Wet shaving does require a good, sharp, and durable safety razor for a proper close shave. However, that is just half of the equation, as the other part involves choosing adequate lubrication. Which brings us to the question – Shaving soap or shaving cream?
Both of them provide enough lubrication that will result in a good shave. But there are still many differences between a shaving soap and a cream that must be considered. Unfortunately for you, switching to wet shaving brings an entirely new dilemma. But it doesn’t have to be as proper research and awareness will help you decide on the one most suitable for you.
Therefore, we have decided to bring you all the details about both shaving methods so you can ultimately decide what suits you best.
The shaving soap vs. cream matchup starts now!
Table Of Contents
- What Is a Shaving Soap
- Benefits of Using Shaving Soap
- How Does a Shaving Soap Work
- Pros and Cons of Shaving Soaps
- Types of Shaving Soaps
- Ingredients to Look for in Shaving Soaps
- What Is a Shaving Cream
- Benefits of Using Shaving Cream
- How Does a Shaving Cream Work
- Pros and Cons of Shaving Creams
- Types of Shaving Creams
- Ingredients to Look for in Shaving Creams
- Shaving Soap vs Cream Comparison
- How to Use a Shaving Soap
- How to Use a Shaving Cream
- Alternatives to Soaps and Creams
- Does More Spending Mean More Quality
- Do’s and Don’ts With Shaving Soaps and Creams
- FAQ About Shaving Soaps and Creams
What Is a Shaving Soap
Shaving soap is not that different from bath soap. Both types of soap are produced similarly, but they do differ in terms of the ingredients used. Namely, the ingredients in a shaving soap are intended to keep the soap creamy and provide a stable lather.
Shaving soap has to remain thick and creamy during the entire shave. One of the most common ingredients in it is stearic acid. These soaps usually have a stiff consistency, with triple-milled soaps being the hardest ones. The harder the soap, the more time it will take to break it apart.
You will need to lather the shaving soap with a shaving brush and it doesn’t hurt to have a premium shaving bowl to prep. There are three types of shaving soaps out there – tallow-based, glycerin-based, and “hybrid” soaps. Combine one of these types with a good safety razor and your wet shaving with a shaving soap can begin.
Shaving soaps date back a very long time ago and have been in use since the 1840s.
Benefits of Using Shaving Soap
Shaving soap softens your beard and allows the razor to cut the beard, resulting in a closer shave quickly.
Shaving soaps are supposed to create a richer lather which in turn offers better hydration. It will add more hydration to your skin compared to foam, oil or cream.
Shaving soaps are not dispensed as aerosol, making them much less damaging to the environment.
How Does a Shaving Soap Work
By applying shaving soap, you will essentially prepare your beard for shaving. Due to the unique structure of shaving soap, you will soften the beard much better with the soap and prime it for removal. You will be able to cut the beard instantly, whether you are using ultra glide blades of a disposable razor or a simple one.
The shaving soap will create a much slicker surface so that the razor will glide through faster. Even though traditionally scentless, soaps can come in different smells and may even replace your seductive musky cologne. Choosing a shaving soap with an attractive fragrance will make the entire shaving ritual that much enjoyable.
Finally, shaving soaps last much longer than any gel or shaving cream. It can even go on for months, making it a much more economical choice.
Pros and Cons of Shaving Soaps
- Soaps don’t have strong smells, which is very suitable for sensitive skin.
- Very economical. It can last much longer than other shaving products.
- It can create an extra thick lather that results in a much easier and clean shave if done correctly.
- Offers a greater moisturizing effect and helps to prevent skin irritation.
- Very hard to work up a lather. It takes skill and practice to create a proper one.
- You will need to buy extra equipment and also find room to store it.
- The mixing process will take up more time and is not suitable if you are in a rush.
Types of Shaving Soaps
Glycerin types of soaps are very suitable as moisturizers. They come with humectant properties, which means that it hydrates your skin. Your skin will be soft and kept hydrated, so you don’t have to worry about preventing razor burn with good aftershave.
Triple-milled soaps are created with large amounts of tallow. Shaving experts know that the majority of traditional soaps are mostly tallow-based. Tallow is an animal-derived fatty substance that offers exceptional lubrication. As such, they can provide a much easier shave as you press the razor to your skin.
