The Shaving Cream Guide

The Shaving Cream Guide

There are many products on the market for wet shaving, available in different scents, shapes, texture and sizes. They include shaving soaps, creams, foams, and gels that come in tubes, jars, cans, tubs, and even wooden bowls.

Shaving Series

This is part of a series about traditional wet shaving:

  1. Double Edge Razor Guide

  2. Straight Razor Guide

  3. Shaving Soap Guide

  4. Shaving Brush Guide

Selecting the right shaving product can make the difference between healthy skin and skin that is irritated by ingrown hairs, razor burn, nicks or cuts. In a continuation of our personal grooming coverage, I’d like to share a guide to shaving cream with a shaving soap guide soon to follow. I compared 40 different products and I am sure the final extensive comparison table at the end of the article will help you to find the right product for your face.

Brief History of Shaving Cream

Although shaving soaps have been around for centuries, shaving creams did not really gain large scale popularity until WWI. In 1941, canned shaving creams entered the market. With the promise to provide fast and easy access to lather with a mere press of a button was a novelty that seemed intriguing for most men. In the following decades, the popularity of foams greatly affected the market for creams, which have become harder to find, especially in the U.S. In Europe, Asia or the Middle East, it is easier to find traditional shaving creams, though even there they are usually to be found at specialty men’s grooming shops or high-end drugstores. Today, shaving gels and cream foams are most popular but not because they are better, but simply because they are easy to use and easiest to find.

Proraso - Italy's #1 shave cream

Proraso – Italy’s #1 shave cream

Traditional Shaving Creams

This article is all about high quality shaving creams that you have to lather yourself.

Shaving Creams are similar to lathering soaps in terms of results. Unlike traditional soaps, the shaving creams require a little less elbow grease to generate lather. The cream can be applied with either a shaving brush or your fingers. The brush has the added advantages of generating warm lather, further lifting the beard off your face, and gently exfoliating the skin.

Shaving creams are often considered the best and most effective product for a wet shave: Creams generate a rich lather without taking a lot of time, they also protect and lubricate the skin, leaving it smooth and moisturized.

Lather-up creams are sold in jars or tubs, or in small tubes for traveling convenience. They contain between 30 and 50 percent fat (usually coconut oil, an-all-natural oil that does not penetrate the skin), as well as glycerin, which is why their lather is so rich and thick, providing the best possible protection.

Gentlemen's Tonic - London

Gentlemen’s Tonic – London

The British brands Truefitt & Hill, Geo F. Trumpers, D.R. Harris as well as Taylor of Old Bond Street all produce great shaving creams with a variety of different fragrances. But London is not only the home of traditional barber shops. Within the last couple of years, new types of barber shops with Spa-like experiences have popped up all over town,such as Murdock London, Pankhurst, and Gentlemen‘s Tonic  just to mention a few. They all created their own signature shaving and grooming products, some of which contain rather exotic ingredients such as Babassu Oil and Manuka Honey in the Gentleman’s Tonic product, and their customers really like it. Now, these niche products are sold around the globe and the quality shaving trend continues with the openings of new shaving parlors in luxury hotels in Hong Kong and Dubai.

Fortunately, good traditional shaving creams are not only available made in England. For example, Claus Porto is a centenary Portuguese soap manufacturer that produces shaving products under the brand Musgo Real that are highly recommended by the shaving blogosphere.

Proraso is the number 1 in Italian barber shops, a true Italian product made in Florence since the 1940s. Over all these years Proraso has maintained its secret formula based on eucalyptus oil.

One of the most recent shaving product brands comes from New Zealand. Triumph & Disaster was founded in 2011 by young enthusiastic entrepreneurs. With cool marketing and a great product they were able to get noticed in Europe and the USA in less then two years.

