When we compare shaving gel vs. shaving cream we need to consider one key thing: how well each one preps your stubble for the blade and how well each one protects your face. Even though the shaving section of your local drug store can look like a zoo knowing the difference between shaving gels and creams makes choosing the right product easy.
Here we'll look at the pluses and minuses of using shaving gel vs. shaving cream and determine which one is better.
What about shaving foams?
We’ll look at those too. They have become such a staple on the shelves of any drugstore that we need to examine their pros and cons closely.
Before we delve into the pros and cons of shaving gel vs. shaving cream, let's clarify what we mean by each one.
What is a Shaving Gel?
Shaving gels usually have transparent gelatinous texture that looks and feels like a hair gel. They can come in a tube, tub or a can. Shaving gels, just like creams, have one objective: to prep your hair and provide protection against the razor. This is why, a good shaving gel will have moisturizing and lubricating properties (e.g. aloe vera, glycerin) that will help the razor blade glide on your skin freely.
One upside of shaving gels is that you don't need a brush to apply them. You squirt a little out on your fingers and rub it into your stubble. Some gels might foam up a little but for the most part they stay transparent. Shaving gels wash off easily and don't leave soap scum in your kitchen sink. When it comes to ease of use, they are probably the easiest of all other shaving alternatives.
Despite these virtues, I need to give you a word of caution. Steer clear from the shaving gels that come in a can. The aerosol found in the can dries out your skin.
If you want to use a shaving gel, go for the ones in a tube or a tub. Here are some great options I've used before:
What is a Shaving Cream?
Shaving creams are exactly what the name says: they are creams with a high saponification properties. This means that you can easily foam them up by adding water and rubbing them.
The majority shaving creams come in a tube or a tub. You can squirt or scoop them up and apply straight on your face just like a shaving gel. You would get best results, however, if you use a shaving brush and lather the cream up. The lather would give you extra cushion and protection.
Here are some good shaving creams to try.
What About Those Non-Foaming Shaving Creams?
Companies have been trying to come up with innovative shaving products all the time. The results with some innovations have been mixed to put it mildly. The non-foaming shaving creams are some of them. These creams have the texture of a face cream, which you can rub on your face with your hands.
I recall using such a cream by Lab Series. It left me seriously underwhelmed and with even more serious razor burn. Unless you have very thin beard and you don’t need to shave more than once a week, these "modern" shaving products won’t be your thing. Considering the premium price ($30+ for 100ml), I’d stay away from them.
Shaving Gel vs. Shaving Cream: Which One Is Better
Let’s get down to it. I've used both, shaving creams and shaving gels and I consider shaving creams to be the better option. Here are three reasons why.
1. Not Enough Rubbing
As a method of application, shaving creams require you to use a brush or your fingers to create a foam. Rubbing your skin before shaving warms it up, makes it suppler and raises your stubble. The main reason for razor cuts and nicks is dry and rigid skin.
One way to make your skin retain moisture and improve its suppleness is by using a pre-shave oil (read article here). The other way is by using a shaving brush. It raises your facial hair, primes it for the blade and also improves the elasticity of your skin.
By default, shaving gels don't require you to use a brush. In fact, using one will make things messier. The gel will stick to your brush and leave your skin dry and sticky. It's the same effect you get when you rub hair gel in between your palms for too long.
When you use a shaving gel, you get little skin prepping. You rub in the gel on your skin but usually not much rubbing is required. As a result, your skin remains stiff and you are more prone to getting a cut.
2. Too Much Slip 'N' Slide
Putting too much shaving cream on your face is rarely a problem. You can brush off the extra lather and continue with your shave. Getting rid of too much shaving gel is not as easy. The glycerin in many gels makes them extremely slippery. To remove extra shaving gel you either have to scrape it off or wash off your whole face.
Even if you put on a shaving gel in moderation its texture still may be too slippery. In my experience, the razor usually slides on the surface of your skin. Since the hairs are not raised and prepped for the blade, they lay flat against your skin. The sliding of your blade on top of your skin and the flat facial hairs results in you not getting a smooth shave. To remedy, you find yourself doing two or three passes, which results in more skin irritation.
Shaving creams provide protection to your skin without being overly slippery. The blade glides smoothly but with enough traction to cut hairs. You've used a brush or your fingers to lather up the cream, so your hairs are raised and your skin is supple. The result is a comfortable shave with minimum cuts and nicks.
3. The Good in the Can
Shaving gels from a can tend to dry out your skin because of the chemicals they contain. The result is irritation, tight skin and wrinkles.
Unlike shaving gels, shaving creams don’t come out of a can. To be fair, poor quality shaving creams can also dry out your skin. In my experience, however, it is a lot less common to come across a cream that dries out your skin than a shaving gel.
Nevertheless, if you are really set at using a shaving gel, go for the one in a tube or a tub. They are pricier than the ones in a can but much better for your skin.
Even though here we look at shaving gel vs. shaving cream, shave foams are so ubiquitous that they deserve a special mention.
The one thing they have going for them is their price and convenience. You can get Barbasol for somewhere around $3 or go high end and buy a can for over $10. Besides the price, the feel, performance and the ingredients, all shaving foams are more or less the same.
Just like the shaving gels in a can, they dry out your skin and can cause tightness and irritation. Unlike gels and creams, however, they don’t require any rubbing, even a gentle one.
Once you squirt the foam in your hand, you just gently apply it on your face. If you try to rub it into you face, it will turn runny. Shaving foams are not meant to be rubbed in. They are not absorbed by your skin and whiskers; they just sit on top of them.
My sincere suggestion is to avoid using shaving foams. If you are undecided whether it’s shaving gel vs. shaving cream that should grace your sink counter, at least make sure it's not a shaving foam.
What’s your weapon of choice: shaving cream or shaving gel? Tell us in the comments why you like either one.