Triple-milled soaps are considered to be a luxurious type of shaving soap. They provide a richer and thicker lather that will result in a smoother shave. But these soaps are much harder, meaning that it will take significantly longer to work up a lather.
Ingredients to Look for in Shaving Soaps
The majority of shaving soap types will have similar ingredients. But the big brand ones and those that offer more quality are usually made with natural ingredients. Commonly, a shaving soap includes jojoba, tallow, and shea butter.
Tallow is a fatty acid derived from animals. You get it by melting the solid fats from cattle with steam. In most cases, it will be combined with coconut oil or acid and then saponified.
This substance is obtained from the jojoba plant seed. It actually cannot be saponified as tallow can. Jojoba works quite well in conjunction with glycerin and helps hydrate your skin, particularly after finishing up shaving.
Shea butter is a natural moisturizer that originates from the African shea tree. Combine it with jojoba and the results are moisturized skin. This combination is greatly effective in getting your face back to a normal hydrated state.
What Is a Shaving Cream
Shaving creams are cosmetic products that are applied to your face to make the process of shaving easier. Its primary purpose is to help you remove the excess beard off your face and minimize all of the unwanted effects like cuts, bumps, and skin irritation.
Additionally, shaving creams include ingredients that will help with the post-shaving ritual. At its core, shaving creams have the same purpose as shaving soaps, but they differ in their structure. If you stick your finger into a cream container and swirl it around a bit, you will notice it has a similar consistency as yogurt.
Traditional shaving creams usually come in tubes. Once you put a little bit on your face, you can use a shaving brush and work the lather into a stubble. There are also some types of creams where you don’t need a brush at all.
Shaving creams became popular in the 1940s. The development of pressurized aerosol foams increased the popularity of creams even further. Creams also allowed for more precise shaving, as you can exactly see where you are going. So the combination of the world’s best shaving brush and some shaving cream can result in an exact and attractive shave.
Benefits of Using Shaving Cream
Besides allowing a smooth shave, creams act as a form of protection between your face and the razor.
Allow Precise Shaving
Creams enable you to follow the right track for a detailed shaving experience.
Raises Your Hair
Since you are applying shaving cream in the opposite direction of your hair, it will raise it and prepare it for easier removal.
Preparation for a shave is cut in half.
How Does a Shaving Cream Work
Shaving creams are created from complex formulas and molecules called surface agents. These molecules have unique properties that hold on to both surface (a hydrophilic head) and water (a hydrophobic tail).
Creams are packed under pressure with an iso-butane as a propellant for shaving cream to gain that foamy and fluffy texture. Pressing the bottle’s cap will release the pressure causing the propellant to expand and make the formulation rush up the bottle and eventually out of it in foam form.
Once you get some foam into your hand, you can quickly apply it to your face before taking your razor and doing away with all the beard. As you can see, the entire process works a lot faster, making your morning shave much quicker. You can even stylize your beard with precision and get an attractive beard comb to form a unique look.
Pros and Cons of Shaving Creams
- Much easier and quicker to apply.
- No additional nor special equipment needed.
- You don’t need to use much to gain proper results.
- Comes with natural ingredients that will nurture and hydrate your skin.
- Allows more precise shaving.
- It’s a bit difficult to find the proper one.
- Products made from natural ingredients can be costly.
- Not suitable for men with sensitive skin as they come with various scents.
Types of Shaving Creams
Traditional shaving creams can usually be applied as hand lather or be loaded into a shaving brush. You will only need a pea-size amount of it that you drop into your hand and spread across the shaving area.
You can also get it in a tub, which you can scoop up with your finger or load the shaving brush bristles by doing a few swirls in it. Put it on your face and start shaving.
Pressurized shaving cream is also known as aerosol shaving cream or foam. It is a new-age shaving cream that comes in a pressurized can that is easier and lighter to pack. You just press a button and the cream comes out as you apply it to your face to form a lather. It works much quicker and saves a lot of time on preparation.
Shaving gel is another modern type of shaving cream. Putting it on a shaving surface will activate and form a slick and cushioned base. You can put it on your cheeks directly and swirl it around gently with your fingers and hands. As you spread it across the desired shaving area, just remove the excess beard with your razor.
Ingredients to Look for in Shaving Creams
The same as we did with shaving soaps, we can look into the ingredients of shaving creams. In this case, the compound is a bit more complex, but it is expected as it was developed much later.