Acca Kappa Shaving Cream

Acca Kappa Shaving Cream

How to Lather Traditional Shaving Cream

Basically, there are three options for how to use shaving cream. On the one hand, you can lather it like soap in a bowl or mug, or you use your hand. You can also lather it directly on your face. First, let’s discuss the later option:

  1. Wet your fingers and face or the brush‘s bristles with hot water.
  2. Dip your fingers into the jar to apply the cream directly on your face, or to the center of the brushes tip. Since the cream is concentrated, two fingertips ‘worth will do the trick. If you use a brush an almond size amount of cream should be enough (you only have to use have as much cream with a brush and it will last you about twice as long).
  3. Lather up the cream on your face with circular motions using your fingers or a shaving brush.
  4. Again, the longer you whisk, the richer the lather, and the more your skin will be protected and your shave comfortable.
  5. Adding a touch more hot water will provide re-lathering for second or third passes, if required, without using anymore cream.

Personally, I found the video demonstration of different of brush lathering below very useful:

If you prefer to use lather the cream in a bowl or in your hand, here is the way to go:

  1. Fill the mug with hot water and let your badger hair brush soak up the water for a few minutes. The water will not only benefit the brush but also preheat your mug for a warm lather.
  2. Empty the mug and shake the water off the brush. Add the cream to the bowl and start to lather in circular motions.
  3. Add little drops of water and not more, as the lathering won’t work otherwise. With a bit of practice, it shouldn’t take you longer than a a minute.
  4. Squeeze out all the lather from your brush. And check that it is thick and creamy with a nice sheen.
  5. Apply the lather to your face with the brush.

Here a video of how to lather the foam in your hand and in the bowl:

Shaving Cream Foams and Gels

Generally you should stay away from gels and foams unless it is your only choice. They often contain synthetic perfumes which are considered the number one cause of skin irritation. They also contain artificial colors and dyes, preservatives, and alcohol, all of which make the shave very uncomfortable and leave the skin susceptible to razor burn. And if that’s not enough, they often contain numbing agents that can promote cuts, nicks, and irritations. Foams and gels can also contain unhealthy gases, such as isobutane or propane, which is what makes them foam in the first place. The foam that comes out of a can may appear deceptively rich, but in fact it contains lots of gas and provides very little protection for your skin. Usually, you can immediately tell whether something is a lathered foam or a canned foam when you have it in your hand. In addition, the toxic propellants from the can and gel generate a cold lather, which closes the pores stiffens the beard (rendering it less manageable), making for a truly uncomfortable shave. You’ll yield much better results by choosing other products.

How to Use Shave Cream Gels & Foams

Real, hand whipped lather should only add about two minutes to the can foam routine, but if you find it absolutely necessary to use a foam or a gel – you are in an airport and don‘t have your shaving gear on hand, or you are in a remote part of the world and it is the only thing available – make sure you apply it to a well-prepared, wet face. Apply the foam directly to your wet face, or dispense a small amount of gel into your palm, mix it with water, and smooth it over your face and neck then shave.

If you travel a lot and don‘t have access to hot water you can always opt for the 3D Shave product developed by the British brand The Gentry Grooming Co. It is a shave oil, shave cream and moisturizer in one. It can be used without water, what makes it perfect for dry shaving when traveling. The formula is based on over 93 percent natural ingredients and it has a very peculiar black pepper and mint scent as well.

Selecting the right product

When selecting products for your wet shave you should look for products containing natural ingredients such as natural oils (coconut, avocado, almond, and jojoba) and natural essential oils. Despite their name, they are not oily, and they evaporate almost immediately upon contact with the skin. Essential oils are 100 percent natural, concentrated essences of plants, roots, fruits, or flowers. In shaving creams and soaps you will often find essential oils like Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Cypress, Bergamot, Lemon, Lime, Patchouli, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Vetyver, Lavender or Rose.

So, look for products that have a few drops of essential oils blended into an all-natural base. Castle Forbes and The Art of Shaving products are very good choices to enjoy natural essential oils. While the barbershop chain and retailer The Art of Shaving belongs to the parent company of the Gillette brand Procter & Gamble, and is well known in the US.  Castle Forbes is more of an insider tip. The private perfumery at the Castle Forbes in Aberdeenshire, Scotland restricts their retailers to a selected number, due to the fact that they are only able to produce shaving cream in batches of 500 per year; it is definitely one of the highest performing shaving creams I tried so far.

If you have sensitive skin you should also look for shaving creams including Aloe Vera. Most ancient civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Persians and Indians applied the Aloe Vera extract as ‘first aid’ for wounds, burns and other skin conditions because of its antiseptic properties. The renowned brush and razor manufacture Edwin Jagger from Sheffield in England  offers an Aloe Vera based shaving cream that performs exceedingly well.

