirting some heavily advertised, chemical laden shaving foam or gel into my awaiting palm. There had to be a better alternative!?
My introduction to safety razors, also brought about an introduction to shaving creams & shaving soaps. And so it began…
What About Shaving Foams Or Gels?
May I express both verbally & through the written word, in the most dramatic of tones, that I would caution any man or woman against using any type of shaving lubricant out of an aerosol can. And before we explore the differences between shaving soaps & creams, it’s probably prudent to have a look at shaving foam & shaving gel & see what they have to offer.
Shaving foams are normally very cheap to buy & they are abundant. As you & I both know, you can buy them literally anywhere. The problem is however, shaving foams have a very high air & alcohol content. Together with the many chemicals often used in the production of these foams, you can really dry out your skin. And if you already have sensitive skin, you’re already very much behind the eight ball.
Shaving gels made an appearance in the market when gentlemen (and the fairer sex) started getting discouraged with shaving foam. Gels claim to hydrate better than foams, which they do. Unfortunately, due to the nature of their synthetic ingredients, some gels can over moisturise, leaving your skin feeling slimy, or even sticky. The chemical make up of shaving gels can also cause problems. They have a tendency to clog the razor more than foams. This leaves gooey residue around the blade or blades (depending on your razor type), requiring more frequent rinsing.
Why Use Lubrication?
I know what you’re thinking and yes, we are still talking about shaving! 🙂
There is no avoiding it. When you drag a razor blade over your face, it’s going to do some damage. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but regardless of how carefully you navigate the terrain which is your face, you are going to remove the top most layer of skin cells. Now shaving with cold water can definitely minimise the trauma associated with shaving. However due to the very nature of shaving with a razor, it can lead to skin irritation such as razor burn, shaving bumps, rashes, cuts…well you get the picture.
There’s no way to stop the trauma our skin endures as you & I shave…but we can lessen the impact the process has.
What Do Shaving Soaps & Creams Do?
The manufacturing processes of shaving creams & shaving soaps result in differences in appearance & texture. However at their core, they both serve the same purpose. Let’s have a look at why we use a good quality lubricant when we face the reflection of a morning.
Without question, one of the most important jobs of a good quality soap or cream is to assist the razor’s journey over your face. Often used ingredients such as glycerine, provide a comforting layer of lubricant, which reduces friction & helps the blade travel freely over your skin. My chin is a particularly sensitive area, so for me personally, this aspect of a quality cream or soap is extremely important.
A good quality shaving soap or cream can be used as a pre-shave product. By massaging it in to your whiskers, the soap or cream will help clean your skin by removing any dirt & oil before you shave.
Soften The Hair
Anything we can do to help soften the whiskers prior to shaving will no doubt be beneficial. Shaving soaps & creams help remove natural oil from your whiskers, allowing water to penetrate & soften he hair.
Water! It’s the best hydrating agent available. In fact, as a side note, apart from the other health benefits, drinking plenty of water will also help prevent your skin from getting overly dehydrated. When shaving though, we need to give H2O a helping hand. A huge benefit of shaving soaps & creams is their ability to moisturise the face, keeping it soft in preparation for the upcoming razor attack.
Using wood alkali & animal fat, the first evidence of the use of a lubricant for shaving was by the Sumerians in 3000BC. In it’s modern form, shaving soap has been around since the early 19th century, possibly even longer.
Hard Soaps or semi-hard soaps, Triple milled or non-triple milled? There are many, many types, styles & fragrances of shaving soaps available. You could dedicate your time on earth (and a fair bit of coin) trying to discover them all.
Many different ingredients grace the product that is shaving soap. One of the major components in shaving soap is sodium hydroxide, giving the puck a harder texture. A nice consequence of shaving soap being firmer, is that due to the lower moisture content, there is no need for the use of preservatives. Fatty & stearic acids are also added to provide a more stable & dense lather.
Because shaving soaps are harder than creams, they require a little more work to lather. With that being said though, a quality shaving soap will lather just as well as any cream. With practice, a thick, long-lasting lather can be consistently achieved. Triple milled shaving soaps are generally at the higher range of the price spectrum, however many of those experienced in classic shaving consider them to offer a richer, thicker lather.
After the purchase of a shaving mug, bowl or scuttle, shaving soaps last a long time & are extremely cost efficient.
Good quality soaps provide a fantastic lather. Furthermore, unlike the goop dispensed from aerosol cans, the use of ingredients such as glycerine, offer incredible lubrication, giving you a more enjoyable shaving experience.
Most shaving soaps produced these days use natural ingredients such as coconut oil. Soaps of today are also paraben free. This gives you piece of mind knowing your’e not throwing a product on your face that’s full of preservatives.
Take More Space
As the use of a mug or bowl are required, more room is needed for use & storage.
The creation of lather can take longer. Although there is no problem loading your brush from the puck & applying it directly to the face, most traditional shavers transfer the loaded brush to a bowl to promote a richer, thicker consistency in their lather prior to applying it to their face.
Although the use of shaving creams can have a slight learning curve, soaps do even more so. It can be a balancing act adding the correct amount of water to your lather. But with on-going practice & perseverance, you’ll nail it more often than not.
There are hundreds of luxurious, beautifully fragranced artisan & commercial shaving soaps available. And it’s only through trial & error that you’ll find the perfect one for you. As a bit of a starting point, here are some well regarded & great quality soaps to grace your face:
- D.R. Harris
- Van Der Hagen
- Captain’s Choice
- Blades Grim
- Sir Hare
- Taylor Of Old Bond Street
- Colonel Conk
It’s makes me a little sad to think that due to advertising in our modern times, most men think of shaving cream is the embodiment of the collection of chemicals that spurt out of a pressurised aerosol tin. When in fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Current day shaving creams have a very similar make up to soaps. The production process does differ slightly, however it’s the greater proportion of potassium hydroxide that makes the difference. Potassium hydroxide together with added water, marry to create the softer, more easily usable product that we wet shavers know & love.
Just like shaving soap, the makers of creams are becoming far more sensitive to you…their loyal customers. They are constantly researching to try and minimise the amount of preservatives and artificial ingredients they use to develop their products.
Easier To Use
Shaving cream can be just as easily lathered on the face as in your bowl. Due to it’s softer consistency, You will find that achieving a repeatable luxurious creamy lather a fairly quick & painless process.
If you find yourself time-poor, shaving cream will generally lather quicker than soap. You will definitely save precious minutes in your busy schedule.
Just like a great shaving soap, a good quality cream will not only provide terrific lubricating, moisturising & hydration, but it will produce a dense, rich lather time & time again.
Compared to shaving soaps, in the long run, some shaving creams can cost a little more over the same period of time.
Just like shaving soaps, there are plenty of wonderful shaving creams out there. Here a few very popular shaving creams to help you on your quest:
- Proraso (My Review)
- Edwin Jagger
- The Art of Shaving
- Taylor Of Old Bond Street
- Jack Black
- The Body Shop
- Bluebeard’s Revenge
- Geo F. Trumper
So which is better. Soap or Cream?
In life, I very rarely sit on the fence when it comes to choosing one thing over another. But I hate to say that this is one of those instances where there is no clear winner.
You really cannot go wrong by purchasing a well made shaving soap or cream. It is simply a matter of weighing up the pros & cons of both & making your decision. And if you’re still unsure, grab yourself a couple of creams & soaps. It won’t take you long to decide which direction you want to pursue.
I wish you all the best in your face lathering journey. Do you have a favourite soap or cream? Drop me a line below & let me know!
Time to get your shave on! 😉