Myristic acid is a type of organic acid made from saponifying coconut oil. Due to its unique emulsifying properties, it helps to both create and maintain lather. Furthermore, it is beneficial for your skin as it also cleanses it.
Methylchloroisothiazolinone is a quite commonly used preservative that helps to extend the shelf life of shaving creams. It also comes with antibacterial and antifungal properties. However, it can cause mild dermatitis in people that have susceptible skin.
Water is an ingredient used to dissolve all the other added ingredients and help mix it into a single form. Water is one of the main ingredients in shaving soaps, mainly as it aids the lathering process.
Stearic acid mixed with water helps to create a velvety lather which increases the shaving experience. It primarily helps to moisturize your skin but additionally softens the hair and preps them for easier removal.
These are essential ingredients, both for shaving soaps and creams, as they create a base. Sodium hydroxide is a base ingredient in all creams, while potassium hydroxide is the main saponifying agent.
Glycerin has high humectant properties, meaning that it is beneficial in hydrating the skin post-shaving. Unfortunately, high concentrations of glycerin can cause irritations in susceptible skin. But if dosed correctly, it can be perfect even for sensitive people.
Shaving Soap vs Cream Comparison
The advantage when it comes to forming goes to shaving soaps. If you apply yourself, you will be able to create quite a thick and rich lather that will result in an ultimate shaving experience. However, you are going to need to invest a lot more time in preparation.
Time is not the only thing of the essence; you also need experience. Creams don’t come with such rich form but can do the deed much faster, particularly if you are strapped for time.
Both methods fulfill the same purpose – removing the beard. The difference is that using shaving soaps will require a lot more time to prepare. You are also going to need more equipment like a shaving brush and a shaving bowl.
Using shaving creams is much easier as you only need to put a small portion in your hand and apply it to your face. You don’t need a lot of preparation and it is very suitable for first-time shavers.
The two products usually have similar ingredients with the aim of producing a better shaving experience. Modern products, which are at the same time pricier, come with all-natural ingredients. So you are going to see additions like coconut, avocado, jojoba, or almond. The main difference between soaps and creams is that the former uses a milling princess to mix all the ingredients.
Some products add certain essential oils to improve the scent. A significant addition is glycerin, which is present in many contemporary soaps and cleaners, and it helps to moisturize the skin and prepare it for shaving.
It is a common misconception that shaving soaps are not scented. The rich smell of shaving soap can be pretty appealing. Many of them are scentless, but the modern options come with refreshing smells for a more pleasant experience.
Creams are usually scented as a lot of people prefer having a very refreshing smell when shaving. The downside of scented soaps and creams is that it is not suitable for men with sensitive skin, so it is better to use a scentless shaving soap instead.
There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to lather ability between shaving soaps and creams. One of the significant factors is using hard water, as it can be very challenging to create a thick lather with it. Hard water will require more soap or cream if you aim to create a really rich lather.
Generally speaking, it is much easier to create a thick lather without any outside factors when using shaving creams instead of soaps. Creating a good lather with soap is quite possible, but it requires practice and more time to do it correctly. But if you master it, the quality of the lather is unmatchable.
When it comes to convenience, shaving cream cannot be beaten. You don’t need added equipment as with shaving soap. Soap requires a lot more time to prepare properly, while applying cream takes a few minutes to set. It is much more convenient, mainly if you are a person who enjoys a nice morning shave before work.
If you have dry skin, you might consider using shaving cream as they tend to retain moisture better. Thanks to all the ingredients, like glycerin and stearic acid, it will prepare your face for shaving and moisturize it after it is done.
It is much more practical to use shaving creams when traveling. You are not going to need to pack more pieces of equipment just to get a shave. You only need to pack a shaving tube and a razor. Whereas, besides shaving soap, you will need a brush and a bowl, which is very inconvenient if you need to pack light.
Both shaving creams and soaps with natural ingredients are going to be pricier. The same thing goes for some high-end brands. But the truth is that you don’t always have to go for the most expensive products as a cheaper one will be quite adequate.
However, the soaps are generally less pricey than creams. They even last longer. If you are willing to sacrifice more time on preparation and convenience for the sake of paying a bit more, then you should use creams. But to save money, you can pick soaps instead.