Triumph & Disaster

Triumph & Disaster

Natural ingredients, unlike their synthetic counterparts, are biodegradable and work in harmony with the body’s natural functions and cycles. You would be surprised at how many products out there wreak havoc on your skin. It is always good to check out the ingredients list, if the list contains a lot of the following ingredients you should consider avoiding  the product:

  • Chemical dyes like FD&C colors, D&C colors, and HC colors are found (green shaving gels and blue shaving foam, etc.). They are harsh chemicals that can cause allergic reactions and rashes.
  • Synthetic perfumes can cause headaches, allergies, dizziness, skin rashes and irritation. Most allergic reactions from cosmetics are caused by their synthetic or artificial fragrances.
  • Detergents, such as TEA, DEA MEA, and sodium lauryl sulfate are ingredients added to products to help generate foam and to strip the skin of basically everything on its surface. They can cause dermatitis and dry skin.
  • Petrochemical by-products, such as paraffin, mineral oil, and petrolatum, are used as cheap substitute to natural oils that are harmless to the skin but expensive. Petrochemicals by-products clog pores and prevent the skin‘s natural respiration process.
  • Any product name that finishes with -ol is an alcohol or alcohol-derivate. And anything that contains alcohol can cause skin dryness, peeling, burning, swelling, and skin eruptions.

Choosing the Shave Cream Scent

You can choose your scent either by skin type or just by personal preference:

  1. Scentless or lavender, and rose oils are good for sensitive skins and skins which are prone to razor burn, rashes and soreness.
  2. Lemon, Lime and Bergamot oils are good for skins prone to cuts and nicks
  3. Cedarwood, Peppermint and Sandalwood is very cleansing and caring for the skin, useful for skin prone to breakouts.

Brands like Truefitt & Hill and Geo F. Trumpers offer sample packs to make it easier to pick your favorite scents from their wide product range:

Castle Forbes Shaving Creams

Castle Forbes Shaving Creams

Here are some of my personal favorite’s fragrances:

  • D.R. Harris‘ Arlington is a subtle refreshing blend of citrus and fern that never gets on your nerves.
  • Truefitt & Hill Sandalwood is a very elegant and fresh smelling scent with sandalwood as a predominant note.
  • Geo. F. Trumpers Rose range has a warm, uplifting and intensely English fragrance that somehow brings up memories from old candy shops.
  • Klar Classic, has a very discrete spicy leather note; a true classic scent for men.
  • Gentlemen‘s Tonic is a very distinct modern bergamot based scent.
  • Musgo Real Classic is an addictive vetiver and patchouli combination that reminds me of Mediterranean barbershops.
  • Castle Forbes Lime is my favorite lime oil based shaving cream.
  • Triumph & Disaster Old Fashioned Shave Cream has a really refreshing and uplifting scent, perfect for an early morning shave.
  • Edwin Jagger’s Aloe Vera smells like Aloe Vera is supposed to smell and it does not seem to use any artificial scent.

The Ultimate Shaving Cream List

The following list contains 40 shaving creams and soaps we consider worth mentioning. Do you know of any cream that is not on the list? Let us know.

