How to Choose the Best Shaving Cream for You

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shaving with an ax
Whatever tool you choose, a great shaving cream can give you a better shave. See more personal hygiene pictures.

We have many choices available to us when it comes to removing face or body hair. There's a wide array of razors, ranging from electric to six-bladed wonders. There are creams, gels and lotions to soften the hairs and enable the razor to glide over the face without hacking it to pieces. There are even chemical depilatories that dissolve hair and waxes that allow you to pull it off with ease. For a more permanent option, there's electrolysis or laser hair removal.

It's quite an improvement over the choices of old, which for quite some time consisted largely of clamshells or shark teeth. Moving up through time, different cultures experimented with new ways to shave:

  • The Egyptians used razors made of copper or solid gold.
  • In the 4th century B.C., Romans used a sharpened block of iron or a pumice stone to scrape and scratch the hair off their faces.
  • Other cultures used whatever was handy, like volcanic glass, to shave.
  • Around 1762, the earliest designs for the safety razor appeared, and they were being produced and sold in England by 1828.
  • In 1901, a man named King Gillette introduced the world's first disposable safety razor. Only the blade was disposable.
  • Jacob Schick began selling his patented electric shaving device in 1931, and it was a success right out of the gate.
  • In the 1960s, Bic produced the first completely disposable razor -- consumers could chuck the entire thing and easily replace it.

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  • The twin-blade razor was rolled out in 1971.
  • Gillette unleashed the three-blade razor in 1998.
  • In 2008, Dorco offered the world's first six-blade razor.

Yet, despite all these advances in razors, there still isn't a single shaving cream that works for everybody. So how do you choose the best shaving cream? Does it make a difference if you're shaving with a clamshell? Keep reading to find out.


Which shaving cream is best for my skin?

shaving cream
A great shaving cream can mean the difference between a smooth face and painful skin.

There are nearly countless choices awaiting you in the personal hygiene aisle of your supermarket or pharmacy. Once you've chosen the razor that's right for you (and there are plenty of options), the other big choice comes down to what kind of shaving cream you'll use.

Besides making a man look like a foamy Saint Bernard, shaving cream (or any other shaving lubricant) has a couple of important purposes. Primarily, it helps soften the hair. That's why you should take a few minutes after wetting your face to massage the shaving cream into the hair you're about to shave. Shaving cream also helps the razor glide over the face without digging into or nicking the skin.

There are a number of shaving lubricants from which you can choose: shaving cream, shaving gel, shaving oil, shaving soap (the old-school method that requires a shaving brush) and shaving lotion. You may want to try them all until you find one that works best for you. But remember: The lather isn't terribly important. Anything that's not directly on the hair won't be of much consequence, so the ability to make a huge foamy layer should be low on the scale of importance when it comes to picking a shaving cream.

If you have dry skin, glycerin-based shaving lubricants will help the razor pass over your skin without nicking it and without drying it out. Because additives such as fragrance may irritate sensitive skin, you should look for shaving creams that contain skin-soothers such as coconut, aloe or vitamin E.

If your skin feels taut or stings after you shave, you may want to switch to a shaving lubricant that doesn't contain alcohol, which many do. The alcohol dries out your skin and can make it feel tight. Applying shaving oil to your hair and skin before applying other shaving lubricants can make for a smoother shave and reduce the likelihood of both cuts and dried-out skin.

It may take a little trial-and-error -- and a willingness to spend a few extra dollars on your personal hygiene -- but the added effort will pay off when you find the best shaving cream for you that creates a close, smooth, soft shave.

See the next section for lots more information about shaving.

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  • Gillette. "How to Shave." (Dec. 21, 2010)
  • Hesse, Monica. "Anyway you slice it, doesn't a six-blade razor feel excessive?" The Washington Post. July 24, 2010. (Jan. 3, 2011)
  • Jaret, Peter. "Men's Skin Care for Your Face." WebMD. July 21, 2009. (Dec. 21, 2010)
  • Lemelson-MIT Program. "Inventor of the Week: King C. Gillette, Disposable-Blade Safety Razor." June 2000. (Jan. 17, 2011)
  • Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. "Skin care: 5 tips for healthy skin." Nov. 24, 2009. (Jan. 3, 2011)
  • Trex, Ethan. "Shaving history begins with shark teeth." CNN. Aug. 17, 2009. (Jan. 3, 2011)
  • WebMD. "20 Common Questions About Sensitive Skin." Sept. 13, 2010. (Jan. 3, 2011)