It is much more economical to use shaving soaps as they are going to last longer. The case with creams is that the space in a tube is a bit limited by how much you can fit inside. But the soaps are going to be there for much longer. However, you also have to consider how often you shave as more shaves per week will diminish your rations faster.
Shaving soaps tend to create less irritation. Due to more ingredients being used in creams, mainly scents that could irritate sensitive skin, it is much more convenient to use shaving soaps. It would be best to choose products with natural ingredients as it is a bonafide way of avoiding irritation. But if you are not sure of it, use a scentless shaving soap as it is less likely to cause your skin to itch.
How to Use a Shaving Soap
What characterizes the use of shaving soap is that it will take more time to prepare. Preparation is key and it also helps if you practice and get good at it. A novice will have a much tougher time preparing if they decide to go the soap shaving route.
The entire shaving process is going to go something like this:
Step 1 – Run some water on your shaving brush
Move the brush around the soup until bubbles start to form. Once you have enough, move the bubbles into a shaving bowl
Step 2 – Move the brush in circles to build up lather
When you notice that the lather is thick enough, apply it to your face. Take a sharp razor and start shaving.
How to Use a Shaving Cream
Step 1 – Get a tube of shaving cream
Press the button and put a tiny amount in your hand. Apply it to your face and use a brush to build up lather.
Step 2 – Spread the cream
As the lather forms, spread it over the parts that you wish to shave. Grab a razor and get to shaving.
Alternatives to Soaps and Creams
Soaps and creams are not the definitive choices when it comes to shaving. There will always be some alternatives so you can choose the most suitable method based on your preference.
Aerosol Shaving Foams
Aerosol shaving foams are an excellent choice for beginners. They came into prominence during the 1950s and have been in use ever since. These products use various gasses as propellants (pentane or isobutane) to push the foam out of the can. But creams are still a far better choice, particularly if you happen to use cheaper foams. Creams also cause a lot less irritation.
Brushless Shaving Creams
Brushless shaving creams are straightforward to use and are gaining popularity because of that. You simply squeeze some in your hand and apply it to your face. You might need some warm water to create lather, though. You will make a thin film that you rub all over your stubble, which you then shave off with a suitable razor for an ultimate beard trimming experience.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
It does not have to mean that you will get a more quality shave if you spend more money. High-end brands come at higher costs, but you can get a good enough shave with a less expensive product. The main factor in choosing the one that suits your needs. Do some research and determine which method will help you achieve a pleasant, itch-free shave at adequate costs.
Do’s and Don’ts With Shaving Soaps and Creams
- Prep for a shave by soaking both your brush and bowl in some warm water.
- Build up a good lather before starting to shave.
- Choose a product with a light fragrance to prevent skin irritation.
- Avoid using hard water, so you build up a better lather.
- Don’t shy away from trying out different shaving methods, as some could prove to be much more suitable.
- Don’t overuse old blades.
FAQ About Shaving Soaps and Creams
If you have some questions like when it is time to use beard shampoo and added ones about shaving beards and creams, you will most likely find some answers below.
Does shaving cream work better than soap?
It depends on personal preference and the type of beard a person has.
Is shaving soap?
It is a type of soap, as making it is similar, but it should not be confused with bath soap.
What’s a good substitute for shaving cream?
Suitable substitutes include shaving gels, aerosol shaving creams, and brushless shaving creams.
How much should you pay for a good quality shaving cream or soap?
You don’t have to go all out and spend a fortune on quality products. But you also don’t need to buy the cheapest product. Try to keep things somewhere in the middle.
Can I use shaving soap and shaving cream alternately?
Yes, you can. You should not shy away from using different techniques until you determine which one suits you the most.
You can’t just choose any old product out there when you put a sharp razor to your face. Protection, moisturizing, and convenience are essential factors when deciding between shaving soaps or creams. There isn’t a definitive answer to which one is better, only thorough preparation and awareness of your needs. That way, you will ensure that you get the best results.
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Jay is one of the members of the Beardoholic writers team and NFL, celebrity barber. As a master barber with years of experience, Jay can make your beard look any way you envision. Jay’s specialty is black men’s hair and beard styles, but he also has deep knowledge on how to create a perfect neck and cheek line, short or long beard and virtually any beard and hair shape and style.