BrandPriceWhere to BuyRating 0 -5WeightPrice per Ounce / 30 gramsOrigin
Acca Kappa32Shop4.5125 grams / 4.4 oz7.27Italy
Anthony Logistics16.5Shop3.5170 grams / 6 oz2.75USA
The Art Of Shaving25Shop5142 grams / 5 oz5USA
Baxter of California16Shop2.5236 grams / 8 oz2USA
Billy Jealousy20Shop4236 grams / 8 oz2.5USA
Bluebeard Revenge (UK) / Dreadnought (US)19Shop4.5100 grams / 3.5 oz5.43UK
Castle Forbes38Shop5200 grams / 7 oz5.43UK
Caswell-Massey22Shop4.5236 grams / 8 oz2.75USA
Confianca16Shop4.5100 grams / 3.5 oz4.57Portugal
Crown Shaving30Shop4236 grams / 8 oz3.75Canada
Dovo15Shop3.5150 grams / 5.3 oz2.83Germany
D.R. Harris29Shop5150 grams / 5.3 oz5.47UK
Edwin Jagger22Shop5100 grams / 3.5 oz6.28UK
eShave22Shop4.5120 grams / 4 oz5.5USA
Geo F. Trumpers30Shop5200 grams / 7 oz4.29UK
Gentlemen‘s Tonic30Shop5125 grams / 4.4 oz6.82UK
The Gentlemens Refinery28Shop4.5150 grams / 5.3 oz5.28USA
The Gentry Grooming Co24Shop4100 grams / 3.5 oz6.86UK
Floris London38Shop4.5100 grams / 3.5 oz10.86UK
Institut Karite24Shop275 grams / 2.5 oz9.6France
Jack Black23Shop2.5236 grams / 8 oz2.88USA
Kent30Shop3.5119 grams / 4.2 oz7.14UK
Kiehls16Shop2128 grams / 4.5 oz3.56USA
Kyoku27.5Shop4170 grams / 6 oz4.58USA
Nivea Mild Razor Crème8.5Shop4100 grams / 3.5 oz2.43Germany
Molton Brown24Shop4.5125 grams / 4.4 oz5.45UK
Mühle31Shop5100 grams / 3.5 oz8.86Germany
Musgo Real15Shop5100 grams / 3.5 oz4.28Portugal
Murdock London44Shop4200 grams / 7 oz6.2UK
Palmolive8Shop3.5100 grams / 3.5 oz2.28USA
Pankhurst38Shop4.5125 grams / 4.4 oz8.6UK
Proraso10Shop4.5147 grams / 5.2 oz1.92Italy
Penhaligons50Shop5150 grams / 5.3 oz9.43UK
Simpsons25Shop4.5125 grams / 4.4 oz5.68UK
Tabac11Shop4.5100 grams / 3.5 oz3.14Germany
Taylor of Old Bond Street14Shop5150 grams / 5.3 oz2.64UK
Triumph & Disaster30Shop5100 grams / 3.5 oz8.57New Zealand
Truefitt & Hill30Shop5165 grams / 5.8 oz5.2UK
Vintage Shaving24Shop4.5150 grams / 5.3 oz4.53UK
Zirh25Shop3.5250 grams / 8.8 oz2.84USA

If you want detailed reviews on specific shaving creams and soaps you will most probably find them in forums like Badger and Blade, Shave Nook, ShaveMyFace or Shaving101.

Shaving Series

This is part of a series about traditional wet shaving:

  1. Double Edge Razor Guide

  2. Straight Razor Guide

  3. Shaving Soap Guide

  4. Shaving Brush Guide

29 replies
  1. Park Jacob Weatherby
    Park Jacob Weatherby says:

    Excellent information Mr. Lincke
    I have recently started with a shaving routine that involves using a badger bristle brush and shaving soap as well as using pre and post shaving oils, granted prep time takes a little longer but the end results are so much finer than when I simply shaved using foams and gels.

    I like the thought of using a shave cream and certainly will add it to my shaving arsenal I’m considering too trying a straight razor I’ve done my homework and lots of research and feel that I’m ready to step up to the next level!

    Again a great read on shaving creams keep up the good work and definitely look forward to your follow-up article.

    Regards,

    P J Weatherby

    • Karl H. Lincke
      Karl H. Lincke says:

      Thank you very much indeed! Youre daily shaving routine seems very accurate to me and I only can encourage you to try out a straight razor.

  2. James M. Grandone
    James M. Grandone says:

    Just wondering if any of them were commissioned by the Royal Family. As a Yank, I like the name of Triumph & Disaster, simply because it describes my shaving quite well. I plan to try at least two of these products that have been rated highly. Thank you for the valuable information.

  3. Christopher Long
    Christopher Long says:

    Good work Karl. I’ve been experimenting with various shaving creams for the last 9 months or so. Musgo Real stands out (in my experience) as one of the best, then Taylor’s Eton College cream. But I also like Ingram, which is possibly the cheapest cream on the market (less than $4.00 a tube) – you don’t mention this one in your review,. I particularly like the menthol after-effect, it’s very cooling. This more than makes up for its slightly thin consistency. Any of the creams on your list will make the stuff that comes out of aerosol tins seem very poor indeed.

    • Karl H. Lincke
      Karl H. Lincke says:

      Thank you Christopher, I agree on Musgo Real and I also find Eton College the best scent in the Taylor of Old Bond Street range. But I have never tried Ingram and will do so after reading your description if I have the change.
      The list is a bit like a madhouse: Not everybody is in there, that should be in there; and there even may be a few in there that do not belong there.

  4. Martijn Koop
    Martijn Koop says:

    I was waiting for an overview like this; thank you very much! I recently found another very decent shaving cream that I wanted to bring to you attention: Oscar, made in Australia by a Dutchman, surprised me very much. Also available in the States I believe. Well priced at about € 7,50 for 150 ml, you only need a little bit so it lasts a while, perfect smooth skin after shaving; everything you want out of a shaving cream!

    • Karl H. Lincke
      Karl H. Lincke says:

      Thank you Christopher, I agree on Musgo Real and I also find Eton College the best scent in the Taylor of Old Bond Street range. But I have never tried Ingram and will do so after reading your description if I have the change.
      The list is a bit like a madhouse: Not everybody is in there, that should be in there; and there even may be a few in there that do not belong there.

  5. Kirby Allison
    Kirby Allison says:

    Really surprised that Santa Maria Novella’s Crema da Barba is not on this list. It’s one, if not the, most fantastic shave creams I’ve ever used in my life.

    • Karl H. Lincke
      Karl H. Lincke says:

      Santa Maria Novella Crema da Barba is hard to find. This shaving cream is probably one of the most expensive shaving creams on the market. But you are right that it is no reason for not including it in to the list. Again, the list is like a madhouse …

  6. Alec Rogers
    Alec Rogers says:

    I’ve tried many different creans. At the end of the day I usually come back to Truefitt and Hill (warrant from the Duke of Edinburgh for those interested in such things). Their Trafalgar scent is a very refreshing marine. I’m also a fan of their Ultimate Comfort, which is as fine a cream as I’ve ever used. For those looking for a rose scent, Trumper’s makes a very nice one.

    A good shaving brush and quality cream are one of life’s affordable luxuries.

  7. Sasha
    Sasha says:

    Fabulous article! I’ve always wanted to learn more about shaving and this overview is great!

    I admit, I’ve always used the traditional shaving creams, but I think it’s definitely time to step up to the next level.

  8. John M
    John M says:

    My first comment on this excellent site:
    REMINDER! For DE razor users, please check to make sure your blade is secure and tightly locked in. This morning, I was merrily stroking along and – SLASH! – a monstrous gash on the left side at the jaw. Quite painful. And horrid to see. As it turned out, my head had come loose, the blade wobbly inside and thus, a bad cut.
    I’ve been shaving DE brush and soap (all from Geo F Trumper) for more than 40 years and this is the first time anything like this has happened.
    Again, it never hurts to ensure that your razor and blade are secure before enjoying that morning shave. I was foolish to have forgotten this basic precaution.
    Cheers and good shaving,
    John M
    -

  9. Mirella Soulay
    Mirella Soulay says:

    Could you please send me samples of your shaving cream/gels and moisturiser for my husband that way we will know which to purchase.
    My address is:
    13 Madura Close
    Ballajura. 6066
    Perth
    Western Australia

    Thanking you for your time.

  10. Karl H. Lincke
    Karl H. Lincke says:

    Dear Mirella, I am affraid we do not have any samples, but you can get them from a lot of brands like Edwin Jagger, Geo F. Trumper, Truefitt & Hill, D.R. Harris and Mühle. They are not for free but I am sure they sell them in Austrailia swell.

  11. J E Mahjoub
    J E Mahjoub says:

    Splendid article, as always!
    I wondered if you could give me an indication of the price of the Forbes cream, Mr Lincke. It seems very interesting, indeed. Regards, Emil

    • Karl H. Lincke
      Karl H. Lincke says:

      Thanks Emil,

      the price of the Castle Forbes cream in the US is apron. $ 38,- for a 7 oz jar. In the UK you can get it for 20,- Pounds. All scents cost the same. I hope this gives you a good indication. Best regards, Karl

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